Adam Bannister

Editor, IFSEC Global

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Adam Bannister is editor of IFSEC Global. A former managing editor at Dynamis Online Media Group, he has been at the helm of the UK's leading fire and security publication since 2014.
June 2, 2015

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Debate: What do the Terms ‘Safe Cities’ or ‘Smart Cities’ Mean to You?

This article was originally published in Safe Cities: The Industry View – a white paper by IFSEC Global

Requiring collaboration between the public and private sector and encompassing every security discipline going, the safe cities concept is broad and nebulous.

We asked security experts from across the industry to explain what the concept, which overlaps to a significant degree with the term ‘smart cities’, means to them.


The video surveillance expert: Simon Adcock, CCTV section chairman, BSIA; MD, Atec Security

Cities are dynamic and complex environments and securing their prosperity through protecting population, assets and reputation is a major challenge. Obvious threats include crime and terrorism but any others such as flooding, road safety and pollution also need to be considered.

Responsibility for city safety is shared between multiple agencies and safe city initiatives are about prevention (through better sharing simon adcockof intelligence) and risk mitigation (through better incident management.)

From a CCTV Perspective the ability to access and share relevant video feeds both live and forensically is a common feature, and we’re seeing agencies getting to access video feeds from company’s systems at a fraction of a cost of installing their own cameras.

The technology links the disparate systems under a common platform and helps organisations to enforce the access policies and audit trails essential for DPA compliance. If you had to sum up the role of technology in safer cities it would be to enable effective communications between these agencies and stakeholders.

Simon Adcock (inset) is presenting the Surveillance Camera Code of Practice (PoFA Code) – Time for Voluntary Adoption? at IFSEC International 2015. 


Michael WhiteThe association chairman: Michael White

Back in 1996 the UN Safer Cities programme was launched in response to African city Mayors wanting to tackle urban crime and violence.
Over the years this has expanded, moved into cities globally and is now predicated on multi-agency co-operation across both the public and private sectors.

One key to continued success will be a schemes flexibility. The flexibility to respond to specific needs, flexibility within co-operating agencies and the flexibility to adapt as needs change.

Finally, funding for such schemes will increasingly become squeezed and, rightly or wrongly, inter-agency co-operation will inevitably include this as well as operational elements.


martin griggThe consultant: Martin Grigg, founder and director, CHQ Security Services

As a basic definition ‘Safe Cities’ are ones that proactively reduce urban crime such as antisocial behaviour, street robbery, burglary, etc. This is typically done with a mixture of policing, technology deployment and offender management.

However, I see ‘Safe Cities’ of the future as being ones that have a more holistic approach to metropolitan security.

Cities that collect data (Big Data) from hospitals, transport systems, sporting events, traffic management systems, emergency services, private and public sector security systems – to name but a few – and through data mining techniques, trend analysis and 3D visualisation can improve services and more importantly predict when an increase in services are required.


Ron fellowsThe Data Analytics and Crime Prevention Consultant: Ron Fellows

If something bad or wrong happens and it’s witnessed by a CCTV camera, there may be a human operator watching or there may be a smart video solution watching. If a terrorist organisation plots using social media, there may be a security analyst scanning the traffic or a smart analytics solution monitoring traffic and generating alerts.

A growing number of smart intelligence-gathering solutions are in place around the world. However, what stands in the way of the city becoming safer is the lack of joined-up thinking in the procurement of such ‘toys’ – or does the problem lie in the way such things are funded?

Whatever it is, more evidence of joined-up thinking would make me feel safer.


martin LeeThe threat analyst: Martin Lee, Technical Lead, Threat Intelligence, Cisco

It’s all about using computing devices to optimise the operation of a city to better serve the needs of the people who live and work in them. It’s about making people’s lives easier and the city more efficient and cost efficient.

There has to be that IT level of sensors, actuators and connectivity, but really all that we’re doing is deploying a new tool to help services which are already there to become more efficient.

So we don’t need an Orwellian state with armed police on every corner – not if you’re doing the monitoring and analysis right. Just make the existing law enforcement resources better and more able to fulfil their goals and the needs of the population. It’s not about an Orwellian, all-seeing state; it’s just about making everything that little bit easier, that little bit more efficient, that little bit better.


andy baileyThe public-sector surveillance expert: Andy Bailey, CCTV and systems coordinator, South Tyneside Council

This means a safe and secure environment that also provides a welcoming atmosphere for visitors. A mix of agencies working together to provide a visible re-assuring presence without being overbearing.  We need Regeneration Teams working together with Community Safety partners on new developments and robust policies and procedures to deal with resilience issues.

A safe city has to have close partnership working so that information is shared effectively to help reduce crime and disorder. It’s essential that we have an effective guardian in the form of a modern publicly overt CCTV system that is monitored by trained pro-active and enthusiastic staff with radio links to local shop and pub watches and police radio systems. We also need good news stories to promote the work being done and how safe the area is because perception is everything.

As with many descriptions it depends on what your perspective is. From a security view point I would suggest that the term ‘Safe City’ implies that a city authority has taken steps to unify the monitoring, response and reaction to activities deemed to pose a threat of varying levels to the safety of services and the well being of residents and visitors to the city.

It also implies that the ‘city’ has also taken steps to bring together (share) the resources and capabilities of the various ’silo based’ departments and security & surveillance assets to offer a unified approach to monitoring and dealing with situations at all levels.


dave gorshkovThe safe cities and transport security consultant: Dave Gorshkov CEng FIET, Digital Grape

As with many descriptions it depends on what your perspective is.

From a security view point I would suggest that the term ‘Safe City’ implies that a city authority has taken steps to unify the monitoring, response and reaction to activities deemed to pose a threat of varying levels to the safety of services and the well being of residents and visitors to the city.

It also implies that the ‘city’ has also taken steps to bring together (share) the resources and capabilities of the various ’silo based’ departments and security & surveillance assets to offer a unified approach to monitoring and dealing with situations at all levels.


miki caleroThe smart-cities expert: Miki Calero CISM, PMP, chief information security officer, State of Ohio, and founder, Urbis Global LLC (helps companies meet security needs of smart cities)

A safe city has vision. It knows safety and security extends beyond adding uniformed officers to improve the police to population ratio, reducing emergency response times through joint exercises, or expanding video surveillance to reduce crime rate. It knows safety is part of what makes a city smart.

By approaching security from an enterprise perspective, a safe city can assess its existing capabilities, build on ongoing efforts, and develop a strategic plan that brings these together: unifying first responder command and control, creating a comprehensive operational framework, and integrating all security technologies.

To achieve its strategic goals, a safe city develops partnerships with private sector organizations that enable it to leverage private security as a force multiplier, enhance law enforcement processes through big data analytics, and leverage emerging sensor technologies connected through the growing Internet of Things.


peter-houlis-125-x-125The integrator: Peter Houlis, MD, 2020VISION Security

Smart/safe cities is about developing sustainable environments that are safe and responsive to the needs of their user groups. The concept has captured the imagination of governments and city leaders as our cities grapple with the challenges of urbanisation.

As city populations swell – 54% of the global population already live in cities – it places huge burdens on governments and municipal leaders responsible for the governance and protection of growing infrastructure and assets from an increasingly diverse and unpredictable risk landscape – including natural disasters, criminal acts, terrorist threats, civil unrest, and socioeconomic rifts.

‘Safe city’ objectives could be addressed by adopting C4i principles, a military concept encompassing command, control, communications, computers and intelligence. C4i is about harnessing information superiority to elicit the maximum efficient and appropriate response in a given situation.

The use of technology and human resources to gather relevant information and accurately communicate this information to appropriate human and technology assets should realise the application of appropriate responses and control measures to an event based on up-to-date intelligence.

In the safe-city concept, it’s all about what information we need to collect, when and where we need that information, who needs access to it, how does it get processed and what do we do with it and what decisions does it prompt?

In any given situation, someone needs to ‘take charge’ of overall command and act on it by organising resources and appropriate responses.

The Safe Cities Academy, where you can see numerous presentations on the topics discussed above, will again be a major feature at IFSEC International. Reflecting the growing importance of interconnected, smart systems, the internet of things and cyber security the Safe Cities Academy will be bigger and better for 2015

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