A data-driven approach to public safety

Albert Seubers

Atos Director, Global Strategy Smart X

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

At the same time, the digital transformation of city services and the explosion of social media and surveillance systems is creating vastly expanding volumes of data. By harnessing and linking 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 citizen issues can be dealt with more rapidly, repeat work can be reduced and incidents that don’t require police can be redirected earlier. A smart use of data enables police services to react more swiftly to crime, creating a more predictive, proactive and pre-emptive police response.

Safety on the roads

Ensuring citizens’ safety is about more than policing and fighting crime. Equally important is traffic safety, 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 road work and external factors like the weather means that citizens can take make informed decisions even after their journey has started. To prevent congestion, this information should include predictions on the impact of incidents, updates for drivers on alternative routes and modes of traffic. In addition, city authorities can give warning signs to drivers by making streetlights blink or change color when needed.

Real-time surveillance

In the Dutch city of Eindhoven, an innovative initiative called CityPulse combines existing sources of information such as the analysis of pedestrian 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 outside 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 for incidents that require intervention, ideally to de-escalate them before they develop.

Connected cities

Looking forward, as cities become more connected through the Internet of Things, next-generation 911 systems will respond not only to phone calls, but to alerts received through connected systems, social media and other sources. Communication from the dispatch center to members of the public and police, fire and ambulance services will be pushed through multiple channels to ensure that all relevant parties are reached quickly.In future, citizen alerts could also be triggered through use of an LED streetlight system.
Today, many of the technologies capable of harnessing data to deliver a real-time, connected approach to public safety already exist. What is needed now is digitally enabled transformation and collaboration to integrate and share data more effectively. This will enhance the citizen experience and help city services more effectively protect communities in an increasingly unpredictable and fast-changing world.


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