Decoding The Role of Technology In Securing Smart Cities

Smart cities are the next and inevitable step in urbanization. As more people migrate to large cities in search of employment and better standard of living, cities are getting increasingly congested and difficult to manage. Large scale urbanization at a rapid scale has left most of the large cities of the world ill-equipped to provide quality amenities, housing, infrastructure and services to the ever-expanding population.

Digital transformation offers a way out — letting smart cities grow and expand with the help of technology toward generating better social, financial and environmental aspects of urban living. According to IDC, smart city development leverages emerging technologies and innovation to make cities more livable. IoT-enabled smart cities offers much hope in improving the overall quality of life in rapidly expanding urbanized regions. It estimates worldwide spending on smart city initiatives to touch $95.8 billion in 2019, up 17.7 percent since 2018.

Smart Cities: The Opportunities

According to PwC, a few key use cases for IoT devices and networks in smart cities include the following:

Public Utilities: Smart cities can be equipped with automated lighting control that can be controlled and operated remotely to switch on or off, dim, or even adapt to weather and occupancy conditions. They can also leverage technology for intelligent waste management systems. In addition, telematics and sensors can also be installed on municipal fleet to allow real-time tracking of vehicles and remote management of efficient routes based on requirements.

Public Infrastructure: Smart cities can leverage connected devices to monitor operational capabilities utilities’ infrastructure components, including water supply pipes, HVAC systems, etc and alert support staff whenever any issue is detected for faster and more accurate repairs. In smart cities, streets and public spaces can be monitored with connected CCTVs to prevent crimes and improve safety of such areas in an automated manner.

Automotive: Smart cities can leverage IoT technology to improve the GPS accuracy, andenable real-time fleet management and driver assistance. Connected cars powered by IoT technology can also monitor automotive health and provide diagnostic information to keep vehicles safe in real-time. Sensors can be used to provide real-time alerts on available parking slots, potential parking violations and automate payment for parking.

The Security Conundrum

Fast emerging technologies like IoT, while enabling improved efficiencies in smart cities, are also opening up infrastructure and utilities to new avenues of cyberattacks. The increased complexities of smart cities’ systems and interdependent and globally connected infrastructure have increased the potential for cybersecurity risks on a larger scale. Implementing smart city projects successfully and securely brings forth a new set of opportunities as well as challenges in leveraging technology to support urban growth and development.

The DDoS attack on US-based DNS provider Dyn in late 2016 using the Mirai botnetdemonstrated how real the cyber-risks of IoT devices are. The cyberattack, which brought down leading sites like Twitter, the Guardian, Reddit, Netflix, CNN, and more, was caused by infecting 100,000 connected devices, ranging from digital cameras to DVR players.

In December 2015, a cyberattack caused a power outage across all of Western Ukraine. The government blamed Russian cybercriminals for hacking into Ukraine’s power grid, and offered the world a rare example of hackers compromising a nation’s critical infrastructure. Malware was used in these power grid attacks, which caused more than 200,000 consumers to lose power.

Smart city systems will consist of numerous connected devices, possibly designed and manufactured by several different vendors with little, if any standardization in terms of hardware and software in use. Gartner estimates that by 2020, the number of connected devices could touch 20.4 billion , up from 8.4 billion in 2017. Worldwide organizations were expected to spend up to $1.5 billion on IoT security in 2018, up from $1.2 billion in 2017.

Blockchain and Emerging Technology inNext-gen Solutions

IoT-powered smart cities consist of several users and numerous different kinds of devices – big and small, enterprise and consumer ­– connected to central systems and one another. Not only this, unlike traditional network perimeters consisting of a fixed number of devices, smart city networks are ever expanding and hence, require security solutions that can be scalable without compromising on quality or efficiency. And that’s where Blockchain and other emerging technologies come in.

Digital IDs for all

Assigning blockchain-based digital Smart IDs can help securely identify, authenticate and authorize each and every resident as well as every one of the connected devices within a smart city network. These IDs are unique and difficult to tamper with, spoof or clone. The Smart ID’s can be used authenticate oneself and access various services as well as to securely link, store, share and authorize the use of personal information by relevant agencies and service providers.

With ever growing population migrating to urban cities in developed and emerging economies of the world, digital transformation is the only way forward to ensure that cities’ infrastructure can keep up with the rising demand of its residents. Emerging technologies, models and methods offer opportunities to secure smart cities in bold new ways. Fortifying connected devices, critical infrastructure and complex networks with truly next-gen security systems will help minimize risk and ensure smart city programs realize their potential in the real world as a viable solution to tackle growing urbanization.

Article originally posted by entrepreneur.

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