15 Jul 2020

Editor Introduction

The emergence of smart cities provides real-world evidence of the vast capabilities of the Internet of Things (IoT). Urban areas today can deploy a variety of IoT sensors to collect data that is then analysed to provide insights to drive better decision-making and ultimately to make modern cities more livable. Safety and security are an important aspect of smart cities, and the capabilities that drive smarter cities also enable technologies that make them safer. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: what are the physical security challenges of smart cities?

Matt Van Alstyne Razberi Technologies

There are three primary challenges smart cities are facing today. The first issue is network infrastructure. While there are many solutions available, the network infrastructure should be sourced, vetted, and tested ahead of the deployment with the city's key needs in mind. Any city looking to build out their smart solutions will need to spec and build a stable and secure wide area network (WAN) before implementation. The second issue that cities face is cyber risks and lack of hardened, secure networks connecting the end-of-line devices to their servers. The third issue is data analytics. Cities need help storing and managing all the data these systems capture. It is no longer enough to gather data for later review. Now cities need to have a real-time assessment of data to respond to events as they occur, in addition to full-time video data logs as an insurance policy after events occur.

Bob Carter Genetec, Inc.

While public safety has always been at the heart of the smart city movement, the global health crisis has created new security challenges. Today more than ever, the resilience of cities depends on the open communication and connection among a wide variety of systems and organisations including health officials, businesses, traffic control, public works, schools, transit authorities, hospital administrations, etc. In many cities, however, we see stakeholders who are not collaborating with one another. Working in silos can lead to breakdowns in communication, missed opportunities and lapses in city security. Collaboration and shared access to real-time information are critical in keeping our communities safe. Public safety agencies will need to accelerate their digital transformation by democratising access to data, and facilitating better decision making across organisations.

With smart cities, there needs to be a big emphasis on the “safety” element of security. Smart City planners need to think about how they can use this technology to make a city safer and ensure the inhabitants feel safer too. Close systems integration and data mining are the keystones to protecting smart cities. All the components (public/private surveillance and access control, policing/emergency services etc.) need to work together to marshal resources to where they are needed, ensuring the issue is taken care of immediately. Other elements such as automated Smart Streetlighting and a network of surveillance systems are all crucial, but at the end of the day people do not want to feel like they are living in a prison. Physical security needs complement a Smart City, to ensure citizens genuinely feel safe, but at the same time do not feel like they are being snooped upon.

There are many challenges, the least among them a standardised approach to integration of systems, or making it possible to integrate, with different systems. In smart cities, there are a lot of different systems being managed from the same control room, and the level of integration hasn’t gone as far as we’d like. These integrations could be costly, but they can avoid the scenario of “built once, maintained forever.” Through the interoperability of systems, cities will be able to mix manufacturers and devices. This will become even more important as public spaces will be required to adhere to new requirements, such as social distancing and crowd control measures.


Connectivity is what makes a city or building smart. The flow of data in every direction is essential. This flow is the neural network of every smart city, enabling better, often automated decision-making in real time. Access control should be an essential part of the picture; it provides physical security for doors and other openings, and it feeds access data back to the system. Access control solutions, therefore, must be flexible and connected by default. We at ASSA ABLOY have just launched the Incedo Business access management system to meet this challenge. It is the first part of an ecosystem that can grow to manage all security technologies from a single, scalable platform — wired and wireless locks, third-party CCTV systems, smart building solutions and much more. Access and device data flow back to the central system, where they can be mined for a range of building management and efficiency purposes.

Editor Summary

Network connectivity and cybersecurity are important aspects of the smart cities environment, as indeed they are of any other security vertical market. Technology challenges, including the need for closer integration among a disparate variety of products, can also be obstacles along the path to the city of the future. In smart cities, a continuous flow of data enables more efficient operations, and greater safety for residents.