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KNect365 recently spoke to RIT's professor of networks and security, Ali Raza

Over the last few years the term "Smart City" has become common but not well defined. There is no single universal definition that has been agreed to as a standard. Popular consensus suggests that a smart city can be defined in one of two ways. A city which adopts technological innovation to provide high quality and high performance services for its citizens, is the most popular in the realm of technologists looking at smart cities. A city which is efficient, sustainable and environmentally friendly in which the citizens can live and work securely while being protected from poverty and destitution. The latter definition represents the core values  used in discussions amongst sociologists, data scientists and enthropologists, where there is new thinking involved. A universal definition of smart city will take time as technologists and practitioners will slowly converge to something acceptable.

There are five fundamental themes which stand out in the approach taken for smart cities. These include infrastructure, operations, economics, civic engagement and security. The role of Public safety can be realized in the themes of infrastructure, operations and security, which covers 60% of the scope. There is also a view that public safety can play a role in civic engagement with citizens and academics working together to improve their community.

To support both views, the technology that will play a central role is what we commonly refer to as 'Big Data' today. They both require the collection of data in new and intelligent ways. Data collected, processed and disseminated effectively yields valuable information which is unprecedented. This in turn can be used by city leaders to deliver services and address some of the more intractable challenges in a strategic and sustainable manner. As city populations grow, the infrastructure required to support them can be planned with a great degree of efficacy. At the same time the planning can include the infrastructure required to keep the city and its citizens safe.

On the same note, there are tow views on the role of Public Safety in art Cities. One view is that PS can benefit from the advancements in smart city science. Another view is that smart cities can benefit from the advancements in PS technologies. Both views have their own merits. However, the collection of the right quality of data is essential in both cases. Cities are already collecting a vast amount of data to support their core business and services. This data has to be made available to the general public as 'open data'. The public in this case will include academics, data scientists, news agencies and other business and legal institutions. An example to cure he would be to collect the data on crime rates in an area to inform citizen advice agencies in which areas need improvement in terms of support.

The evolution of technology in the public safety domain allows law enforcement agencies to provide higher levels of protection. This is enabled through the improved situational awareness which is possible with the new broadband capabilities offered by LTE (4G) radio technology. In addition, the use of this technology allows immense volumes of data to move at high velocities and offering a variety of valuable information.

Research and development in the value offered by the data available in smart cities has been gaining significant attention. Methods such as machine learning are used to develop models which can be used for predictive analytics. PS agencies can benefit from such approaches to develop models for both predictive and preventative analytics. The data collected by the infrastructure in a smart city can therefore yield both citizen services and improvement in the security or safety of the citizens.

Public safety agencies are in a position to collect data which is normally beyond the remit of smart city services. An example of such data includes the video surveillance and analytics capabilities they possess. The use of other advanced sensor capabilities such as the detection of a fire arm is not typically offered by smart cities. The data collected can be used in real time to alert citizens of potential threats and hazards, keeping them better informed and protected.

The role of PS in smart cities really can be used to meet the objectives of the two definitions. PS agencies would need to curate the data and offer it to smart city platforms which can offer upstream citizen applications. The PS agencies would need to apply their judgement to ensure that the data offered does not yield any information that is not usually allowed in the public domain. For instance, an incident at a particular address in the city of London or New York can be offered with information of the street name and it the more granular information of the actual house number.

As every smart city is going to be unique, the solutions required to satisfy some of the goals and objectives will be different and varying. The use of data to provide valuable information will also require tight control and governance. Such technological challenges are expected to be addressed by the advancements we are seeing in the world of public safety technology with standards bodies placing an emphasis on such capabilities for future generations. However, there is a lot of ground to be covered in terms of determining the right data that needs to be collected to support public safety agencies and the value that can be offered.