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    Categories: Tech & Trends

How Indian Government can secure the smart cities of the future

With a lot of buzz around smart cities, a lot of people would guess Cyber Security is a top priority for governments lately, and in the foreseeable future. The Indian government is looking for solutions that deliver components such as video surveillance, engagement solutions and sensors to enable IoT faster than it has ever been imagined.  From a more fundamental security point of view, governments and enterprises are concerned about anyone penetrating their corporate networks and assets, which exposes their intellectual property and of course potential citizens and customer information. Therefore, seeking for solutions that reduce the ability for hackers to gain access and visibility of their IP infrastructure and topology, tops the minds of decision makers in the private and public sector.
We spoke to Jean Turgeon, VP & Chief Technologist, Software Defined Architecture, Avaya to know more about the relevance of security in the Smart City and Internet of Things.

Vision and challenges for the Indian government

India is entering into an ‘era of engagement’ which will be the engine of value creation to the country and its people. With this, the Government of India has come up with innovative initiatives like the Digital India, Smart City, and Make in India initiatives. With these initiatives, the government is aiming to bring the changes like ‘Digital India’ which means wide fiber optic country by 2016 and digitization of government services. Also, ‘smart cities’ initiative implies 2500 Wi-Fi enabled cities over three years and providing services to education, healthcare, financial, and ‘Make in India’ initiative, which means sustainable growth and boost in the country’s overall exports.

Turgeon said that he is pleasantly surprised with some areas in India where some applications have been developed to provide instant location services as the person in crisis dials for emergency. This means some systems have already established both a voice and data channel, allowing location to be immediately sent to a central command, as the individual dials for emergency.

The next step is to take full advantage of the multimedia capabilities and also enable a discrete video channel when dialing for emergencies. One benefit of the data channel through simple functionality is SMS; this means a video can be pushed to the person in crisis. Imagine someone having a heart attack in a restaurant right next to you but you are not CPR trained, what do you do? What if the emergency services operator could instantly forward you a video showing how to perform CPR? This can save a life, elaborated Turgeon. This is what he calls ‘smart-safety’, which is now live in many parts across the world and the region, but there is a wide opportunity to progress and make it consistent across countries.

Do smart cities create security challenges?

First, a smart city is more than just enabling Wi-Fi services. While Wi-Fi is certainly one of the services, part of most smart cities initiatives are adding video surveillance and analytics in very large scale, which is quite difficult once again when using a legacy infrastructure, according to Turgeon.

As governments provision all these new capabilities and services to their smart cities, they will have to review their infrastructure to be able to scale and meet the real time analytics requirements. They would also have to consider adding sensors technology to address various needs contributing to making the city safer. As an example, if the city uses natural gas, they may want to implement sensors to detect the flow and potential leaks of gas throughout the city to quickly react to a potential issue. Turgeon summarized that, smart cities will improve security as opposed to augment or create security risks if properly implemented.

IOT with security

To address and enhance security as part of a smart city initiative, many devices such as cameras, sensors, wearables, etc. need to be deployed and implemented. All these require connectivity at the edge of the networking infrastructure. Of course, carrier wireless will play a key role into this, but many will require connectivity to the city infrastructure and even the carrier connected devices will likely have to connect securely back to some common analytics infrastructure securely.

All these are referred as edge devices which are what the IoT or Internet of Everything (IOE) is all about. Turgeon points out that the challenge is how to securely connect all these devices at the edge of a city network, and connect securely the ones through a carrier or third party infrastructure? This means we need much more agility to add thousands of devices to a network that, in the past, would require multiple physical networks to scale and not compromise security. IoT and security as well as scalability and reliability, all need to be seriously evaluated. What is the point of deploying IoT if it cannot scale, is not secure and reliable? That wouldn’t be too smart would it?

According to Turgeon, in the end it converges to the need for next generation architecture to address the next generation smart cities needs. This can’t be achieved with a 20 or 25 years old client / server architecture. A due diligence is definitely required to achieve these objectives. The good news is that there is a solution to this, a next generation matrix architecture based on Ethernet transport and optimized for IP services regardless of their connectivity methodology. Avaya introduced SDN Fx for that exact reason, to scale, enhance security to smart cities and IoT/IoE.

How can governments make their cities safer?
Cities have to move to a different architecture model to support next generation smart-x services, said Turgeon. The legacy client-server model has served us well, but over 25 years we have increased its complexity and made reliability a huge challenge due to complex protocols required to address all of these business needs. From security, to scalability, to video streaming to recovery times from failures; the legacy model is no longer suitable and it is time to press the ‘reset’ button and start with a new mindset. JR added that it is all about Ethernet and IP.

The market has to stop tolerating vendors trying to fool them and challenge all of them to offer something innovative and suitable to meet the smart cities, IoT/IoE requirements.  Turgeon said that the technology is available now, but some vendors are lagging behind because they have been so fixated on the data center.  Seeing this opportunity stepping in, Avaya differentiated its offering by optimizing its next generation architecture to be tailored to enable IP services over Ethernet.

Rashi Varshney: