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Smart Cities Development Depends on Data Protection, Privacy

Bill Cramer

Data security and privacy are emerging as a key concern as more and more municipalities embrace smart city development, according to a report issued last month by the New York City-based EastWest Institute (EWI).

It’s an area where tolling agencies have lots of positive experience to share, after many years of making it a paramount priority to protect customers’ electronic data. And none too soon, with TechRepublic reporting that more than three-quarters of the global population now lives in cities, and smart technologies rapidly transforming the way those cities operate.

"The rapid evolution of smart cities is both exciting and daunting due to the incredible pace of technological change and adoption," said EWI Global Vice President and report co-author Bruce McConnell. One slice of that change will be on display at IBTTA’s Annual Technology Summit, March 31-April 2 in Orlando, when a smart cities panel looks into connected, autonomous, shared and electric (CASE) vehicles, connected work zones, and how disruptive changes to mobility will affect tolling.

Data Management Means Risk Reduction

The EWI report touches on four main areas, TechRepublic reports: Cybersecurity, cyber resilience, privacy and data protection, and collaboration and coordination in governance. It’s intended for governments at all levels, planners, businesses, and community leaders with an interest in technology investments that span an entire city, with the goal of boosting efficiency and sharing data to improve the community’s quality of life, operational efficiency, service delivery, and competitiveness.

"Urban leaders around the globe are embracing the concept of smart cities, using technology, interconnectivity and the Internet of Things to improve their citizens' lives," said Peter Altabef, Chair and CEO of Unisys, one of four major tech companies that had input to the report. "City officials must be aware of key lessons and best practices to implement and integrate technologies that make smart cities safe cities for improved public safety and public health."

The underlying challenge is that “all of this technology means that cities are more vulnerable, although there are ways to manage that risk,” TechRepublic notes, citing the report. “Smart cities need to focus on scale and speed of devices, the interconnection of networks, and being willing to adopt new technologies.”

If that’s their vision of success, you would almost think the authors had a modern, interoperable, all-electronic tolling operation in mind as they conducted the study.

A Seven-Step Roadmap

The report lays out a seven-step roadmap for data protection in smart cities development. It covers:

  • Setting a vision for smart city development;
  • Ensuring broad stakeholder participation;
  • Mapping critical risks and dependencies;
  • Mitigating risks and making sure benefits actually materialize;
  • Defining appropriate levels of risk and resilience;
  • Adapting governance structures to suit a smart cities environment;
  • Ensuring that investment decisions are based on solid information.


The report also defines the risk management framework that will help cities “substantially reduce the downside risk” of a shift to smart cities technologies.

“First and foremost is paying attention to cybersecurity by buying secure devices and using the network to enforce security and incident handling,” TechRepublic states. “The second is ensuring cyber resilience, with fail-safe systems that are protected by strong cybersecurity and includes redundancy.”

The report stresses responsible data management—including hiring a chief privacy officer and adopting a privacy and data protection charter—to earn and retain public trust. And it calls for effective coordination and  clear communication, to keep citizens engaged and ensure they understand why decisions are being made.

Time is running out! Register today for IBTTA’s Annual Technology Summit, March 31-April 2 in Orlando, Florida.


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