Smart city, smarter security

Issue 8 2021 Government and Parastatal (Industry), Cyber Security

Henk Olivier.

The smart city is not a pipedream or a fancy idea, not anymore. Already, there are several sterling examples in Amsterdam, Singapore, Dubai and New York, among many others, each one changing the shape of service delivery, citizen experience and the use of technology. As McKinsey[1] describes it, the smart city is a digital solution for a more liveable future and technology is the key. However, this key comes with a caveat. It has to be secure.

The data that circulates the smart city is packed full of rich insights and personalised information. The systems that run the smart city are critical to ensuring services such as healthcare, life support and transport remain operational. Even the smart TV that connects to the Wi-Fi of the modern home is packed full of passwords and account details. And every one of these tidbits of information is immensely juicy for hackers. If anyone gets compromised, if any one person uses the same information across multiple accounts, then everything is put at risk.

This makes security one of the most crucial foundations for the development of any smart environment, whether this is a massive undertaking like a city, or a smart office. Any smart device or appliance can link to an Internet connection and will need to be consistently updated to ensure that it’s secure and patched with limited vulnerabilities. Many of the solutions on the market today have actually had this intelligence embedded – they are designed to notify the vendor if the device has any problems or unexpected vulnerabilities. This is becoming standard in the development of the smart environment, but still demands that users have multi-factor authentication and that systems are consistently updated and that personal information is relentlessly secured.

Another consideration is, of course, how the user interacts with the smart city and the level of access granted to the vendors, suppliers and system controllers. The vendors and manufacturers have already started to use the data to profile users to drive commercial buying experiences and machine learning is being used to push adverts, products or software promotions. This will only become more intrinsic and embedded into the smart city experience, so users need to look to security that protects their limits, information and lives.

There are advantages to the smart city. It does add layers of security to home automation and communication and it does streamline services and introduce much-needed efficiencies. It’s just really important that, in order to enjoy the benefits, users make sure that they practice robust security hygiene across all their accounts and limit access to their personal information. And that businesses and homes within the smart cities and environments put security at the centre of all investments and planning for this will be the deciding factor when it comes to the success of smart services, or their failure.

For more information contact Ozone IT Distribution, +27 10 591 5588,,


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