Adam Bannister

Editor, IFSEC Global

Author Bio ▼

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.
July 13, 2015

Sign up to free email newsletters


Working with the insider threat

IFSEC-Euralarm Conference Revisited: Safe, Secure and Resilient Smart Cities

ifsec busy floorFollowing a webinar on smart cities in April Euralarm held a half-day conference on the same subject at IFSEC International 2015 in London’s ExCeL on 17 June.

Here are some key insights from city officials and speakers from both the fire and security industries.

Deploying smart technologies to improve collaboration and make more efficient use of resources across different areas of city functions is one of the defining challenges of urban security right now.

A smart city can broadly be defined as using digital technologies or information and communication technologies (ICT) to enhance the quality and performance of urban services to reduce costs and resource consumption and to engage more effectively and actively with citizens. The Smart City Council, meanwhile, defines a smart city as one that has digital technology embedded across all city functions.

Smart technologies and applications can enhance the performance of the huge amount of already installed security infrastructure, such as CCTV, access control, fire detection, intrusion alarm and evacuation systems.

Euralarm, which launched the PEARS (Public Emergency Alarm and Response System) project to foster collaboration over a mass notification system for use in transnational emergencies, defines the term thus:

“Euralarm considers a safe, secure and resilient Smart City as a city that is a planned and functioning city with a minimum disruption from e.q. crime or natural disasters.  The city needs to have to capacity to survive, adapt and grow no matter what challenge it is confronted with. The safety and security industry is ready to support Smart Cities initiatives with data provided by protection systems.”


Cities Around one million people around the globe migrate to cities every week, Dr Rolf Sigg, a senior key expert of industrial affairs at Siemens Switzerland, told assembled IFSEC delegates. Still a nebulous term a smart city was generally about using modern, integrated technology services and infrastructure in energy, transport and ICT to respond to the social and economic needs of society.

Technology should not be the starting point, though; people should be, said Sigg. Communication with stakeholders is essential.

A focus on critical infrastructure is also vital. Overriding everything, however, is the goal of enhancing ‘resilience’.

Internet of Things, Big Data, Smart Buildings

Jim McHale, founder and MD of Memoori – who features on this IFSEC Global podcast – focuses on smart technology at the building level.

Showing a graphical overview of all services offered in modern buildings he told the audience that data is the key driver to monitoring and managing the building’s performance. And nothing generates more meaningful, usable data than the surveillance camera, he said.

Most building systems are still siloed – isolated and independent from one another, he continued. Connect these systems and they’ll yield tremendous benefits in data collection and analysis.

Data from inside the building can now be combined with external data, like weather, traffic and from social media.

The volume of data collected is soaring and will continue to do so, likewise the number of IP addresses – ie internet-enabled devices – per person.

Smart buildings do not in and of themselves equate to a smart city, cautioned McHale. A smart city is made by people; not by systems.

London Fire Brigade

Neil Orbell, Assistant Commissioner of Fire Safety Regulation and Community Safety of the London Fire Brigade, told attendees that protecting citizens from fire in a smart city comes down to two fundamentals: building things properly and regulating the building environment.

As with security the risk environment for fire is changing.

Several months ago a major London fire not only destroyed the building it engulfed but severely disrupted the surrounding area.

Some 5,000 people were evacuated, shops, hotels and pubs were closed and gas supply was disrupted. The roads did not return to their former, normal function for several months.

Reflecting on the lessons of the fire the speaker said that guaranteeing, as much as reasonably possible, normality in the aftermath of incidents, should be a central plank of smart city planning.

Smart technologies give the fire services greater scope for collaboration with other emergency services and other agencies, said Orbell. They can also provide relevant information about people and buildings before and as incidents unfold – ie, suituational awareness.

What the fire services need from the fire-safety industry, above all, is honesty in terms of capability and capacity, he concluded.

Rotterdam case study

Nico Tillie of Delft University is responsible of implementing ISO 37120:2014 (Sustainable development of communities) and ISO37121 (Inventory and review of existing indicators on sustainable development and resilience in cities) in Netherlands’ second city, Rotterdam. The Standards define and establish methodologies for a set of indicators to steer and measure the performance of city services, quality of life and resilience.

Tillie was involved in building and writing the first international Standard on City Data ISO37120 from TU Delft and the City of Rotterdam. Rotterdam, which is home to Europe’s largest port, was the pilot city for this study for a two-year period.

The speaker urged the audience to think in terms of ‘evolution’ rather than ‘revolution’. It’s nearly impossible to focus on all topics connected to a smart city, he added.

Setting out some sort of roadmap at the outset of a smart city project was important, he countined. In Rotterdam cutting carbon emissions was a driving goal.

Data flow presented a big challenge because data is not the same as information. Filtering of data towards user groups is step one, said the speaker.

A second step is to add value to the information. Presenting the data to stakeholders was extremely difficult.

Presenting data in a spreadsheet format didn’t work well, so now the data is presented in a tailored way to different target groups. The combination of improved filtering and presentation really added value to the information, explained Tillie.

He also reminded attendees of the importance of engaging stakeholders and making them ambassadors of the smart-city concept.

With Nico Tillie as project leader, the Rotterdam city served as a pilot for ISO 37120. After the first positive results more countries and cities became interested in the project. Now 20 cities around the globe are participating in working groups with the goal of creating resilient smart cities.


Jim Glockling PhD, Technical Director of MiFireE, said European fire regulations neglected the impact of external fires on buildings and the importance of building in resilience and reducing the business impact of fire.

Citing several more disruptive incidents Neil Orbell endorsed this position.

Building Information Modelling – popularly known as BIM – is the virtual design of buildings before they are physically created. Greater use of this concept, said the speaker, could have huge benefits for fire protection.

Building managers know what to do in an evacuation  – but not necessarily afterwards, he continued.

Meanwhile, the current focus on sustainability is being achieved at the cost of resilience. Achieving both need not be difficult, according to Glockling, if materials are chosen wisely.

Some 80% of businesses have been affected by a major incident the last 18 months. A more accurate description, said Glockling, would be that 80% of businesses affected by a major incident were shown to be incompetently managed.

Proper business continuity planning can mitigate such problems and BIM is central to addressing the issue. BIM states the building materials and systems, where they are located and their physical properties. Compliance can be achieved by gathering and analysing this information.

As well as assessing sustainability, said the speaker, this method could also be used to specify a resilience rating for a given building. This would make resilience an accessible, practically consideration in the procurement and design of future buildings.


‘Resilience’ was a recurrent buzzword during the conference. Another theme emerging clearly was that improved safety and security shouldn’t compromise quality of life – on the contrary, security measures and technology can also improve it.

With the ‘Internet of Things’ era upon us, smart technology is clearly fundamental to how we keep the 60% of humanity who will dwell in cities by 2030 safe and secure – and indeed inconvenienced.

Moreover, cities perceived as ‘smart’ and safe tend to attract more inward investment as well as the brightest and best people to live and work in them.

Fundamental to achieving these goals – to make cities both pleasant places to live and work in as well as safe and secure – was again this concept of resilience, which was arguably the defining concept of the conference.

Click here to download ‘The PEARS Project – Enabling Building Safety & Security Systems for Public Alert by Thorsten Ziercke’ – one of the presentations from the Euralarm conference.

The Future of Fire Safety: download the eBook

Is the fire protection industry adapting to the post-Grenfell reality fast enough? At FIREX International 2019, Europe's only dedicated fire safety event, some of the world's leading fire safety experts covered this theme. This eBook covers the key insights from those discussions on the developments shaping the profession, with topics including:

  • Grenfell Inquiry must yield “bedrock change” – and soon
  • After Grenfell: Jonathan O’Neill OBE on how austerity and policy “on the hoof” are hampering progress
  • Hackitt’s Golden Thread: Fire, facilities and building safety
  • Fire safety community has to “get on board” with technological changes

Related Topics

Leave a Reply

Notify of