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Technology key to making citizens safer

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Kathy Gibson reports from Huawei Safe Cities Summit in Nairobi – Technology is driving a new era in public safety.
This is the word from Thomas Lynch, director for security and critical communications research at IHS, who believes that the safe city is ushering in a new era in public safety.
Smart cities have been a dream for years, but lately the safe city, driven by technology, has become the key component for making this a reality, Lynch says.
IHS defines a safe city as a security concept that integrates critical information on to a consolidated ICT platform using data collected from video surveillance camera, sensors, applications and other technology or records databases. The systems are designed to provide a unified approach to emergency response with collaboration across law enforcement and other agencies.
The inter-agency collaboration is key, Lynch says. Leveraging sensors and surveillance from other organisations helps to save costs; and the multi-agency approach leads to faster response times.
“Access to more data course means there more data available to analyse to draw accurate conclusions,” he adds. “And automation means there is less reliance on human error while it is easier to operate systems.”
There are a number of drivers for the implementation of safe cities, Lynch believes. These include security threats and terrorism; the protection of economic growth; data sharing; crime; political motivation; and cost savings.
Some or all of these elements could be present in any city, he says, and they typically offer the motivation required to set a safe city project in motion.
He says there are three phases in safe city technology deployment: intelligence gathering; realtime action; and post event investigation.
For gathering, cameras are typically required, along with other intelligence-gathering devices like sensors. These would be integrated on a unified communication system that supports the full process, and enables the collection and analysis of crime data to take place constantly.
Realtime action is necessary because often the ability to make a split-second decision could make a different. For this phase, the network must be able to provide up to data and realtime situational awareness, with 4G trunking.
“Do you have the ability to connect all of our sensors to the realtime situation? Lynch asks. Are you able to use city resources to ensure safety of the citizens?
“A converged command and control system provides tha ability to connect the right people, in the right plcae at the right time – with the right tools. Tis really is vital,” Lynch explains.
In a post-event investigation, the ability to pull together critical data points is key, he adds. “Cloud and big data become important, and you still need command and control and the ability to co-ordinate responses. You also need tools to help you analyse the data.”
There is no doubt that safe city is taking off around the world. Lynch points out that IHS statistics show the public safety equipment service market increasing from $13-billion in 2015 to $20-billion in 2020.
Command and control equipment and services accounted for 25% of the market ; while in 2015 video surveillance equipment services an storage was worth 60% of the total market.
We are also seeing the emergence of video surveillance as a service (VSaaS), which is a new business model that could make safe cities more affordable going forward, Lynch says.
The bottom line, he says, is that video surveillance, broadband trunking and command and control solutions are the backbone of safe city, representing the main sensor, network and control systems.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is an important trend driving an increase in the number and variety of sensors generating data; while ICT is vital in convergence, communication and managing safety information.