A data-driven approach to public safety

Posted on: March 8, 2018 by Albert Seubers

In cities, data is an enabler to create early warning indicators that help keep citizens safe and secure.

Today’s cities face the competing demands of squeezed budgets and the need to keep citizens safe in the context of growing and changing social pressures and security threats.

At the same time, the digital transformation of city services combined with the explosion in the use of social media and surveillance systems is creating vastly expanding volumes of data. By harnessing and joining up that data, cities can address the very real challenges they face in keeping communities safe and secure.

Intelligent policing

Using more responsive, real-time technologies, local police can respond to alerts and incidents more quickly and enhance citizens’ feelings of safety. The digital transformation of policing and the availability of data from multiple channels means that intelligence can be extracted and delivered to officers wherever and whenever they need it.

More timely sharing of appropriate information within the police service and across city departments means that citizens’ issues can be dealt with more rapidly, repeat work can be reduced and incidents that do not require a police response can be redirected earlier. And with smart use of data, police services can react more swiftly to crime, creating a more predictive, proactive and pre-emptive police service.

Safety on the roads

Ensuring citizens’ safety is about more than policing and fighting crime. Traffic safety is just as important, such as identifying potentially risky situations and enforcing regulations such as speed limits.

Information based on real-time monitoring of traffic flow, traffic incidents, planned roadworks and external factors such as the weather, means that citizens can take different decisions even after their journey has started. This information should include predictions on the impact of incidents and updates for drivers on alternative routes and modes of traffic to prevent congestion. In addition, city authorities can give warning signs to drivers by making streetlights blink or change color when needed.

Real-time surveillance

In the City of Eindhoven, an innovative initiative called CityPulse combines existing sources of information such as the analysis of citizens’ walking patterns from surveillance cameras and the analysis of sound spectrums and social media to create a holistic, real-time picture of what is happening on the streets.

Big data analytics ensure that any anomaly to a ‘normal’ data pattern can be cross-referenced against the other data sources. If these data sources confirm an incident, the CityPulse dashboard alerts the police control room so that they can make informed decisions. Early warnings are triggered on incidents that require intervention, ideally to de-escalate them before they develop.

Connected cities

Looking forward, as cities become ever more connected through the Internet of Things, next-generation 911 systems will respond not only to phone-calls but to alerts made through connected systems, social media and so on. Communication from the dispatch center to members of the public and police, fire and ambulance services will be done through multiple channels to ensure that all relevant parties are reached quickly. In future, a citizen’s alert could also be triggered through use of a light-emitting diode (LED) streetlight system.

Yet even today, many of the technologies for harnessing data to deliver a real-time, connected approach to public safety already exist. What is now needed is digitally-enabled transformation and collaboration to join up and share data more effectively. This will enhance citizens' experience and strengthen the effectiveness of city services in protecting communities in an increasingly unpredictable and fast-changing world.

You can read more about our vision for the Data-Driven City and how to harness data for the benefit of everyone in cities in our new opinion paper, MyCity: a Data-Driven City.

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About Albert Seubers
Director Global Strategy IT in Cities and member of the Scientific Community
Albert H Seubers (1959) graduated at Agricultural University Wageningen in 1985. Ever since he worked in IT consultancy focused on governmental topics. He worked for Dutch Telecom implementing the first fiber networks in Netherlands, for CMG as director in the Public Sector Service group, for HP as Public Sector executive before he joined Atos. Since 2011 he is Director Global Strategy IT in Cities for Atos. The Atos MyCity program focusses on the virtuous circle of managing a city on all aspects as safety, citizen services, employment, education, social and health care, transport and traffic, sustainability and governance and economics. Engaging citizens and business communities to create and maintain a sustainable, safe and prosperous city is the key message in Atos MyCity. In his role he works with cities all over the world to help them define their strategy often referred to as a Smart City Strategy or find solutions to support their strategy. Albert is a strong believer in the fact that data is enabler for successfully creating the city of the future.

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