Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

The importance of securing the smart cities of the future

December 11, 2015

In our latest media partnership with Vice Media’s Motherboard, a panel explores the pros and perceived cons of the Bristol is Open smart city experiment. 

motherboard picA big focus of the discussion centres on the challenges surrounding securing the Internet of Things, if a futuristic vision of truly smart cities is ever to be realised.

Why bother connecting lampposts and bins, if a hacker can easily bypass security? It was a point made by former hacker turned consultant and researcher Jack Davis.

He pointed out the more complex a network; the greater the ‘attack space’ there is for hackers to target.

Of course, I strongly believe the security of the Internet of Things (IoT) has to be taken seriously, and I support Jake’s views on that.

However, you can still provide the required level of security around IoT without compromising what cities want to achieve through connectivity.

Stephen Hilton, director of futures at Bristol City Council, argued that while there’s huge potential for abuse, you have to balance that with the huge potential for good.

In my view, showing systems are designed with cyber risk in mind is going to be key in winning this argument.

Systems can be built in such a way they will be aware of where hackers will try to break in. This helps build a stronger defensive profile, and a network can act as an enforcer through using the latest security technology.

On top of this, there needs to be a balance between the data that is lost versus the level of security that’s required. It becomes a business decision point that has to be made, based on the risk and the level of protection needed.

This is why it’s so important for the benefits of smart cities to be emphasised. It’s about showing the business value, while also being clear that issues of security can, and will, be overcome by the effective application of technology.

Will we ever see truly smart cities?

It’s fair to say we’re still very much in the early stages of smart city development, but Bristol is coming across very well as more advanced on this path.

There’s also some really exciting work happening in London, to Manchester, and Milton Keynes, and others will surely follow.

I believe we’re on the brink of a smart cities revolution.

This is being driven by the growing digital demands of both the younger connected generation as well as my own generation. As consumers, we’re becoming so used to having fantastic connectivity and access to amazing applications that improve every aspect of our life at all times.

The joys of being able to redirect your route before hitting traffic, for instance, is great for your commute as well as having some nice economic benefits attached to it as well.

The level of convenience that citizens will demand will only increase as these technologies become more embedded into our lives.

On top of this, smart cities provide an opportunity to refresh our inner urban areas. By having the technology available, cities can attract new entrepreneurs and ideas to an area to create new services and business models that haven’t been thought of yet.

If we get it right further economic growth will come through innovation, but smart cities need the infrastructure in place to make that happen.

Governments around the world are recognising the benefits. Digitisation acceleration programmes are asking the private sector what more can be done, and here in the UK the government sees it as key to improving the productivity of our economy.

This week I was at the IoT World Forum in Dubai where I was able to experience first hand some of the smart technology the city is implementing. This includes connected street lighting, connected taxi fleets, connected public buses and a connected police force. With all that in mind – it’s clear to me the smart cities are coming, and the time to get excited about the benefits they will bring is now.

Watch the full Vice Motherboard film The City That Has Its Own Operating System below.


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