A variety of existing technology can be levered with emerging tools, and the applications are limitless. Combining software, hardware, location services, the internet and sensors, can increase the livability of urban areas and improve the efficiency of local services.
Several security-related technologies already in widespread use provide a foundation to create real “smart city” benefits. For example:
Communities already rely on clear signage for public notices, traffic flow, tourism and emergency information. Incorporating smarter, digital signage goes beyond simple information display and can provide real-time and interactive information to help the public find their way. Options now include the ability for the public to sync the kiosk or signage information with their mobile device to take the details with them, such as redirecting traffic when a full or rerouting traffic to avoid a stalled vehicle.
In emergency situations, digital signage provides instant, on-the-spot navigation to safe exits and areas. Smart signage technology enables rapid news updates, emergency alerts and weather. Digital public kiosks can incorporate targeted messages based on demographics, adding a further level of security.
Existing urban areas and city infrastructure typically include a network of video and closed-circuit surveillance cameras that cover public areas. Upgrading and installing newer digital surveillance and data storage technology can significantly enhance an entity’s ability to respond to or even prevent crime — thereby increasing public safety.
Smart surveillance cameras can now incorporate analytic software to identify contraflow (people or vehicles moving in opposite directions than expected), over speed or accelerating vehicles in low-speed areas (e.g. toward a crowded area), packages or bags left unmoved for a period of time, and even irregular shapes in humans that might indicate they are concealing something. They also can be used proactively to provide real-time monitoring of crowded areas and events, such as concerts, conventions, VIP visits and airports.
Public surveillance systems can be linked with private security systems, such as in commercial buildings or private housing, to avoid gaps in information and provide greater insight into urban areas. Sharing information via global positioning system (GPS) mapping and smart phone applications, local authorities and emergency services can improve communication to each other and determine what public alerts may be required.
Advancements in urban lighting have moved well beyond energy efficiency. Lighting can now be incorporated into the broader safety infrastructure by using already-existing assets found on virtually every street corner.
Lighting fixtures in city environments can integrate smart technologies and sensors to track foot and street traffic, even to collect air quality samples. Lighting can be remotely operated to aid in dispersing event crowds, or brightness adjusted during low-traffic hours to reduce the use of electricity in public spaces.
Upgrading lighting networks allows for additional crime-related monitoring, such as detecting gunfire in urban areas or around schools. With built-in, high-quality speakers, light poles can serve as mass notification systems in cases of emergency. At a minimum, city governments can install LED lighting to save money and improve visibility in urban areas.
As communities begin to implement smarter technologies, new information can be collected on traffic flows, public activities, weather, crime and more. By collecting and sharing this insight among relevant stakeholders, the security of neighborhoods can be exponentially increased, speeding response and the overall efficiency of city operations.
Sensors and physical devices, such as digital video and lighting, will become city assets. Instead of having municipal departments working in silos or using standalone technology that does not communicate with other assets, effective smart cities are integrating surveillance and data streams to create a centralized platform accessible to emergency services and municipal departments.
Quick response and coordination among major stakeholders are made possible by including information from the various sensors and security devices. The opportunity to detect and map hazards can allow for faster response and long-term process improvement.
Governments can realize better asset management, improved decision-making and increased productivity for citizens.