Smart cities need smart connectivity and security


Around the world, cities are getting connected: smart lighting and traffic systems; connected public transport; hyper-local air quality control; high-speed public Wi-Fi for citizens and businesses.

Cities are collecting data from anywhere and everywhere to make smarter decisions and deliver new services. They’re using their high-tech profiles to attract new businesses and tourism.

This article was originally published in Smart Energy International 4-2018.  You have access to our digital magazine here.

Says Riaan Graham, sales director for Ruckus Networks, sub-Saharan Africa: “The ICT sector plays a significant role in achieving this – connectivity means citizens have access to information, knowledge to innovate, do business differently etc but ultimately build a knowledge-based and socially connected community. Data is currently very expensive which limits access. This has a direct effect on businesses, especially SMEs that can’t afford it, students who need access to information for educational purposes and just normal citizens that need access to undertake their daily obligations. This is why we are seeing initiatives whose main objective is to provide free Wi-Fi to communities coming to the fore – all in an effort to provide unrestricted connectivity to those that really need it.”

Getting connected … In fact, as cities get smarter, they recognise one fact of life right away: any old Wi-Fi technology isn’t going to cut it. Smart city applications demand a wireless network that can deal with tough issues like complex meshing in outdoor environments.

One that can communicate with thousands of different devices – smart and dumb alike – simultaneously and one that delivers superior performance for every user, even in high-traffic areas like convention centres, airports and busy downtown shopping districts.

“Wi-Fi is playing a major role in making it all happen,” adds Graham. “On-boarding millions of connected devices needs to be simple, seamless and secure. Users need to be able to connect to the Wi-Fi from anywhere automatically, without having to constantly re-enter credentials. And no matter how large the smart city deployment grows, everything should be able to be controlled easily and centrally from the cloud.”

To put this into context: when government departments work as a unit and break away from seeing their functions separately, but rather as one, steps can be taken to improve services provided not only on a consistent basis, but also ensuring better management of a sudden natural crisis, such as flooding – where emergency personnel can be dispatched quickly to save lives.

Another good example of the capabilities with smarter technology may include fitting traffic lights with smart sensors and cameras which will be able to pick up any incident taking place at an intersection, e.g. a hijacking, robbery or a collision. Through efficient and high-speed connectivity, the sensors will pick up the sound and cameras can be directed to the scene – which can also bode significant gains for effective policing and a safer environment. Further to this, the same technology could be used to measure traffic flows through each intersection in realtime and communicate with the system to recalculate the timing of traffic lights, enabling better traffic flow. This can significantly reduce traffic congestion and commuters will be able to plan their routes properly and get to the office on time and less stressed out, which can also influence their productivity.

Another possibility where this technology could lead to a positive change is to collect data that will inform the department which roads or intersections aren’t experiencing high volumes of traffic. In such instances, the options available will be either switching off the traffic light or dimming the lights for that period of inactivity and once the sensors pick up movement the lights will work as normal.

Functions like these could potentially save the council a substantial amount of money on electricity which can then be injected back into existing infrastructure – such as free connectivity for commuters to access the network and get information on water issues and traffic in and around their areas etc.

However, such connectivity naturally brings up security concerns. As you connect and integrate businesses, people, devices and infrastructure, there is always a risk.

… means being secure

Riaan Badenhorst, general manager, Kaspersky Lab Africa, says: “An integral part of smart cities is their intelligent systems.

Just look at some of the examples – the smart water meter technology deployed in Barcelona saves about $58 million each year.

Smart sensors are being used in a smart city in South Korea to control electricity and water usage, cutting operational costs by about 30%. However, the threat of cyber attacks within smart cities is inevitable – making security and preparation integrated into such deployments critical.”

In fact, Kaspersky Lab warns that there is a tremendous need for more awareness on the issue of cybersecurity in smart cities.

Cities continue to get smarter and constantly incorporate new technologies into their infrastructure, but they cannot ignore the importance of cybersecurity.

“As the technology and networks become increasingly integrated, there is also the potential that this will expose more vulnerabilities in co-dependent systems that cybercriminals may look to target. By exploiting any such vulnerabilities in the networks and software of such co-dependent systems, attackers could steal information related to private individuals – data crucial to the seamless integration and operations of smart services – or even bring down complete operations of smart services, which can lead to a technogenic disaster,” says Badenhorst.

According to Graham, there are six key components to consider when designing smart cities, including:

  • Smart energy – the energy delivered must be managed through a smart grid, which will give off data that indicates where energy is wasted and plans can be put in place to better manage it.
  • Smart transport – this will be effective with traffic monitoring where commuters can be notified through an app – or via software linked to their cars – that alerts them of traffic along their usual route and suggests an alternative route. In the case of public transport – using buses, taxies and trains to commute to work – software can be used to alert the depots if more transport is needed at a particular station, using human data collected indicating the number of people at a station at a particular time.
  • Smart data – analysing raw data from the metro and adapting it to improve the lives of residents. Take residents in Johannesburg that commute to and from work using buses, for instance, every Rea Vaya bus station can be fitted with software that allows commuters to connect to a bus portal and immediately be notified as to how long their bus will take to arrive at the station and what the holdup is. This allows for the commuter to decide whether to wait for the bus or get some errands done in the meantime.
  • Smart infrastructure – ensuring that all new and future buildings are built to function within a smart city. This means all buildings must be fitted with smart solutions that will help in maintaining and drive additional revenue. In the case of existing infrastructure, audits need to take place to ensure that the smart solutions are added into the infrastructure, as we do not have the luxury of starting from scratch. The smart solutions fitted in new and old infrastructure will operate via connectivity talking to water, light, road, etc.
  • Smart mobility – this is how data travels across the network. IoT allows for connectivity between cities and people through their mobile devices. This is where connectivity comes into play to help transform services. Through mobile apps, people will be able to find smart parking using signals, locate restaurants etc. The combination of mobility and IoT holds an immense amount of potential to improve customer services and can increase productivity. By 2020 there is the potential to connect 50 billion people, processes, data and things.
  • IoT – with connected and smart devices working together, government will have better access to information and be able to provide services through technology to manage citizens’ needs.

“To be truly considered smart, cities need to have a strong drive in all of these areas – and security needs to be top-of-mind in each of them,” adds Badenhorst. The rise of cyberthreats to critical infrastructure indicates that smart city infrastructures and networks will need to be accurately secured from malware both inside and
outside the perimeter – and this will require large scale co-operative cyber governance. Additionally, information security must play a crucial role in protecting the confidentiality, availability and integrity of such networks and the data they convey, at the highest level, not to mention the stability of key services in support of sustaining liveable, smart cities.” The African continent is a developing one and as such, there is a strong need to focus more on investing in ICT and socio-economic development, while still effectively managing budgets and scarce natural resources, to ensure it is able to continue to develop and smart cities are able to come to the fore.

However, we have to get the foundational elements right – and Wi-Fi’s role in securing the infrastructure is as prominent as ever! SEI


Riaan Graham, Sales Director for Ruckus Networks sub-Saharan Africa Riaan Graham is the Sales Director at Ruckus Networks sub-Saharan Africa, a position he assumed in 2015. He has a strong focus on Broadband Wireless Access technologies as his field of speciality since 1999. He has worked in the telecommunications field in Africa for 18 years with in-depth knowledge of the MNO and telco markets in East, West and Southern Africa.

Ruckus Networks, an ARRIS company, builds innovative and secure wired and wireless access networks for organizations that place a premium on connectivity for their employees, customers, students, subscribers and guests.

Riaan Badenhorst, General Manager, Kaspersky Lab Africa Riaan Badenhorst joined Kaspersky Lab in January 2011. He headed up the corporate sales division, focused on growing Kaspersky Lab’s market share in both the Enterprise and SMB sectors in sub-Saharan Africa. In October 2012 Riaan was appointed as General Manager for the Africa region and has been heading Kaspersky Lab operations in the region ever since. The sub-Saharan Africa region consists of more than 40 countries and Riaan is in charge of all Kaspersky Lab’s operations in the region.

Kaspersky Lab is a global cybersecurity company, which has been operating in the market for over 20 years. Kaspersky Lab’s deep threat intelligence and security expertise is constantly transforming into next generation security solutions and services to protect businesses, critical infrastructure, governments and consumers around the globe.