Those responsible for our towns and cities are tasked with a complex challenge: guaranteeing public safety and critical asset security using strategies that can also deliver and enforce sustainable and effective service management.

Inspiration can be found in London, Singapore, and Berlin, where digital technologies are successfully leveraged through unified, integrated systems to make infrastructure and services more safe, secure and operationally cost-effective.

Urban areas taking on this challenge can deliver a more interactive and responsive approach to connected, whole-city management. Moving from individually operated systems across utilities, transportation, and public space protection to a reality where they are unified within a single platform is a big leap when approaching this from a top-down view.

It is a misconception that total city-wide integration is necessary at the onset, with every aspect of city management becoming connected at once.

By adopting technology that supports scalable integration, towns and cities can make one connection at a time without continuously re-investing in new, more expensive systems.

The smart city approach is an evolution, not a singular ambition. Many organisations are turning to an integrated surveillance platform as the conduit for this transition to benefit from unifying digital technologies.

The changing face of integrated surveillance

Adopting an open architecture platform that seamlessly integrates disparate third-party systems from multiple geographic locations into a unified environment is an essential first step for future smart cities.

For example, a power plant's open architecture solution can monitor and manage multiple integrated systems such as access control, communications, virtual perimeter tripwires, cameras, and process control either on-site or remotely.

Monitoring both new and legacy technology seamlessly through a single platform offers a more cost-effective transition than a rip out and replace strategy.

Hybrid solutions allow operators to benefit from integrated surveillance solutions that utilise command and control software to collate data and comprehensively analyse it to drive more informed reactions and responses.

This kind of intelligently integrated system can deliver unprecedented levels of situational awareness and be a vital mechanism for identifying issues and threats and opportunities for operational efficiencies.

Most importantly, if system type, location, function, and age are no longer barriers, neither is the data source. Data intelligence opens up endless opportunities for multi-agency collaboration and proactive decision-making.

Deciding when and where to connect the dots

Intelligently integrated surveillance joins different aspects of urbanisation together. By establishing a digital connection between privately and publically operated entities – which make up the eco-system of a smart city – the data generated by both can support efficient service management and public safety.

Imagine, for example, how beneficial it would be for transport network operators to access live event and surveillance data from a city's large event venues and the surrounding public zones.

Trains, already full-to-capacity, could be automatically re-routed to the next stop to avoid crowd bottlenecks. Conversely, high headcount figures automatically alert tram-line operators to deploy extended carriage vehicles to reduce crowd congestion.

It is not just the privately-owned train operators that benefit from the combined metrics and the insights delivered by an integrated solution. The analysed data can be used by public authorities to deploy more police officers and manage traffic networks in the areas affected.

An integrated surveillance system does not dictate the end goal for towns and cities but instead allows for flexibility to change according to its growing requirements.

Rather than creating a wholly connected urban infrastructure straight away, private sector organisations and public authorities can use technology and the vital insights it provides to work out how to develop an evolving smart city as budget and priorities dictate.

Making smart connections

Connecting both the technology and organisations that use them can take several approaches and deliver immediate benefits:

  • Environment agency and traffic control: in a flood-prone city, water level sensors could be integrated with traffic management systems to automatically identify roads threatened by river bursts and divert traffic to avoid risk, and city congestion and to support emergency responder access.
  • Campus security and police: criminal and anti-social behaviour events occurring within a set radius of a university or college campus could automatically trigger alerts on-screen at the campus security HQ alongside prioritised video feed from locations-relevant campus cameras and persons of interest data.
  • Industrial estates and public notice systems: city authorities could integrate pollutant-level sensors positioned around key industrial zones. If levels are breached, the system could trigger a public warning protocol to ensure schools, care facilities, and hospitals are notified of potential hazards and stay indoors advice for the young, elderly, and infirm.
  • Transport hubs and operators: integrating on-vehicle surveillance with transport hub safety and security systems to enable two-way sharing of data that may indicate threats such as abusive or suspicious behaviour and persons of interest

Building a bigger picture

Globally there are countless examples of smart towns or cities in various stages of progress. Many are still at the discussion stage, working out how best public and private connectivity can be achieved. However, technology is only one part of the equation. Developing city-wide partnerships with cross-sector leaders and considering citizens' and organisations' needs will enable a thorough understanding of which systems need connecting.

Intelligently integrated surveillance solutions are the unifying strand and collaborative-working enabler – and will help determine the longer-term approach for any smart city ambition. With a combined and open methodology, progress towards this goal is achievable using integrated technology at the core.