How to
build a safe
and smart city

Author: Keith Shaw

According to the National League of Cities, public safety remains one of the top concerns for cities across the U.S. Thankfully, a combination of new technologies is enabling municipalities to provide a safe and smart city for their residents. Through the integration of intelligent lighting, intelligent video and improved response systems, law enforcement and city officials can create an environment where residents feel safer and decision-makers have access to better tools for more efficient operations.

A continuing challenge to smart city safety and security is that existing infrastructure often features siloed systems that can include video blind spots, low-quality images or video, slow data storage and retrieval options, and data loss that can hamper law enforcement and public safety operations.

To combat these challenges, many cities are turning to safe and smart city technologies that integrate systems and provide near real-time analysis and intelligence features and benefits. By connecting devices, cloud storage, software and high-speed networks, cities can enable a safe and smart city profile to help residents feel safer in their communities.

Let's examine three of the key components of a smart city safety and security strategy: the use of intelligent lighting, intelligent video and a real-time response system.

Intelligent lighting makes a difference

Smarter lighting systems, such as Verizon Grid Wide Intelligent Lighting, allow cities to remotely operate lights—individually or in a group—and perform tasks such as turning them on or off or dimming/brightening based on pre-set definitions. This means lights are on when and where they're needed, helping to not only decrease energy costs but also address residents' safety concerns.

The system converts LED fixtures into sensor-equipped smart devices capable of capturing and transmitting data in near-real time. Wireless connectivity, cloud hosting and additional hardware and software connect the lighting control device to the Intelligent Lighting platform. Cities can have full control over their lights, as well as insights into the state of their lighting infrastructure.

Research suggests safe and smart city lighting has various public safety benefits. Improving environmental lighting can help reduce violent crimes, based on a study in New York City.1 Moreover, personal and property crimes also dropped 36% in housing developments equipped with intelligent lighting systems

Leveraging existing lighting infrastructure with added technology such as loudspeakers and wireless data transmitters can further enhance smart cities’ safety approach. Light and utility poles can also offer additional public safety benefits such as gunshot detection, traffic monitoring and assisting with evacuations and warnings.

Intelligent video for smart city safety and security

Many cities have installed video cameras to help detect crime or monitor critical infrastructure, but low-quality images, the need to hire and train security professionals and costly streaming and data transfer options can help prevent them from working to their full potential. Smarter video infrastructure systems, such as Verizon Intelligent Video, allow cities to gather, analyze, transmit and store video data to better optimize their investment in video to help optimize situational awareness. These systems can also improve situational awareness to allow cities to make decisions faster, as well as provide advanced video analytics, video archiving, near real-time video analysis and single-dashboard visualizations of key metrics.

An intelligent video system can utilize data from cameras to identify unusual or abnormal behavior, which can then trigger alerts for law enforcement. This data can then be archived for evidence purposes if needed. Intelligent video systems can enable the review of hours of videos in minutes to help improve productivity of investigations.

Some of the features and benefits that are important for such an intelligent video system include:

  • Better manageability of video through a single interface
  • Faster response times by connecting smart devices with intelligent video through a mobile app
  • Fast deployment through cloud implementation and managed services that also support scalability of support for up to 100,000 cameras

Unifying systems for real-time response

A third component of enabling a safe and smart city strategy involves integrating multiple public safety systems into a single, holistic view. For example, the Verizon Real Time Response System integrates with third-party public safety offerings, such as real time crime centers, to foster inter-agency collaboration, enhance situational awareness and improve decision-making.

The system unifies large amounts of data from multiple sources, including computer-aided dispatch systems, video sensors, record management systems and third-party databases. Data that can be unified includes crime data, dispatch data, gang data, asset tracking, gunshot detection, license plate recognition and video streams.

By unifying these different systems into a single platform, cities can:

  • Provide better monitoring to tap into real-time video feeds
  • Find patterns and connections to improve situational awareness
  • Leverage intelligence for proactive and prepared response
  • Analyze risks and measure public safety initiatives

In the case of the Verizon Real Time Response System, management and integration is handled through Verizon managed and professional services, which eases the burden on city IT staff.

Beyond these components, Verizon can enable additional technologies to enable a safe and smart city strategy. Learn more about creating a smart city safety and security ecosystem.

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

Chalfin, A., Hansen, B., Lerner, J. et al., Reducing Crime Through Environmental Design: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment of Street Lighting in New York City, Journal of Quantitative Criminology 38, 127–157 (2022),