Cybersecurity is key for the smart cities of tomorrow

Cybersecurity is key for the smart cities of tomorrow
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An elaborate and choreographed network of millions of interconnected devices and sensors — otherwise known as the Internet of Things (IoT) — will be the backbone for the cities of tomorrow.

Already, small-scale projects — trash cans with sensors notifying garbage men when they are full to smart energy grids managing electricity demand — are part of the fabric of the urban infrastructure around the world. 

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But, we know this is just the beginning. The current potential market for smart cities is expected to reach $1 trillion by 2020 with 22.5 billion connected devices by 2021. 

 

Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellUse tax reform to strengthen what’s working: The low-income housing tax credit Senate energy bill is misguided gift to Trump’s dirty fossil fuel agenda Help states solve their housing problems with the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act MORE (D-Wash.), along with Reps. Suzan DelBeneSuzan DelBeneOvernight Health Care: ObamaCare signup groups to get answers on funding this week | Dems demand Trump action on opioids | More Dems back ‘Medicare for All’ bill Week ahead: Senate panel looks to quickly strike deal on ObamaCare fix Overnight Health Care: Governors urge Congress to fund key ObamaCare payments | Warren backs Sanders’ single-payer bill | Advocates seek long-term funding for children’s health program MORE (D-Wash.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) recently introduced The Smart Cities and Communities Act of 2017. The legislation would provide $220 million of smart city infrastructure investment per year over five years.

This $1 billion plus investment will enable local governments (both large and small) to strategically plan and “make smart investments that attract businesses, create jobs, and improve critical infrastructure while boosting services, livability, and the health of residents,” according to Cantwell. 

In the not so distant future, our city leaders will be equipped with intelligent and actionable data. Sensors on roads will communicate with cars to provide real-time road and climate conditions. Stoplights will dynamically change to reduce congestion and optimize driving routes. City managers will evaluate the structural health of all infrastructure by monitoring vibrations at material conditions in buildings, bridges and monuments. Law enforcement and public health officials will use sensors for perimeter access control and radiation, explosive and hazardous gas monitoring.

The benefits of smart city technologies are vast and quantifiable. They will save money and lives. We know that 60 percent of citizens would probably support a ballot initiative involving smart city initiatives in their community. 

However, the benefits also come with risks. Relying on an infrastructure of millions of interconnected devices places security at a premium. The ability to infiltrate just one device could give hackers, terrorists or rogue nations the keys to wreak havoc on large population centers.

Without a secure cyber foundation, smart cities will crumble. Built on a secure cyber foundation, smart cities will thrive. We were encouraged to see that the proposed legislation specifically focused on developing a “skilled and savvy domestic workforce to support smart cities.”

At the heart of the secure smart cities of tomorrow will be a dynamic IT workforce, confident and capable of training and re-training on a consistent basis to stay ahead of the latest threats. Our research shows that just 35 percent of government officials believe that their organizations are well equipped to handle the cyber requirements of smart city projects. Moreover, 40 percent of government officials and personnel cite skills gaps and a lack of necessary technology expertise a primary concern affecting the expansion of smart city initiatives.

For too long, we have taken for granted the safety and security of roads, bridges tunnels that deliver the resources we need to live, work and play. Tomorrow, a cyber-secure foundation of both technologies and workers will be required for cities and towns to thrive, and citizens to be safe and secure.

We must learn from how we have treated our physical infrastructure and do better. The Smart Cities and Communities Act of 2017 is a great start.

Liz Hyman is executive vice president for CompTIA, the world's leading technology association, with approximately 2,000 member companies, 3,000 academic and training partners, over 100,000 registered users and more than two million IT certifications issued.