Cybersecurity and the IoT Part II: Cities Work Smarter Using the Internet of Things

November 7, 2019

By Alia Hoyt

Is there anything more decidedly “now” than the Internet of Things (IoT)? The IoT is very loosely defined as anything that connects to the Internet. The Brookhaven Police Department (BPD) has especially embraced this relatively new tech branch, recently investing $62,000 in the FARO® Focus 3D laser scanner system, which was paid for using asset forfeiture monies allotted from federal cases (such funds must be used to purchase tools to assist law enforcement).

Person brewing coffee through a phone app.
The Internet of Things can make our lives easier, but there are plenty of risks as well.
The system, which is composed of a lightweight scanner, tripod and “markers” that are used to denote distance, perfectly captures the entire scope of a crime or crash scene, cutting crime scene investigation times in half and storing valuable data in perpetuity. At any time after the fact, investigators can recreate the scene using stored data, even animating it so that anyone from judge to jury can experience a “walk-through” rendering. Crash-scene specific software can pinpoint useful data including where the impact occurred, what the road conditions were like, and can measure skid marks to determine acceleration speeds.

“Systems like FARO will help us do our job smarter, more efficiently and at a cost savings to the department and Brookhaven taxpayers,” said Brookhaven CSI Supervisor Jeff Hightower.

Sometimes, there’s plenty of law enforcement data to work with, but not enough time or manpower to handle it. The Atlanta Police Department (APD) recently sought to rectify this issue by retaining Yao Xie, assistant professor of industrial and systems engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, for a couple of projects. The first initiative aimed to more efficiently process the massive amount of police reports generated by the department.

“The problem is that it is very hard to find related cases,” Xie said, noting that there’s a limited number of employees to cull through enormous numbers of cases and pinpoint links. “So, we developed an algorithm to help them possibly identify related cases.”

Smart City
She also used existing data to help the department redesign zones and beats to more efficiently allocate police resources and patrol units. (There are about 13 beats per zone, with officers assigned a particular beat for every shift.) Based on the information, some zones got larger and others were made smaller with the intent of making response times in high-risk areas quicker.

“It’s very important that these zones are designed to match workloads in regions of Atlanta,” Xie said, adding that she used existing APD data, as well as public census data to construct a predictive algorithm to estimate future workload (as more people move to or from a given area, the needs change). The feedback on Xie’s efforts has been so favorable that she’s now engaged with the city of South Fulton to analyze their police zones.

Xie’s efforts are but the latest example of how the IoT is constantly growing and changing. “Many people think of IoT as using physical sensors to acquire different kinds of data,” she explained. “But it’s really about how to make use of these data sources available to us and make smart cities happen.”

This is the second of a two-part series on cybersecurity and the Internet of Things. To read the first article, “Cities Experience the New Age of Public Safety,” click here.

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