Asia Pacific has some of the world’s smartest cities; there will be at least 88 smart cities worldwide by 2025 and Asia Pacific will account for 32 of them, ahead of Europe and the Americas, predicts IHS Markit.
Smart cities are cities that use data and technology in powerful ways to improve safety and to deliver services that improve the well-being of citizens. They typically feature a network of connectivity across systems, devices and objects (the Internet of Things, or IoT). A report estimates that smart cities accounted for more than 1.1 billion IoT items in 2015, rising to 9.7 billion by 2020.
But are governments in Asia Pacific doing all they can to make their cities safer and smarter?
A 2018 Safe Cities survey by Hitachi Data Systems (now known as Hitachi Vantara) suggests not.
Hitachi carried out the survey on delegates at the Safe Cities Asia conference in Singapore, which was attended by city government representatives, agencies and key municipal leaders from Asia Pacific. Over a quarter of the respondents had a technology background of some kind, with the rest ranging from city mayors and corporate CEOs to military, emergency services, and providers of infrastructure such as transportation and logistics.
The survey offers up enlightening insights into the plans and progress of public safety initiatives across Asia Pacific, and suggests that integration is key to success.
Lack Of Government Focus Holding Back Public Safety Projects
The survey revealed a lack of government focus to be the major stumbling block to adoption of smart city initiatives that promote public safety.
The main barrier seems to be the failure to adopt an integrated approach to safety initiatives; a quarter of survey respondents felt a lack of alignment between government agencies was actually holding back the implementation of public safety projects.
Ideally, as many stakeholders as possible should be involved in the planning process for implementations that would go further in making the city smarter and as safe as possible.
The Good News: Serious Money Is Earmarked For Safer Cities
Nearly half (44%) of the respondents estimated that their countries would invest more than US$100 million in public safety projects during the next two years. Some 22% of them predicted that the investment would be higher, at between US$100-US$500 million, while nearly 14% anticipated spending over US$1 billion.
Almost all surveyed (about 90%) said that either they or their organisations had already been involved in a safety project. Moreover 69% of respondents are planning to invest in public safety projects in their countries over the next two years.
More Infrastructure, More Technology Needed To Tackle Crime
What needs to be done to achieve a smart city? Get the infrastructure up, said 22% of the respondents.
They suggested what is needed is physical development initiatives such as urban construction projects and enhancing or expanding transportation infrastructure. Ramping up Internet and IT capabilities was also high on the list, with a 17% response rate.
Surveillance Is Top Priority
One of the key priorities in realising a smart city is public safety. And crime is a problem that technology can address. Integrating new IT platforms with city resources can dramatically driving down crime rates and enhance public safety.
Take the experience of the Dubai government. An increase in government investment of 29% in the form of the Smart Dubai initiative resulted in an increase in the overall safety result of 8% and helped ensure citizens are safer from individual risk and property risk by 3% and 31%, respectively, according to the IHS Markit report The Benefits Of Safe Cities.
Sophisticated technology is key in monitoring and preventing crime by identifying criminal acts, or potential criminal acts, in advance. For example, advanced analytics tools are able to crunch data from a variety of sources, such as video cameras on trains, in department stores and throughout the city, as well as other data on social platforms such as Twitter to extract vital insights that can identify crime hotspots.
An overwhelming 95% of respondents rated the role of technology in ensuring public safety as Important or Very Important. And the public safety technology that most plan to invest in over the next two years is surveillance, followed by big data analytics, and mobile and network technology. The convergence of all three means there is great scope for lifting safety and security in modern cities.
A Smart City Is First And Foremost A Safe City
The ultimate goal for any smart city is to create an environment where people can live without fear. This can be done by holistically managing all the various parts of city administration, whether that component be securing critical utilities, enhancing transportation and emergency services, or reducing crime.