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How can data be used to make cities safer?

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The common assumption is that the stored data constitutes a reservoir from which information can be extracted and analysed in order to improve decision making. The data analyst must be an information resource manager, who does not know everything but manages tools to turn the raw data into actionable information. The concept of citizen security, of course, alludes to the search for security against the occurrence of violent or criminal acts.

Data for Smart Cities

A city becomes more efficient when it is able to obtain data generated from the environment, infrastructures and citizens. This data can then be used by the emergency and security services in order to predict where and when crimes will happen?

This sounds like it should be part of a hollywood movie, Minority Report perhaps, but the fact is that cities gather so much data nowadays that it would be wrong of them not to use it in order to make citizens and tourists safer.

Businesses use our online behaviour in order to market to us, they are quite simply using algorithms to predict what we like and then they suggest products that they think we would like to buy. In effect they are using data in order to influence our behaviour and to predict the future.

So, can cities utilise data in order to make us safer? Of course they can. It depends on having the technology in place that is smart enough to be able to analyse vast datasets and therefore predict where crime and violence is most likely to occur in the future. This type of predictive analytics has been used in business for a while now, the big advantage for cities is that this can be used to keep their citizens safer whilst also saving money.

Most smart cities now have an Integrated Operation and Control Centre (IOCC) that is connected to the city in real time with the thousands of sensors, digital devices, video cameras and other information generating equipment. The IOCC is equipped with clarge data processing systems and analysis programs, which allow its operators to monitor the movement of the city in real-time, this allows them to make more correct decisions more often and to intervene quickly in emergency situations such as floods, accidents or serious security situations.

Imagine you are policing a large event, such as a carnival or street festival, these types of events are very hard to police as hundreds of thousands of people are moving around quickly in a small area. Being able to deploy less police because you better understand where problems are likely to occur means you can decrease the crime statistics, whilst saving money.

The majority of cities are currently growing in population, this continual growth causes a lot of problems for the emergency and security services that work so hard to keep citizens safe. Knowing that you are free to walk the streets of your city without fear is the first thing that any administration must ensure – by utilising data that they are already gathering the city administration should be able to reduce crime, improve quality of life and also spend less on policing. We look forward to hearing some exciting projects from cities that are taking the next step in smart city security.