The technologies used to improve city services will require standards-based interoperability and security protocols to take advantage of truly smart cities potential, Giant Ideas director Catherine Caruana-McManus said.
Speaking at InnovationAus.com’s Intelligent Communities forum in Melbourne last week, Ms Caruana-McManus discussed the importance of ensuring that the various Internet of Things devices used in the creation of smart Australian cities can communicate with each and make use of this information, and are secure.
“We’re now at a stage where interoperability and tech standards are absolutely essential if we’re ever going to have a smart city. Cities that are doing this really well have understood that and are mandating interoperability and standards between smart solutions in the city,” she said.
With cities across Australia beginning to implement smart solutions to streetlights, garbage collection and parking, she said it’s important that these are all governed by the same protocols.
“They’re great solutions, but they’ve all got different security protocols in the same city,” Ms Caruana-McManus said.
Ms Caruana-McManus was part of an alliance of IoT industry players that banded together to launch Hypercat Australia, a branch of the UK alliance backing a technology standard to support the development of smart cities.
Supporters of the protocol include KPMG Australia, Flexeye, Giant Ideas and the University of Technology Sydney.
The protocol, which aims to enable free communication between any connected IoT sensor or device being used in a city to monitor the environment, was launched by Assistant Minister for Cities Angus Taylor late last year.
“The Commonwealth is exploring relationships with different jurisdictions to build smart cities that improve our lives,” Mr Taylor said at the time.
“Hypercat Australia is one such partnership which will allow a platform to facilitate cutting edge technology solutions to be applied to urban problems.”
This high level government support for interoperability is important, Ms Caruana-McManus said.
“It’s really exciting to hear Assistant Minister Taylor’s fantastic support for what we’ve been doing at Hypercat around interoperability,” she said.
IoT Alliance Australia CEO John Stanton told the forum a special focus must be put on ensuring these tech devices are safe and secure.
“Part of the challenge is not just interoperability, it’s ensuring this interoperability is secure. It doesn’t appear there’ll be a single security standard that governs everything in the IoT space, and there are different types of security required,” Mr Stanton said.
“The notion of creating a framework of trust based on common principles that each of the varying security protocols can adhere, and incorporating smart cities, is part of the highest mountain to climb.”
For example, Ms Caruana-McManus said the notion of a CCTV camera paired with an LED light through technology is useful, but only if it’s safe.
“Together they could be very powerful in terms of enhancing safety but if they’re using different security protocols how do we then mitigate if there’s a catastrophe between those two systems? That’s at the heart of it,” she said.
Mr Stanton added that it’s crucial that tech firms and startups are brought into this interoperability and security discussion as early as possible.
“The challenge is to bring startups and all the amazing ideas and innovation they have into the mix, and to help give them a security story. These people are hungry, they’re young and they’re trying to find dollars so it’s hard for them to lay awake at night worrying about security,” he said.
“But as they go from startup to grower, that has to be part of the equation.”