There’s a downside to cities building far-flung networks of data sources and growing more reliant on data, however: They’re more vulnerable. The networks that link a city’s lights, power, traffic systems and other infrastructure are often integrated and require little human intervention to function. This makes them more efficient, but it also creates new opportunities for hackers.
A 2016 survey by Tripwire and Dimensional Research found that 98 percent of government IT professionals consider smart cities at risk for cyberattacks. And more than half believe cities do not allocate enough cybersecurity resources to smart city projects; they cited limited budgets and political wrangling as the top barriers.
“The big challenge is how to build and manage multiple integrated systems so they can speak to each other efficiently and securely. It’s a think tank focused on urban security and development issues. Unfortunately, efficiency and security can often be in conflict: Adding layers of security can interfere with data flow and reduce performance.
“The smarter you get, the more vulnerable you become.”
City planners to make data security a prominent piece of every project plan from the beginning and to build redundancies into networks. That likely means putting security experts on the team and demonstrating security measures as a condition of approval. But cities also need to revisit regulations governing these projects. For example, many municipalities have outdated laws that require all data to be stored in servers rather than the cloud—which can leave IT systems even more exposed to threats.
Along with delivering safe and effective solutions, smart city projects also have to be financially feasible. A lack of affordability is often the biggest obstacle to greenlighting initiatives, especially for smaller cities. But some innovations can often be sparked by the need to be economical.
Google’s Jigsaw turns smartphones into body cameras, providing inexpensive real-time digital windows into encounters between police officers and citizens. Officers affix a phone to their uniform, and the app tracks audio, video and GPS locations. The approach is far less expensive than proprietary body cameras and software, and it provides real-time data streams rather than requiring someone to download and review the video after a shift has ended. “Most of the police force are young and already have smartphones, so why not take advantage of that?”
“Bringing everyone to the table can help you understand the real issues you are trying to address and to implement more impactful solutions.”