Horoscope of a Smart City is written well before the fancy buildings come up

When we visualize a “Smart City”, we normally see a futuristic city  laced with the clean, wide roads with sky scrapper buildings with fancy architecture all around. But the “Smartness” of a city does not lie with the civil architecture alone. In fact, a good looking civil architecture can make any city look like a “Futuristic City”. But it need not necessarily be a “Smart City”.

A “Smart City” by definition has to be characterized by an information exchange system that flows all across the city like the nerves or blood go across a human body making each organ give and take information that eventually make it function better.

The key therefore to “Smartness” is the way how this information network is built and how the functional units interact with individual organs of city administration. Hence most of the critical work that determines how the smart city shapes up has to be complete before the first roads are built or first civil structure comes up.

While each organ of administration such as the Transport, Health, Electricity Supply, Water supply, Sewerage systems, Supply of  Clean air, Education, etc can be considered as sub systems and can be developed with the best available ICT resources, the key is the information infrastructure.

The information infrastructure has the technical component which consists of the Optical Fiber network which should run side by side with the water and power lines and should be a supported by a network of WiFi  that is as ubiquitous as the air around us.  While the WiFi network can also be brought in later during the development of a city, the Optical Fiber network is one which needs to be built as a fundamental component of infrastructure before the city layout is completed. The quality of this physical network would be what would determine the future of the city. It is therefore writing the horoscope of the city.

In the future, this network of Optical fiber would also be the biggest target for attack by all types of Cyber criminals including the terrorists. Hence even while laying down these cables, the security of these cables in future both from unauthorized physical and logical access becomes critical. This security starts from the people employed today to lay the cables and the knowledge and information shared with these people would determine how secure the network would be in future.

Knowing the smartness of terrorists around the world and their motivation, it is possible that these terrorist organizations may be already planning to infiltrate the work force who would be involved in the construction of smart cities in India. Hence we need to identify the possibility of moles being introduced to the work force as a “Risk”.

Extensive back ground checks and also security motivation of the workers would therefore be an essential part of the management of the smart city infrastructure. People need to be continuously monitored and their behaviour analysed to identify existence of people with deviant mindsets  who can be exploited by the criminals and anti national elements.

Additionally, measures to obfuscate some critical information that can be misused, randomizing the network paths, testing the misuse of the network in future as well as checks and balances to prevent any deviant behavior of the network need to be planned and built into the systems today itself.

It is in this context that we are highlighting that “Cyber Security” should be among the first building blocks of a smart city infrastructure and needs to be focused. In fact the Cyber Police Station of the Smart City should be in place now before the network cables are laid.

Presently the way the planners are moving ahead does not indicate the appreciation of this security requirements.

As always, we hope that the planners will turn their attention on this issue before it is too late.


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About Vijayashankar Na

Naavi is a veteran Cyber Law specialist in India and is presently working from Bangalore as an Information Assurance Consultant. Pioneered concepts such as ITA 2008 compliance, Naavi is also the founder of Cyber Law College, a virtual Cyber Law Education institution. He now has been focusing on the projects such as Secure Digital India and Cyber Insurance
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