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Needed: Smart and Secure Cities

By Special Guest
Vaughan Emery, Founder and CEO of Atonomi
July 10, 2018

Municipalities around the globe have proven creative and resourceful in deploying wireless sensors, monitors, and other devices, collectively referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT), to transform the manner in which utilities, services, and systems are managed and delivered to enhance efficiencies while improving the livability quotient for the people who live there.


These IoT-powered smart cities are arriving just in time, as more of the world’s population gravitates toward cities, with the United Nations estimating that some 66% of the planet’s populace will be city dwellers by 2050. Along the way, Smart Cities USA forecasts that by 2025, 34 cities worldwide will have a population greater than 10 million. Cities already consume two-thirds of the world’s energy and the majority of other resources.

Needed: Smart and Secure
Smart Cities stand as brilliant examples of how technology can improve quality of life. Municipalities large and small use IoT to deploy solutions such as smart street lighting systems that slash energy costs while improving safety; create smart water treatment and distribution systems to improve quality while using sensor data to detect leaks that might otherwise squander half a city’s supply; and coordinate traffic flow and parking to reduce traffic congestion while improving air quality.

Some cities equip citizens with devices and smartphone apps to enable citizen data collection.  The Wall Street Journal reports that Louisville, Kentucky distributed inhalers with air sensors to people with asthma to map areas of poor air quality: Whenever an inhaler was activated, the device captured GPS location, time, date, and other data.

The story noted: “In one case, sensor data spotlighted a congested road on the east side of town where inhaler use was three times as high as in other parts of the city. In response, the city planted a belt of trees separating the road from a nearby residential neighborhood; the plantings have resulted in a 60% reduction in particulate matter (which can aggravate breathing problems) behind the green belt.”

Cities need to be smart, but they also need to be secure. The Harvard Business Review recently ran an article titled “The Smart Cities are Going to Be a Security Nightmare.” The article notes: “The rise of digital connectivity also exposes a host of vulnerabilities cybercriminals are lining up to exploit. … As smart city infrastructure proliferates, the stakes for protecting these digital foundations will only get higher.”

How Blockchain Can Help
The estimated 2.3 billion IoT devices that have already been deployed in cities create a huge and attractive attack surface for hackers and other bad actors. These devices usually exist far beyond firewalls, and because of their small size, with extremely limited computing power, memory, and storage, they can’t be protected by conventional security stacks.

Fortunately, blockchain technology can help. Blockchain, which provides an immutable and decentralized ledger, can be harnessed to record cryptographically embedded device identity. Blockchain can also be used as an immutable ledger for device reputation — based on how one device interacts with another.

Device identity and reputation, when combined with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, opens the door for a new kind of smart web of connected devices in which behavioral aberrations (that might arise from being hacked) can be detected, evaluated, and autonomously acted upon.

Forbes reports that 86% of municipalities say they have already experienced an IoT-related security breach. Blockchain-based identity and reputation, coupled with AI, can help ensure that smart cities are also secure.

About the author: Emery founded CENTRI Technology in 2010 with a vision to deliver technology that helps to secure data and to improve network efficiencies. As the Founder and CEO of Atonomi, he is responsible for the company leadership and vision, strategic direction, planning, and execution.




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