What do you think of when you hear the term smart cities? Most likely, you’ll picture a city that offers seamless physical and digital connectivity through well-managed transportation and easily accessible communication networks. You might think of a city that enables convenient, even luxurious living through smart and sustainable housing, intelligent infrastructure, and digitized governance. It is true that benefits such as unprecedented levels of convenience and connectivity will distinguish the cities of tomorrow from those of today. However, our fixation with such pleasant benefits often makes us overlook the fact that smart cities can also enhance the provision of basic human necessities such as safety and security.
While it may be true that the world is — ever so gradually — becoming a safer place to live in, many perils to people’s well-being do still exist. And the biggest source of these perils, unsurprisingly, happens to be other people. Be it in the form of organized terrorism, accidents, planned robberies or thefts, there are many situations where people’s well-being and security may be predicated on the actions of another person or group of people. And preventing such incidents is paramount among the duties of smart city governors, along with ensuring the adequate supply of basic necessities such as food and water. To that end, smart city governments can use technologies like IoT and artificial intelligence in physical security.
Applications of IoT and artificial intelligence in physical security for smart securities
The security and safety of the citizens have traditionally been entrusted to the law and order departments of cities. The same will be true for smart cities of the future. However, the traditional methods employed by police departments to monitor the city populace for signs of potential deviance won’t suffice to maintain law and order in the future. In fact, the police departments in many cities across the US are already short-staffed, making it harder for them to ensure public safety all the time and in all places.
As the global population increases and more and more people start migrating to cities, the comparatively minuscule police forces won’t be able to provide security effectively. Hence, to help them, law and order agencies across the world are using increasingly advanced applications of modern technology for physical security. The applications of technologies like artificial intelligence in physical security and public safety are becoming commonplace now. And as smart cities continue to crop up across the world, such systems will gain ubiquity and functionality, giving governments greater leverage in their quest to ensure the safety of their assets, and more importantly, the safety of their people. Following are a few ways in which smart cities can use IoT and artificial intelligence for physical security:
Video surveillance has become a mainstay in governments’ efforts to maintain law and order across the world. However, the video surveillance systems of yesteryears have been primarily used only as a way to retrospectively analyze crimes that have been already committed or on the rare occasion, as a deterrent to the uncertain, potentially criminal individual. That’s because, although there may have been numerous surveillance cameras scattered across towns and cities, there weren’t enough people to constantly monitor the footage from each of them and act in a timely manner. This limitation is easily overcome with the help of video analytics, where real-time footage is analyzed by deep learning-driven AI. Any anomalies, such as foreboding indicators of violence can be identified by these systems and notify nearby personnel instantly. This may help in quick reaction to crimes or even prevention of many criminal acts.
Monitoring large crowds in public places such as busy streets and intersections, shopping areas, and railway and metro stations for any potential security incidents is an important part of maintaining public safety. However, monitoring every individual’s activity and behavior in such crowded spaces can be a tough task, to say the least, for security personnel. For instance, identifying a person who may be carrying explosives or weapons can be a real hassle.
Using different types of IoT sensors, a smart city’s security personnel can constantly be on the lookout for suspicious and potentially harmful items. For instance, scanning devices can detect objects made of certain materials and discern their shape, even if they are hidden from plain sight. AI algorithms can analyze this scanned footage in real time to determine if these objects are harmful or not. If any lethal objects are identified, personnel can be dispatched for further examination.
Additionally, IoT and AI-enabled crowd monitoring systems can also keep track of the footfall in places where it matters, such as footbridges. These systems can ensure that bridges are always optimally loaded to ensure the safety of the people using them. The IoT-enabled systems can warn the people present as well as authorities when such places get loaded beyond a set threshold to initiate appropriate actions.
Access to high-security areas such as airports, banks, power plants, government data centers, and military bases can be restricted by using technologies like IoT and AI. IoT-powered security gateway security systems can ensure that only authorized personnel can enter key government facilities. Multi-factor authentication, which may include biometric scanning, can be used to add further layers of security to the most sensitive parts of such facilities.
Transportation can be made safer through IoT-enabled ticketing. Tickets can be made more secure and easily scannable by embedding RFID technology into them. In fact, RFID-enabled tickets were used for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, which helped in speeding up the ticket checking process despite the large volume of fans without compromising security. Alternatively, tickets can be digitally stored in people’s smartphones, that can automatically communicate with the security systems and automated turnstiles at airports to allow only the right people in without requiring manual guarding. This can enable more effective use of security personnel and keep them on standby for more serious situations.
Robotic patrol and security drones
While the use of IoT and AI in physical security may disburden security personnel, the use of AI-powered security robots can potentially eliminate the need for human law enforcers. Robotic security personnel can patrol the streets of smart cities and identify potential threats with the help of cutting-edge sensors and cameras. They can prevent crimes from happening just by their mere presence and can execute basic security missions like crowd control and search operations, sometimes with greater efficacy than human officers. Human security officers can stay on stand by and engage only in escalated situations. Similarly, drones can be deployed to monitor public places and notify nearby security personnel in case of potential threats to public safety.
While smart city administrators should always have their visions set on providing citizens with convenient and comfortable living, they should first ensure the security of their citizens. Adopting technologies like IoT and AI in physical security applications can be an effective step towards that end. However, it is important to realize that there is yet a long way to go before entrusting our safety completely to technology, as there are many things that only human security and law order personnel can do. And until we can have machines capable of performing these tasks, these technologies should and will only remain at the periphery of smart cities’ security strategy.