The pulse of a city is a situational picture of what is going on in the city right now. In urban security, the focus is increasingly shifting from observation of the present moment toward anticipation, guidance and rapid responses with the help of technology. Cooperation between the authorities and other operators is increasing, benefiting from joint development and technological experiments. This enables technologies to better meet real needs and serve as uniting elements instead of creating complexity.
Technology trends in urban security
Current hot topics in urban security include the pulse of a city: a situational picture of what is going on in the city right now. Technology trends include video and image analytics to support rapid responses, increasingly popular IoT solutions, sensors and the digitization of all operations in society, such as the collection of weather and congestion information from the street network or intelligent lighting solutions.
The use of sensors is increasing. Their status is monitored, and sensors are connected and controlled. In other words, the Internet of Things is a clear trend, even in urban security. The authorities are particularly interested in the potential of video analytics, taking privacy into account. In the future, with the use of video analytics and machine learning increasing, the role of anticipation and guidance will become more important in addition to real-time monitoring. This makes it possible to reduce response times, anticipate better and provide help more quickly.
Sensible and ethical use of technology
Technology is evolving and creating more opportunities. The key question is whether everything will become more complex, or whether it will be possible to use technology sensibly. Will it be possible to identify which technological opportunities are useful and appropriate to the situation and needs? It is also important to create user-oriented services and pay attention to the usability of technology, and not try to solve all problems with a single user interface, for example. On the other hand, what is technically and economically feasible is not necessarily socially acceptable or beneficial. If people feel Big Brother is continually monitoring them, their feeling of security will not increase.
When technology is used to solve challenges related to security, special attention must be paid to information security and privacy. The solutions must not violate anyone’s rights or freedoms, and personal data must not be collected unnecessarily. The more sensors and various technologies are used, the more frequently data protection and information security issues will arise. These considerations must be addressed when data is collected and combined from various systems and sensors, so that external parties cannot interfere with the traffic light system of a city, for example.
Technology as a bridge between urban security operators
There is a growing need for cooperation among the authorities and especially between the authorities and civilian or voluntary-sector operators. The authorities cannot operate in their own bubble. Instead, all parties that can affect situations must be involved in a coordinated manner. This is commonplace in search operations and in extinguishing extensive forest fires, for example: volunteers are needed to ensure enough people are involved.
Event security involves security operators and other security organizations. For example, in Tampere, major events are usually organized in the city center, meaning that the event venues and organizations must also be integrated into the surrounding urban infrastructure. Events must cooperate with the authorities and the voluntary sector.
In terms of technology, cooperation means the need for common interfaces, in addition to taking the end users into account. The authorities’ systems as such are effective. When the operating environment expands into cooperation with the authorities and toward civilian operators, various new and old technologies must appear easy to use, understandable, secure and morally and ethically acceptable to the end users. In addition, people’s actions are unpredictable, and preparation is only possible to a certain limit, although rapid responses are always required. At its best, a flexible and easily integrated technological solution can serve as a bridge between the situational pictures of various operators.
All parties benefit from joint development
Cooperation projects and experiments offer good opportunities to develop technological solutions for urban security. They allow various operators to interact and test different technologies with a low threshold and thereby seek solutions to common problems. A technologically open interface economy provides operators with opportunities to contribute their expertise and innovate on a specific platform. All parties learn and benefit from solutions produced jointly by several operators.
For example, the benefits of the Insta Blue Aware situational awareness solution were highlighted when an ecosystem was built around the solution in Tampere as part of the Smart Urban Security and Event Resilience (SURE) project. Insta Blue Aware, which serves as the backbone of the SURE concept, is not a closed solution that should be suitable for all parties. Various types of data and sensors and different operators’ solutions can be integrated into Insta Blue Aware. This allows for different operating models. A SURE solution in another city may look different from the solution in Tampere.
The potential of a situational awareness platform
The Insta Blue Aware (IBA) situational awareness platform has enabled more rapid provision of help in experiments within the SURE project. In some cases, cooperation and the situational picture between operators have been enriched with location information about buses and trains and a visual view of the IBA platform. Technology has been used to confirm the information received from an emergency alert, provide operators with accurate information and improve operating performance by guiding emergency vehicles more quickly to the right place.
Situational information is needed for management and coordination. Insta Blue Aware enables the operations, planning and coordination of various groups in the field through a situational picture. The situational center and the units in the field, such as first-aid groups or security teams in the event area, can use it for communication and view each other’s location in real time. Even if an operation involves both the authorities and voluntary-sector operators or reservists with their personal mobile devices, everyone can be integrated into a common situational awareness system if necessary. This is a light and easy way to tune into the pulse of a city, an event or an exceptional situation.