As the number of ‘smart’ cities grow, will they also become safer?

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a larger series of Q&As that originated in the future-focused UD Magazine. To see additional questions, please visit the Envisioning the Future website.

Smart cities can be safer, but only if cybersecurity is the driving force. By nature, these cities will depend heavily on digital data collection and massive surveillance, which forms the backbone of the system to keep traffic flowing safely. This digital information has to be protected.

The challenge will be safeguarding multiple layers of data-sharing, including the organizations supplying the information, the connected devices that acquire and exchange data, and networks that circulate digital data in cyberspace. Weak cyberspace will create new problems, including false understanding of the data, unreliable predictive crime analytics, and hackers, who could disrupt the daily activities of a city. Also, one question that needs to be addressed is how blockchain and quantum computing will change the landscape of the smart cities initiatives. Could blockchain’s encryption add a defense layer to better protect citizens? Only time — and proactive, concerted efforts to make our cities safer — will tell.

Prof. Nii Attoh-Okine, the interim academic director of the University of Delaware’s Cybersecurity Initiative, is currently working on Smart Cities and cybersecurity issues related to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Under his leadership, UD is one of just a few universities in the United States partnering with Japanese universities to achieve Society 5.0, a smart society proposed by the Japanese government.