Future cyber security: smart, safe cities

Future cyber security: smart, safe cities

Since time immemorial, people have flocked to cities seeking economic advantage and safety. However, as populations grew, it became difficult for people to find either. Cities and their resources have been stretched to their limits by exponential growth, the boom and bust cycle of business and by crime.

Natural and man-made disasters also impact an increasing number of people and their safety. It’s been reported that 31% of India’s population now lives in cities, where they generate 63% of the nation’s economic activity. City growth in India is projected to increase at a rate where over half of the population will be urbanites by 2030.

Recent technological advances, in particular the use of sensors, mobile devices and online social networks have inspired a revolution in city design and management which have led to the development of smart cities.

Through the Smart Cities project started by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India recently launched three enormous urban schemes to improve living conditions in cities – the Smart Cities Mission, Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), and Housing for All in urban areas. The Government of India allocated Rs 98,000 crore to develop 100 smart cities over the next five years.

What are Smart Cities?: “Smart City” is the buzzword for a new or revitalised urban area integrated with multiple secure information and communication technology (ICT) solutions to manage the city’s assets, including education, transportation, electrical, telecommunication, waste management as well as health and safety systems. Innovative ICT is at the heart of this revolution in city planning. Through the use of sensors integrated with real-time monitoring devices, important infrastructure systems data are collected and analysed to improve efficiency, reduce costs and ensure supply and use of sustainable resources.

Education is an important core element of a smart city programme. In order for these programmes to work and be effective, people need to understand what smart systems are and how they can participate in their use and drive their development to assist them in their daily lives and businesses. An understanding of the value of different smart systems will also lead to an understanding of the challenges of privacy, ethics and security inherent in all digital information collections and analytics.

Utilities comprise some of the first and most important elements of a smart city’s infrastructure. Utilities companies have installed smart metres that not only record the overall amount of energy used, but can be programmed to record every half hour or less at home in order to precisely determine energy consumption, notify the utility of a power outage, and allow the company to remotely switch electricity service on or off to a particular building, saving time, resources and manpower. Data collection and analysis through these digital metres enable energy providers to be more efficient and to calculate exact times when energy demands may be highest for particular regions.

Improved efficiency

The use of smart systems in transportation has demonstrated improved efficiency in travel and parking. Through the Florida International University Smart Wave Project in Miami, Florida, the US, researchers have been working with the National Science Foundation and the Florida Department of Transportation to develop improved transportation systems for Miami and other major global cities.

All systems developed, demonstrated and validated through this research incorporate a smart vehicle component using the Informed Traveller Programmes and Applications (ITPA) technologies. The ITPA provides an informed, multimodal travel system using real-time, travel related data on present traffic flow, emergency events, special community events, weather, historic traffic affecting trends and parking conditions at an informed traveller’s destination. The information is presented on a smartphone-based interface that provides personalised, timely information and advice. The system provides the most efficient, cost-effective travel paths for users consistent with the traveller’s destination and scheduling requirements.

The system is in use at Florida International University in Parking Garage-6, known as the Tech Station. Through a variety of sensors, the system monitors all parking spaces and relays open parking information to travellers as they arrive at the university. Through their smartphone interface it directs them directly to the specific open parking area to their destination, saving time and fuel.

Within the School of Computing and Information Science at Florida International University, researchers including the author, have developed a smartphone-based system known as iSAFE, which provides a personalised, context aware safety programme that analyses and predicts crime throughout an urban area such as Miami, and relays the information to the user as he travels through various communities within the greater urban area.

The device computes real-time snapshots of the safety profiles of users in a privacy preserving manner. By dividing the entire urban environment into small census blocks and evaluating them through time periods based on types of crimes committed, such as homicide, larceny, robbery, assault etc, the system can actively advise a traveller when he is approaching a potentially hazardous area at that particular time. The system continues to provide information to predict the area’s crime index, identifying potential alternate routes for the travellers, which provide better personal safety.

The ITPA, iSAFE and other systems can be applied to health, medical and other individual systems to provide predictive safety, security and public health to inhabitants within our smart, safe cities. As we continue to advance these technologies, researchers are incorporating cybersecurity to ensure these systems remain uncompromised.

(Iyengar is a distinguished Ryder Professor and Director, School of Computing and Information Sciences, Miami; Miller has been with US Air Force for over two decades and is Coordinator, Discovery Lab, Florida International University)

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