Building a smart city in the connected age

Imagine a city where sensors monitor everything from temperature to traffic patterns; where street lights are activated and deactivated using motion sensors; where water pipes can shut off leaks remotely and where security can be improved using automated surveillance. Imagine a city where your sat nav not only tells you where to go, but also directs you to the nearest available parking space.

This reality is being enabled by the continually expanding Internet of Things (IoT), a web of objects and sensors connected to the internet which are able to seamlessly communicate with one another, in real-time. The city of the future will be able to communicate with itself, track and respond to the movement of its residents, and automatically optimise conditions.

>See also: The smart nation: Singapore’s masterplan

Data will be the lifeblood of these cities. And as such, the key to their success, will be to ensure that data is kept secure, manageable and accessible. For this to happen, certain steps need to be taken:

1. Building an infrastructure fit for purpose

The first critical step towards shaping a smart city involves the creation of a reliable shared-services platform that aligns all of a city’s services. Acting as a foundation, it will connect all of a city’s smart technologies – from electricity grids through to water metres and, of course, all other utilities.

This works best when managed by a single large body. Take Dubai’s IoT infrastructure for example, where success comes largely from its ability to create a shared central IT organisation, called Dubai Smart Government (DSG) that joins all the other smart initiatives together, acting like an IT services enablement division for the rest of Dubai’s eGovernment.

When the infrastructure layer isn’t managed by a single body, the journey to becoming a smart city is more challenging. Take London as a prime example. While the city is keen to progress on that journey, the political differences characterising its 32 boroughs present something of an obstacle in establishing a shared central IT organisation, which can join the capital’s initiatives and services into a single entity. It is a challenge, no doubt, that the new Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan will be looking to overcome.

2. Connecting services

Once a shared service platform has been created the opportunities are endless.

The sharing of information between services can be used for anything from easing traffic congestion to saving lives. Imagine that a reckless driver was to cause a traffic accident which badly injures the driver of another car.

>See also: The smart nation: Singapore’s citizen-centric drive

CCTV footage could be shared with the police and relevant insurance parties, a transportation service could reroute traffic based on real time data and a nearby ambulance could be alerted to the incident, immediately pulling up the driver’s medical history so that he/she receives the best possible medical care.

While we may not be quite there yet, certain elements are beginning to be put into practice. For example, VMware AirWatch already works closely with Tel Aviv Municipality to provide its traffic wardens with an AirWatch-managed Samsung Note 5, essentially providing them with a digital workspace that allows them to work from any location.

They can use the devices for ticketing by logging tickets and filling reports that include pictures, time and GPS stamps of the parking contraventions, all while on the go. Other cities including the likes of Singapore and Songdo, South Korea are also leading the way when it comes to smart city development, with the latter already using technology to improve sustainability, citizen wellbeing and economic development.

3. Security

Cities becoming smart means deploying even more IoT devices to connect infrastructure and resources. Gartner projects that 6.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide this year, and forecasts that the number will grow by more than three times, to nearly 21 billion by the year 2020.

>See also: Could smart city malware be spread via motorways and highways?

This surge in connected devices, and the amount of data being shared wirelessly, will provide huge opportunities, but could also pose serious risks. It’s not just personal data, such as medical records which is at risk, but also critical services such as transportation systems or electricity grids. It is therefore crucial to ensure the security of all devices which could have access to this type of sensitive data, whether they are corporate or employee-owned.

The final component…

One essential ingredient is needed in order to create a secure network of devices across a smart city: a robust enterprise mobility management (EMM) solution, that guarantees the end-to-end management of all connected devices.

This enables the IT organisation upon which smart city services are built to grant, limit and revoke access to corporate resources – including email, content and applications – based on whether or not the device requesting access has a compliant and trusted status. Additionally, an EMM solution with a reliable compliance engine must continuously monitor endpoints and perform preconfigured escalating actions to prevent noncompliance or to bring the offending device back into compliance.

Think of the number of devices, used in the finance or healthcare sectors for example, which could have access to sensitive resources and information. It’s crucial that organisations in these industry verticals have the ability to communicate securely with their networks of trusted devices.

>See also: IoT and smart cities: meeting sustainable development goals

The same can be said for the amount of information that is exchanged at airports to keep the various airport facilities running safely and effectively. The control tower needs to be able to pass information quickly and securely to ground operations, who need to be able to communicate with immigration services, border control and the police service.

The opportunities presented by smart cities for both citizens and businesses are both as exciting as they are endless. With proper implementation, a well-managed infrastructure, a robust EMM solution and plenty of imagination, smart cities will provide huge economic, cultural and social advantages for their residents, meaning each and every one of us has an exciting future ahead.


Sourced by Dor Zakai – Director, Global EUC SISO Business Development, VMware

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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