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Securing the world's smart cities in the age of IoT and automation


Guest blog by Eric J. Bruno.

Automation is a driving force behind the Internet of Things (IoT) in smart cities, enabling faster response time to weather incidents, alerting motorists to traffic hazards, improving public safety, and more. But with this innovation comes security issues that need to be addressed. Let's explore the hidden security dangers and how automation can help IoT developers address them.

IoT solutions in the world around us

An increasing amount of technology around us—combined with low-cost, reliable communication technology—has led to growing numbers of smart cities across the globe. An increase in the quality of life in these cities is the promise, as sensors detect pockets of air and noise pollution, smart streetlights save energy and costs, and traffic lights adjust to the changing patterns of the city's commuters.

Beyond convenience, IoT can help protect citizens from natural disasters by detecting potential flood conditions before they damage property or endanger lives, minimizing human error in emergency response scenarios, and improving the fight against terrorism with automated image processing and explosive detection in public places.



Automation eliminates human error

The one thing that all of these IoT solutions have in common is the need for Big Data processing and analytics. Automated business intelligence systems that remove people from the equation, where possible, promise to improve response time, and help discover new, previously hidden value in the data collected.

Even small, automated responses to environmental conditions, at a city-wide level, can have a tremendous impact on the well-being of a city's residents. "Imagine in a heat wave, when the power usage is high, if we could adjust the temperatures on thermostats citywide by a couple of degrees and avoid a blackout," says Tim Crawford, former CIO and current strategic adviser at AVOA. "We can empower computers to hear, to see, and to smell the world around us—but we need to do it in a smart way."

The dark side of connectivity

Automatically adjusting people's thermostats, even slightly, can be invasive and, in some cases, a health hazard. These types of systemic IoT implementations need to be enforced carefully, with parameters such as consideration for occupants' health needs, the ability for people to opt out where applicable, and legal implications. Additionally, monitoring people's use of public facilities, such as libraries, community centers, waste management, and other public locations with the intention of improving infrastructure can invite abuse—like the backlash Nordstrom faced when it tracked its customers' trajectory around the store.

Mitre predicts that by 2050, 70 percent of the world's human population will live in cities (a 20 percent increase over today's number). Policies and safeguards need to be put in place, along with advanced security and digital defense systems, to ensure the long term privacy and safety of a city's citizens and visitors alike. Additionally, the infrastructure used needs to be able to grow with the IoT solutions themselves. This often translates to the use of the cloud, which can grow elastically with the demands an entire city can place on technology infrastructure. According to Crawford, "Big Data today will be viewed as 'minuscule data' in the future."

Additionally, the cloud allows developers to experiment with IoT solutions and iterate rapidly to discover value along the way, without wasting money on costly infrastructure. Securing data across multiple data centers, in comparison, compounds the complexity and increases the risk of a breach. The cloud conveniently provides a single point of focus both for analytics to be executed on the data as a whole, as well as a security system implementation.

Smart cities are no longer a thing of the future—they're providing value around the world today. Learn more on how automating your infrastructure can make an impact.



Eric Bruno.jpg

Eric Bruno is a contributing editor to online publications and journals, with more than 20 years of experience in the information technology community. He is a highly requested writer, moderator and speaker for a variety of sites, blogs, conferences and other events on topics spanning the technology spectrum from the desktop to the data center. He has written articles, blogs, white papers, and books on software architecture and development topics for more than a decade. Mr. Bruno is also an enterprise architect, developer, and industry analyst with expertise in full lifecycle, large-scale software architecture, design, and development for companies all over the globe. His accomplishments span the Internet of Things (IoT), highly distributed system development, multi-tiered web development, real-time development, and transactional software development. See his editorial work online at

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About the Author


Tracy Siclair has worked for HPE for 20 years in various positions, all geared towards providing a better customer experience. She has a passion for thinking out-of-the-box and finding innovative ways to get the job done. While not on a computer for work, she enjoys watching her kids play sports, photography, videography, and the occasional game of billiards. Tracy resides in beautiful Fort Collins, Colorado.

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