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In Atlanta, smart city plans aim for safety

Matt Hamblen | Feb. 2, 2016
CIO says residents are ok with smart cameras to bolster terror fight and crime awareness, though privacy issues could emerge.

The forum is looking to accelerate smart city innovations by combining hands-on investigations of Internet of Things projects in leading cities with top academic research. It will be co-chaired by Peter Marx, CTO for the city of Los Angeles, and Jane Chen, senior vice president of ZTE.

The TM Forum, a global non-profit industry association, created the Smart City Forum and wants a more coordinated and holistic approach to security and privacy. Chris Stock, director of security and privacy programs at TM Forum, has called for a dedicated security operations center within a city's overall operations center that would help break down silos of information in smart cities.

The Forum recently posted an 82-page report by Rob Kitchin, a professor at Maynooth University in Ireland, that was initiated by the Irish government. So far, data security and privacy "in the context of smart cities has been haphazard and uncoordinated," Kitchen wrote. He also raised concerns about how smart city technologies and the data they generate will be kept secure from hackers and thieves.

Atlanta expects to keep much of the data gathered from various sensors for traffic, public safety and water in cloud storage systems, Saini said.

Part of the goal of the Smart City Forum is to bring municipal leaders together so they won't need to solve privacy, security, deployment and funding problems independently, Carl Piva, vice president of strategic programs at the TM Forum, said in an interview.

"We want to unleash innovation and port a [smart city] service from one city to another," Piva said. "It's not an easy undertaking.... We intend this forum to network together for good advice. All cities need to be very prudent about taking security and privacy seriously and, in turn, finding what citizens want."

Atlanta's smart city ambitions go beyond surveillance

In addition to surveillance cameras and other sensors for public safety, Atlanta will soon test transportation and water sensors for gathering data.

City residents approved a $250 million bond issue in 2015 primarily for traffic light synchronization. As part of that system, 300 miles of fiber optic cable are being laid to create a network that will be owned by the city. That network will carry data from an advanced traffic control system, as well other smart city data -- probably the video surveillance data. Excess capacity will be leased to raise money.

In addition, a city Wi-Fi mesh offering free Wi-Fi is being planned that uses the fiber network for backhaul. The size of the mesh network has not yet been decided.

According to Saini, the city still is working out its costs and potential savings from using smart city tech. "The truth is that we don't have a lot of money and we're going in knowing that and the strategy is going to be through private technology partnerships," he added. "Cities can't evolve to become smart and connected without the private sector.... We're trying to minimize any costs for citizens."


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