11 December 2018

From Safe to Smart: How traditional CCTV can enhance your Smart Cities plan

Building and running a smart city means you can make the right decisions quickly and react faster, redirecting resources to where they’ll be most effective. With security at the heart, make your city more attractive, your services more efficient, and your communities more personal to your citizens and visitors. Make it smart, make it secure.

The survey results indicate that two thirds of respondents already have or are developing a Smart City agenda. With budgets under constant pressure, can existing CCTV infrastructure provide part of the solution and save money?

Traffic and transport, environmental services and community safety are high priorities for a smart cities agenda and CCTV probably already monitors key areas. There is great interest in managing congestion and providing real time information on the availability of parking and public transport. Traffic data is central to this vision as it provides both immediate information on congestion, but also builds up into a larger picture of patterns of journeys taken.

Today highways departments can get a measure of traffic volumes in an area by deploying temporary traffic counting devices on a road or conducting a manual survey. This gives a view of the number of vehicles passing a location for different times of the day, but this data cannot be used to inform smart city systems because it isn’t real-time and doesn’t give any insight on journey patterns.

A CCTV operator can already get a sense of traffic conditions or bus locations as part of the normal job monitoring the screens. However without automated analysis, video data is not an ideal solution for a smart city because it is both subjective and a manual process. CCTV can do a lot more than merely record moving images and modern upgrades allow the tracking of vehicles and people through clever object and person recognition allowing real-time information on the time taken for a given journey across a city. This intelligence combined with live air quality data offers the possibility to optimise traffic congestion management both for the motorist and those sharing the road environment.

As our transport movements evolve with our changing work and leisure lifestyles, it is important to maintain this live information and not rely on historic data. To obtain the best information on transport patterns may require additional sensors beyond existing CCTV locations. Fortunately, lower cost cameras such as those supplied by BT to Transport for Greater Manchester are available that can be mounted on, for example, traffic lights and require little more than a connection to the existing power together with secure Wi-Fi or 3/4G data services.

Secure the information to prevent data breach

Irrespective of the types of sensors deployed, it is important that they can all share data securely and reliably. This can be done with a BT umbrella portal which brings different CCTV and security systems together. Hacked cameras could be used to extract video from the network for nefarious purposes that could present a significant privacy threat to the citizen. Encryption of data across the network is a good defence against this risk, but changing the encryption keys on a device mounted high up requires a further level of secure automation. Existing CCTV locations connected by fibre networks offer some protection but they should still be reviewed to see if encryption is required. Extracting data from fibre-optic cables is perfectly possible; existing fibre encryption devices will suffice until BT’s quantum key fibre encryption product is available.

Smart city automation needs reliable data

Remember the integrity and availability of the data on this network is paramount. Missing or fictitious vehicle transport information could wreak havoc on systems e.g. automated traffic light management and ultimately lead to gridlock. Video data is less vulnerable, but ultimately the overall security of a smart city network could be compromised by any vulnerable device. It is imperative that every new device or camera is secured to protect the whole community. A perimeter firewall security control around the sensor network will not suffice. Instead a more holistic approach is required that protects data, wherever it happens to be in the network at any given time.

Control and protect access to data

There is potential to produce a vast amount of data that will move quickly across different applications; what purposes. I and other security writers, often list insider threat as one of the least understood risk. It is where one of your employees deliberately accesses and leaks sensitive data and often ranks alongside any external cyber threat in its importance. To counteract this threat, the authentication and authorisation controls mentioned above and full auditing should also apply to any data access by an operator.

A CCTV operator requires full access to the video feed, but personal data automatically extracted from it and other sensors should undergo secure anonymisation before storage. A cryptographic hash of a vehicle registration together with some ephemeral data e.g. hour of day would be sufficient to track a journey across town and build traffic patterns without leaving an indelible record of whereabouts. Public trust is paramount if they are going to support the smart city agenda and not view it as a Big Brother surveillance program.

Central to this is good data security, backed up with rigorous controls and ethical operations. A data breach is more likely without these controls and this could seriously erode the required public trust.

An investment in existing CCTV to upgrade cameras to high definition with night vision, underpinned by a full digital network, brings many advantages to the city and its people. Citizen safety is immediately improved.

The network can also provide a foundation infrastructure for other Smart City sensors allowing the data to be brought together in a single portal with secure shared advanced analytics. Other Smart City applications can then benefit from this intelligence without compromising security.

Mike Pannell is CTO Cyber Security, BT Major Business and Public Sector

Mike has over 25 years’ experience in IT, predominantly in systems integration and business transformation. His specialism extends across a broad spectrum of technologies from networking and service optimisation to information security. During his career Mike has worked with a range of government and private sector organisations to help them develop secure IT solutions.

Mike is enthused about the power of communications to transform the world we live in, enabling both speed and democratisation of information sharing. He believes that security is at the heart of this, protecting information we care about and providing trust that data we hold is genuine.

During the past 10 years Mike was responsible for the architecture and design for a complex communications service that provided security across multiple government departments.

This has involved all elements of the delivery lifecycle, through design, delivery and service management. This lead role gave Mike the insight to take strategic decisions that reconciled the customer, commercial and security requirements. His judgement on information security is often sought by customers and he has developed trusted relationships with customers.

He has witnessed the rise of malicious attacks on networks from the origins of the Internet to today’s highly engineered targeted attacks. The growth of cloud computing brings many business benefits but introduces new issues to keep the data secure. Continual innovation is required in security protection, and Mike continuously develops and adapts his knowledge of effective defence strategies.

Mike is a member of the Institute of Engineering and Technology (MIeT) and a Chartered Engineer (CEng). He graduated from University of Newcastle upon Tyne with an Honours degree in Computer Science. Living in Northumberland, Mike spends time on his sports, family and love of Italian cars.

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