The cities of the future are smart – but we must also make them secure

cities of the future, cyber threat
© Digitalfestival

From glasses giving wearers, VR and AR overlay to smart rings tracking our sleep, technology is only continuing to grow, what will our cities of the future look like and will they be safe?

Our architectural environment is no different. Cities are becoming smarter, and local and national governments are looking to technology to help them meet the needs of their populations and the planet. Smart streetlights using less energy by adjusting their brightness levels based on activity, sensors monitoring river water quality, and programmes tracking video camera data to make better traffic decisions are just some of the ways cities are becoming smart.

But making cities smart is no mean feat. The infrastructure and systems needed to successfully collect, analyse, and transmit information across a city are complex and comprehensive.

For instance, the tech for performance monitoring and infrastructure management must give teams full-stack visibility over hybrid infrastructures and applications. It needs to allow city officials to quickly spot and fix problems—across both fixed and wireless links—so issues don’t result in widespread disruption.

Then there’s the tech involved in user experience, web app monitoring, and applications. Teams need to be able to closely monitor key applications and sites—not forgetting software as a service (SaaS) use cases—and have the tools to reveal application dependencies and related performance.

Next, there’s the tech smart cities need for security. Digital enhancement also enhances digital risk, and robust IT security software and automated vulnerability management tools are essential in maintaining an agile, strong defence.

Finally, to keep a smart city running smoothly, governments need tech-enabled support desks to help resolve problems. They should have access to software to help them track tickets, increase resolution rates, and make reporting more detailed and efficient.

cities of the future, cyber threat
© Stnazkul

Defending and Running Smart Cities

Smart cities represent a better way to plan and manage urban living. They also represent an attractive new target for cyber criminals. 

The huge amount of digital infrastructure needed—and the vast amounts of data these networks will handle—mean smart cities have the potential to be vulnerable to cyberattacks. In a world of increasing cyber threat, IT security needs to be the foundation on which smart cities are built.

It’s not enough for city authorities to have technology to monitor vulnerabilities—they also need solutions to aggregate logs and automate threat responses so they can quickly neutralise threats. And it’s a good idea to divide up network segments for a triaged response. 

IT security is crucial to the cities of the future, but so is service management. In smart cities, problems with connection or VPN issues have the potential to disrupt critical services, and authorities need to be able to resolve these quickly. Additionally, they need to ensure their service desk teams aren’t overwhelmed by the flood of support requests coming in.

The answer is investing in tools designed to let users easily flag issues and help teams efficiently track and respond to them. Solutions enabling teams to remotely access systems and endpoints also help service desks quickly resolve issues and keep up with requests.

Responsibly Handling Data

Another issue for local and national governments to consider is the responsible use of data. Smart cities are built from data, but what information is collected, who has access to it, and how it may be used can all be highly contentious areas impacting public trust.

City authorities can’t be naive about the risks of data misuse. Smart city technology allowing the interactions and movements of individuals to be minutely tracked may be positive in specific safety contexts but can be easily used for more sinister purposes. Citizens don’t want to feel their cities have become open prisons with their every movement unnecessarily monitored.

There are also issues around data compliance. Legislation like UK-GDPR means authorities are responsible for data integrity and protection across the vast amount of data smart cities collect and process. And it’s not just their own activity they need to control—they have a responsibility to ensure any third-party partners they work with are also compliant and don’t step outside regulatory bounds.

Cities may be getting smarter, but we can’t let them become less secure. As authorities explore new tech applications, they need to keep tight control of their networks and data and implement service infrastructure allowing the city to run smoothly and safely. Without these measures in place, the smart future we’re building will start to crumble.

Information provided by Sascha Giese, Head Geek at SolarWinds


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