It’s about the data
At its core, smart public safety is all about the use of “intelligence” – information that helps people make better decisions. For example, intelligence might hint at the identity of a criminal. Or it might suggest to emergency personnel that a wildfire is likely to occur on the outskirts of town. This kind of public safety intelligence creates immeasurable value not only to first responders, but to city residents and businesses too. As cities become safer, people are happier and healthier, businesses take note and tax revenue increases.
Let’s look at four specific ways ICT-enabled smart cities improve public safety outcomes:
- Generating their own public safety data
- Accessing the universe of relevant data
- Correlating data sources to create intelligence
- Delivering intelligence to decision makers
Generating public safety data is a first step in realizing intelligence. Many cities will have much of this data as well as mechanisms for generating it in place already. It’s what we call legacy information, or legacy investments. Think of your own criminal database and records that include fingerprints, mug shots, video evidence and so on. Smart cities augment existing sensors with others to obtain all relevant information in their environment. Sensors might include CCTV, other video sensors or audio sensors.
But this data alone isn’t enough to create actionable intelligence. Cities must augment it with many other data sources, traditional and non-traditional. In fact, accessing the universe of relevant public safety data is absolutely critical for improving safety outcomes. Public safety requires close cooperation and data sharing across city departments. Police might need access to drivers’ license records from a licensing department. Or fire personnel might need to understand weather data from a meteorological agency housed in an energy department.
Accessing the universe of relevant data aids decision making. States, provinces and regions keep records. National governments and their agencies keep records. Even international organizations like Interpol keep records. And helpful, relevant information can come from non-traditional sources as well – consider the wealth of data that exists in social media. Indeed, by 2030 every city asset, across much of the world, might be sending data in an Internet of Things. Smart public safety agencies seek access to all of it, for every new piece of data that a city has access to makes their intelligence that much stronger and that much more precise.
Accessing all of this information is both a big task and a critical one. Fortunately, ICT and good interoperability and data management policy can help. Already, standards exist that can ensure that the data cities collect and use is interoperable.