IoT technology has rapidly expanded beyond in-home devices into cities worldwide. Governments and institutions in Europe, India and the United States are experimenting with IoT solutions to enhance city life, and the technology is expected to create between $4 trillion to $11 trillion in value over the next several years. Municipalities could utilize it for everything from street light control and air quality monitoring to transportation safety.
Organizations seeking to create smart cities still face challenges, however, including how best to manage the massive data flows from IoT-enabled sensors. Vikas Butaney, vice president of product management for technology and software solutions provider Cisco, recently spoke with PYMNTS about how managing these data flows is just one part of smart city development. Every network involved must be able to instantly, safely and securely connect and share information, he explained, and Cisco works with city governments to cultivate transparency and speed.
“You really need an application to connect [IoT platforms] — that network is critical,” he said. “We provide that network in the middle ... [but] you need comprehensive IoT security architecture in any of those critical IoT environments.”
Cisco launched a security product called Cyber Vision to help protect clients’ industrial IoT developments, and the company’s IoT Control Center platform also supports cellular data and network connectivity. Butaney asserted that connectivity and security are increasingly critical across all of Cisco’s projects, as they drive the usability and consumer interest necessary for success.
Connectivity in the smart city
Fostering connectivity is Cisco’s role in the IoT ecosystem, he explained. The company’s framework more efficiently links opposing networks, allowing smart cities to work with IoT-enabled services in one place rather than maintain separate solutions. This efficiency can streamline access for operators as well as residents.
“In the smart city environment, [stakeholders] want to attract people to those cities [and] provide new and innovative services,” Butaney noted. “They want to deploy these multiple [IoT] services, [but that] truly starts with one service [platform] and one network, [like in] transportation. An integrated IoT gateway can connect all of these systems.”
Transportation officials using such networks could consolidate necessary data, including information about bus routes, pedestrian crossings or road safety with that of handling fares and riders’ payments. Recent Cisco projects have focused on bus systems in British Columbia and smart pedestrian safety in Florida.
Industrial IoT solutions are geared toward providing connectivity, but many departments’ digital systems are not yet integrated with other citywide networks. This has always been a challenge, Butaney said, but safe integration is necessary for smart cities’ development, as communication growth occurs only if systems are linked and fully secure.
Security and IoT growth challenges
IoT devices’ security measures often fail to inspire trust, particularly in consumer-facing applications. Smart home-related data breach reports are all too common, and these incidents could prove particularly detrimental if they affect cities’ interconnected IoT networks. Security concerns are the top problem organizations cite before they begin IoT projects, according to internal Cisco data, with 68 percent of businesses noting it is as such.
Smart city project developers thus must know exactly what they are connecting and why, and Butaney stated that this is the impetus behind the company’s recent Cyber Vision launch. Cisco has several other products dedicated to security, including its Stealthwatch solution for online traffic safeguarding and behavioral analytics support.
“You need to be able to identify the devices that are in your environment,” Butaney explained. “In many environments, [the security issue] is not necessarily a threat that’s outside ... [networks need] segmentation or the ability to say different devices can talk to each other.”
City organizations and governments aiming to build smart cities must be able to instantly discern which devices should be given access to their IoT-enabled networks. Providing that assurance may become only more difficult as the number of these applications grows, however, and some estimates project that 64 billion of these devices will be in use by 2025. Protecting them will be key for the consumers who rely on them as well as for the governments and organizations eager to create safer, more efficient cities.