A safe and smart city will only be successful if it is planned properly, if there is buy-in from all the stakeholders and if it is managed efficiently.
Any city can install cameras and have a video wall, but if the planning wasn’t done effectively, it will fail. The city requires all role players to be involved, from the roads authority to the police force, private security and the court system.
Detailed planning involves setting objectives - what does the city want to achieve, choosing the correct technologies for the specific application, identifying the role players involved and enabling the effective management and staffing of the systems.
For example, a technology that alerts the police about shots being fired helps them to respond to the right location much faster, but if there is no reaction because the alert doesn’t feed into the police response system there is no point. This is why planning is so important; what does the city want from the system and who needs to receive the information?
An aspect of the planning process that often gets overlooked involves setting benchmarks and testing the system. It is important to understand upfront whether the system is working and that all the stakeholders are doing what they’re supposed to be doing, from the control room staff all the way through to the emergency response teams and even the maintenance staff looking after the cameras and other equipment. Proper planning will ensure that the city is constantly managing the system’s performance to make sure it is running optimally.
Data management is another aspect that needs to be considered during the planning phase. The city will be collecting much more data than before, but if it is unable to turn that data into intelligence, make it available to the right role players and start predicting where crime hot spots are, for example, that data will mean very little to make the city safer and more efficient. Good data management practices are needed to make the data valuable to the city.
Finally, the sharing of information between all stakeholders is crucial. For example, in Russia, if you receive a speeding ticket you won’t be able to fly out of the country as the traffic offence system is connected to the airport and customs. Information must be shared between departments and cities; if a crime happens in Johannesburg that information needs to be shared with law enforcement in Pretoria.
Facial recognition is the new buzzword - the technology is efficient and is getting used more. Proper planning will once again be crucial for the city to be able to gain intelligence from it. Important questions to ask include: to which database does the facial recognition technology connect, who manages it and where does the information get sent to?
All a city’s services can benefit from cameras, surveillance and facial recognition, no one contests this. However, a city can have the best infrastructure, but if it isn’t staffed correctly it will not have the required impact.
A successful safe/smart city project provides the city with a force multiplier, which means it can accomplish a great number of things from a well-planned investment.
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