Within the next ten years, 27 megacities will have emerged and 21 of these will be in less-developed countries (source: Population Reference Bureau). As cities become more densely populated, the demand on infrastructure and resources grows and so does the need for a secure environment in which communities can thrive.
Public safety is an essential element for creating a smart city. Communication must be integrated between the control centre, field personnel and citizens so that it can be analysed and acted upon intelligently. This integration of communication networks allows for seamless collaboration between different agencies and results in more streamlined and efficient operations.
It is exactly what Motorola’s Smart Public Safety Solutions are designed to achieve - by transforming data from disparate networks and devices into real-time intelligence that can be disseminated rapidly in a mobile environment. So, instead of reacting when incidents occur, we can begin to predict and prevent them. But equally importantly, we can use this critical communication infrastructure to provide a platform for third-party developers to create applications that serve local needs.
Mobile technology and the Internet of Things have done wonders for citizen engagement – such as promoting transparency during elections by broadcasting the results as votes are counted to supporting accountability by allowing citizens to record and report incidents as they occur, as well as improving service delivery and emergency response. This allows citizens to be active participants in ensuring their own safety.
However, to really harness the power of smarter, safer cities, you need more than sophisticated technology: governments, humanitarian agencies and private organisations need to be able to work together to create a protected environment where local needs can be nurtured. To this end, Motorola Solutions is partnering with a number of third-party application developers to enable them to build on the existing infrastructure, helping countries to maximise their investment and bolster economic growth.
As an example - a citizen in need of help from a local agency activates the panic button on their smartphone app. Their location is identified using GPS co-ordinates and the most appropriate and closest responder is despatched. The responder is able to access the citizen’s details - such as medical information or emergency contact numbers, for example. This not only improves the speed and quality of emergency response: it can also be used for adapting the level of response according to the severity of the alert, thereby optimising the use of personnel.
But what if the caller is in a building where GPS doesn’t work? There is a complementary application which can pinpoint indoor location by capturing the electromagnetic fields which are unique to a particular building, based on WiFi networks. So the caller can be located easily, anywhere within the building.
Applications can also help to alleviate the load on call centres, where automated queuing systems may not result in the most urgent call being given priority. By streaming live video between the caller and the call centre and using sophisticated real-time video analytics such as Agent Vi, incoming calls can be screened for authenticity and prioritised according to the severity of the situation.
Local citizens are becoming the eyes and ears of public safety and local government agencies. The value they can add as on-the-scene, real-time reporters has also recently been embraced by humanitarian organisations, with crowd-sourcing applications helping aid operations to assess - and respond to - disasters.
Using text, photos, videos and social media, citizens are able to alert their local municipality to broken water pipes, traffic incidents, criminal activity or natural disasters. Citizen connectivity has also spawned applications that enable alerts to be sent by local agencies to individual smartphones automatically. So for example, in the event of a terrorist attack, chemical leak or natural disaster, real-time data from air pollution sensors, surveillance cameras, alarms, sirens and social media feeds can be integrated into a smart communication network that distributes intelligence more quickly and effectively. This makes it possible for the right information to be accessed the moment it is needed, keeping citizens safer and providing an environment in which they can thrive.
Air quality is another example. Here the application displays air pollution levels on a heat map. Users can access this information to ascertain air pollution in their particular location and receive real-time alerts. This can prove a vital tool in ensuring wellbeing for asthma patients, for example.
Parking is invariably limited in busy city centres, so a smart parking solution saves citizens time and can alleviate congestion by helping them to locate the nearest parking space using the co-ordinates from CCTV cameras and applying video analytics.
These are just a few examples of the endless possibilities presented by the Internet of Things when it is combined with community collaboration. From protecting borders to promoting greater safety in cities, enhancing response in an emergency, improving the efficiency of public transportation networks or providing a more healthy environment, we are virtually limited only by our imagination in how we can help communities to flourish.
Blog Author: Roni-Aharon Maximov