7 ways to improve public safety with smart cities technology

Author: Kevin Casey

Public safety technology may provide one of the best examples of how the smart city concept has evolved from buzz worthy into practical applications with measurable impacts on people's lives. Innovative smart cities are focused on the real-world dimensions that improve the quantitative and qualitative measures of urban living.  These include ways to improve public safety, boost economic development, and enhance public health and more.

Smart cities technology in action

A well-balanced mix of hardware, software, networking and data analytics can augment the critical work of police, firefighters, EMS, and other first responders to enhance not only public safety operations, but the way the city functions as a whole.  

So, how does it all work? Let's explore seven examples of ways to improve public safety with smart technology:

1. Intelligent video

Whether used in a high-traffic neighborhood or near a school, the capabilities of intelligent video systems can help elevate safety.  Intelligent video technology gathers, analyzes, transmits and stores video data to help provide actionable intelligence and situational awareness.  In fact, intelligent video can help you do more with less resources.  

For instance, when suspicious activity is detected, an alert is immediately sent, providing awareness of what is happening in an area that might be without a patrol car.  It’s the extra eyes and ears of the areas you are sworn to protect.  Advanced analytic capabilities can review hours of video in minutes, boosting investigation productivity without the need for extra personnel.

2. Autonomous drones

Autonomous drone surveillance can safely monitor large crowds from the sky in near real-time. This helps to quickly detect escalating situations where people may need immediate assistance  or other potential emergency situations. Being able to have eyes in the sky helps reduce the risk faced by responding officers on the ground.  Thus, providing more effective use of first responders' time and resources.

Drones used for disaster detection and response help enhance situational awareness often from remote or hard-to-access areas. Autonomous drone capabilities may be equipped with, for instance, thermal or infrared scanning, which could help locate a missing person in a forest during a search and rescue operation.

3. Smart lighting

Intelligent lighting solutions are a key component of smart cities. This technology allows for lights to be on only when and where they are needed, helping to decrease energy costs, reduce maintenance requirements and—most importantly for public safety purposes—address residents' safety concerns. Sensor-equipped smart devices installed into pre-existing fixtures allow for remotely operated lights to be turned on, off or dimmed based on pre-set definitions while capturing and transmitting data in near real time.

4. Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR)

While nothing beats on-the-job learning, AR/VR technology can enhance training and preparedness for first responders and other public safety personnel.  Enhancing training to include a virtual training environment helps make training more accessible to staff while decreasing travel time, staffing requirements and expenses. Emergency medical and firefighter training programs are among the use cases of this public safety technology.

5. Smart traffic management sensors

The increased use of sensors embedded on vehicles, roads and other IoT devices can help to ensure first responders are able to get to where they need to without unnecessary delay. This technology can not only help to determine the optimal route to the scene but also potentially change traffic light signals to prioritize emergency vehicle movements.

Connected traffic signals, intersection safety analytics and even intelligent asphalt are among the ways to improve public safety via smart cities solutions as they can assist with traffic planning and help to make intersections safer.

6. Advanced data analytics

Smart cities both thrive on and generate enormous amounts of data. When that data flows over the network effectively to a central management system, it can then be analyzed and used to produce critical insights for improving public safety.

Networked IoT sensors in nearly everything—including traffic lights, billboards, buildings and more—collect and transmit data that can be mined to better detect and respond to potential emergencies, such as natural disasters, and automate initial steps and escalation.

5G also helps keep data readily available at the edge, close to where it's needed when emergency response teams and other personnel need it to make rapid decisions.

7. Real-time response system

One of the benefits of foundational smart city technology is helping to maintain and enhance the safety in the communities where you live. A real-time response system connects and integrates multiple data streams and sources—such as computer-aided dispatch, video sensors, record management systems and third-party databases—into a single operating view, providing public safety officials with a consolidated real-time awareness of their city.

Ideally, the system will be interoperable with other third-party public safety offerings, which will boost interagency collaboration and help to reduce the impact and existence of data silos.

The role of 5G in public safety smart cities technology

One of the best ways to improve public safety is via your network infrastructure. Each of the previous examples relies fundamentally on a strong, reliable and secure network. Smart cities are ultimately about the effective flow and use of information to improve people's lives—and that data can only be as strong as the network it travels and resides on.

Today, that means ensuring ultra-fast speeds and low latency—not only in operational hubs and data centers but also out to devices, applications and users on the outermost edges of the network.

Reliable, widely available 5G connectivity is a major enabler of the modern smart city. A strong network is the foundation for a wealth of integrated smart public safety technology and services, such as preemption capabilities for prioritizing network and wireless resources in a crisis, a wide range of intelligent video capabilities, AI-powered analytics and more. This gives cities and their agencies a complete solution for delivering maximum impact for public safety—and across all quality-of-life components.

Learn more about how Verizon Frontline is delivering the advanced network and technology first responders rely on to ensure public safety in their communities.

The author of this content is a paid contributor for Verizon.