If you are reading this, chances are that you are a digital citizen and are realising the true potential of sci-fi movies of the 20th century and books of fiction. For example, Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report in 2002 was a movie which showcased how Washington would probably look like in 2054 with moving posters, smart policing and much more—a true picture of a smart city. Well, it’s happening, and happening as you read this.

Smart cities are no more only visible in sci-fi movies; India alone has already embarked on its ambitious vision of 100 smart cities in different corners of the country. But is it ushering in a new way of living or does it create other challenges which neither the movies nor the books told us about? Cyber is the new way of living today, and whether of age, gender, nationality or anything as such, everyone is on the web, and everyone has a digital footprint. But is it all good? According to an industry report on cyber security, Indian companies have lost to the tune of $500,000 in a period of 12-18 months. Every digital aspect of our lives has been breached, some way or the other and is a growing concern of the 21st century. Gadgets such as smart energy meters, smart micro health appliances, and smart security devices provide unprecedented advantages, and while they are indispensable to improving people’s lives, they also pose a significant security threat given the data sharing amongst each other.

Security vulnerabilities in smart city infrastructure

One of the major concerns in smart cities and the buildings therein is that the equipment and the sensors that relay data can be easily hacked. Hackers are capable of producing signal failures, shut down subways or inject contaminants into the mainstream water supply.

Producers of software and hardware often release such products without much forethought to the security features being implemented. While checking and testing of such products are carried out, the focus is mainly on functionality, with security parameters left out. Most of the vendors, however, have started taking cyber security seriously and are training their personnel with the technical know-how on how to address these issues.

Things are changing rapidly and the government, along with the industry, is making significant inroads towards securing our smart infrastructure. Visualisation solutions and inter-connected surveillance systems and automation in various cities are increasingly being adopted to monitor and control.

Using control rooms to ensure better security

We are all aware of the Stuxnet virus which took down the Iranian civil nuclear programme in 2010. This was a classic example of how cyberattacks can create a ripple in the success of industrial evolution. Control rooms can act as a great defence, not only against cyberattacks and possible industrial flaws, but also for monitoring all the related aspects of a smart city!

Connected visualisation solutions will allow control room operators with both macro and micro-level data about every connected system. This information can be used to extrapolate projections and trends to identify and forecast possible flaws, consumption patterns etc. Minute-by-minute updates provide greater visibility to the state of pipes, CCTVs, and traffic monitoring for example.

What needs to happen?

It is thus imperative to protect and secure critical infrastructure for smart cities to succeed. Monitoring, analysing and distributing information from surveillance cameras and other sensors highly add to the safety and security of critical infrastructures.

Control room solutions can be a great tool to ensure this. Control room solutions are ideal for 24x7 critical infrastructure surveillance applications. What should control rooms ideally have? It should consist of high-quality displays, rear-projection video walls, graphics controllers and web-based operating software, which help operators get a complete overview of all surveillance systems and cameras. Operations management software, including advanced warning capabilities to draw operators’ attention to the most critical images, is also a necessity.

India today is at an inflexion point of technological advancements. Securing and strengthening our Smart City Mission can help us drive a strong message of our tech supremacy and will put us at the centre stage of technology implementation and growth. For this to happen, everybody needs to play a critical role—the industry, government and, the academia. India can be key to showcasing how smart cities can be secured and built.

Rajiv Bhalla
Rajiv Bhalla

The author is managing director, Barco India

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