Are your smart city networks working together? They should be

As we reported a few weeks ago from our Smart Cities Forum with Consult Australia, the smart cities standards dialogue in Australia is heating up. And rightly so. The pioneering work of the Internet of Things Alliance Australia has been transformational, but we still have a lot to do. Whilst we have made inroads on some foundational topics – such as IoT interoperability – we still need to tackle security, building information modelling, and smart cities strategy development and deployment.

In this article, two IoT leaders in Australia, Catherine Caruana-McManus and John Stanton, share their views on the state of the marketplace, and highlight some critical next steps to accelerate IoT and smart cities project deployment. — Adam Beck


 

As Australian cities embark on smart city projects it is becoming increasingly important that the technologies, devices and systems that drive them can talk to each other... and do it safely and securely.

Catherine Caruana-McManus, strategy director for Meshed, an Internet of Things integrator, has been working extensively in the smart cities and IoT space and is a staunch advocate for standards-based interoperability.

Speaking at an InnovationAUS.com forum recently, she noted "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."

Caruana-McManus believes the initiatives Australian cities are working on — such as smart streetlights, smart parking and garbage collection — are worthwhile, but cautioned "They're great solutions, but they've all got different security protocols in the same city." She worked with an alliance of IoT industry stakeholders and the University of Technology Sydney that supports a technology standard for smart city development. 

The standard, known as Hypercat, is intended to encourage communication between IoT-connected sensors and devices cities deploy for environment monitoring. Assistant Minister for Cities, the Hon Angus Taylor MP formally announced the government’s commitment to Hypercat last year.

Security: the other issue
John Stanton, CEO of IoT Alliance Australia, brought up another aspect of smart city projects that has at least sometimes not received the attention it deserves during smart city planning and implementation: security.

As he put it, "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.

"The notion of creating a framework of trust based on common principles that each of the varying protocols can adhere, and incorporating smart cities, is part of the highest mountain to climb."

An example Caruana-McManus offered was connecting a CCTV camera with an LED streetlight. "Together they may be very powerful in terms of enhancing safety but if they're using different security protocols how we then mitigate if there's a catastrophe between those two systems? That's at the heart of it."

Doug Peeples is a writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartcitiesanz on Twitter.