Smart cities offer a great opportunity for physical security integrators. But can you meet the requirements?
Providing security solutions and services to various verticals is a systems integrator's job. These verticals can range from schools to offices and entire cities. But often, they are limited to security. The concept of smart cities is something that many are not comfortable talking about or working on.
This is because the smart city itself is a slightly abstract umbrella term for several different applications, technologies, and facilities. Security is one among them, but it doesn't work alone. Talk about safe cities, and most integrators will happily do it. Throw in the term smart city, and things get confusing.
But the top integrators know that security is an integral part of smart cities. Making a city safe and secure for its citizens is one of the primary goals of this concept. Security solutions are also vital in regulating traffic, crowd control, and many other purposes.
But do you have what it takes to be a systems integrator for smart cities? Asmag.com recently spoke to Jon Polly, Chief Solutions Officer at ProTecht Solutions Partners, to get his view on this.
Do you have partnerships across industries?
Making a city smart is all about bringing its various segments together and improving them with technology. Since security cannot be a siloed operation in a smart city, you will need to work with other departments
. For this, you will need to form partnerships with other private and public players.
"IT would be central to most smart city projects," Polly explained. "They're part of every conversation. But depending on the city and what you're trying to do, the four big players that come into play are the police department, the water department, transportation department, and public-private partnerships."
Can you think (very) large (and complex) scale?
The next point to consider is that cities are different from other verticals. Unlike a school or an office where you go in and offer a security solution, cities are large, requiring hundreds of cameras integrated with other devices, storage for everything that is captured, and an advanced management system that can handle the kind of massive data that is generated every day.
"City structure is different," Polly said. "For most integrators, security projects are about selling solutions like cameras and an NVR. But now you're looking at hyper-converged storage. You're looking at large server systems. IT departments are in the management role, so now you've got to make friends with them. You've got to understand upfront what the requirements are from IT before bidding. And that'll that may play into cybersecurity issues that may play into many other things."
Can you think out of the box?
Polly adds that integrators must think outside the box when working for smart cities in terms of technology. Traditional integrators are used to running CAT-5 and fiber cables. But in smart cities, rarely do you have that opportunity. While smart cities may have brought broadband for everybody, they haven't done fiber everywhere.
"So, you've got to look at wireless, cellular, LORAWAN technologies for communication, especially in the US," Polly added. "If you are working internationally, you need to understand that wireless in the US is different from wireless in other countries. You need to have a proficiency in cybersecurity network fundamentals. Above all, you must have a complete grasp of the technology you specialize in."
Proficiency in their own technology might sound a rather obvious requirement. But Polly points out that there are often scenarios where integrators do a quick training on a new solution and think they can handle it. Although you may have got the required training, you wouldn't want to be fumbling around on a new technology on a citywide scale without being proficient in it.
Do you have the technology resources?
By technology, we are not referring to your ability to install tons and tons of cameras across the city. No, we will take that for granted. What is more important is checking if you have the resources to deal with the requirements of a city.
"If you're dealing with smart cities, you've got to deal with things like bucket trucks," Polly says. "I'm not saying this is required for all the work. But it's an example of one of the things that they may want to consider? Do you have access to a bucket truck? Other things to consider could be, do you have an electrician on your staff? Or will you have to subcontract that out?"
These questions bring in other problems. For example, not all electricians may know how to do low-voltage or network cabling work. Or they may not have the network fundamentals. How are you going to manage the subcontractor? Are you going to have your own bucket truck? These are examples of things you will now have to grapple with, and these are all important because they are all additional costs.
Also read: Top video analytic features for smart and safe cities
Do you have the maintenance resources?
Finally, you need to have the resources to provide maintenance support. Once you get into city contracts, there's typically a priority response. While most integrators are familiar with a four-hour response or certain maintenance packages, the work may be more demanding when it comes to smart cities.
"This means they may have to roll a truck out at two o'clock in the morning," Polly gave an example. "Again, if you've got a specialized resource, like a bucket truck, do you have the ability to roll that truck out at two o'clock in the morning? What do you have to put in place to do that? These are some of the challenges that integrators need to remain aware of."
Smart cities offer a great business opportunity for security systems integrators. But not everyone may be able to meet the requirements to be an integrator for smart cities. You will need to work alongside several other departments and have the vision to think of advanced connected technologies at a large and complex scale.
You will also need to have adequate resources to provide technology solutions and maintenance. All these may sound daunting, but the rewards could be worth it if you work the details out.