Q&A: Avaya Chief Technologist Jean Turgeon on Securing the Smart Cities of the Future

How are vendors like you linking IOT with security? What are the challenges?

To address and enhance security as part of a Smart City initiative, many devices, such as cameras, sensors, wearables, etc., need to be deployed and implemented. All these require connectivity at the edge of the networking infrastructure. Of course, carrier wireless will play a key role in this, but many will require connectivity to the city infrastructure. Even the carrier-connected devices will likely have to connect securely back to some common analytics infrastructure securely.

All these are what we refer to as edge devices, which is what the Internet of Things (IOT) or Internet of Everything (IOE) is all about. The challenge is how to securely connect all these devices at the edge of my city network, and connect securely the ones through a carrier or third-party infrastructure?

This means we need much more agility to add tens of thousands of devices to a network that, in the past, would require multiple physical networks to scale and not compromise security. IOT and security, as well as scalability and reliability, all need to be seriously evaluated. What is the point of deploying IOT if it cannot scale, is not secure and not reliable? That wouldn’t be too smart, would it?

In the end, it converges to the need for next-generation architecture to address the next-generation Smart Cities needs. You can’t remain with a 20- or 25-year-old client/server architecture. This architecture allows IP hackers, once through your firewall, to instantly gain visibility to your entire network thanks to IP hopping.

Unfortunately, many vendors are trying to fool the market by renaming and shifting complexity from one place to the other and hoping customers will not notice.

Due diligence is definitely required to achieve these objectives. The good news is that there is a solution to this: a next-generation matrix architecture based on Ethernet transport and optimized for IP services, regardless of their connectivity methodology. This approach literally makes your entire network invisible to hackers.

Avaya introduced SDN Fx for that exact reason, to scale, enhance security, deliver best-in-class reliability and provide the best foundation to Smart Cities and IOT/IOE.

Using this technology, we’ve demonstrated nearly 15,000 cameras running over a single converged infrastructure with one protocol, experiencing 500ms or better recovery times. This is the kind of infrastructure shift Smart Cities require to save lives, enhance resident experience, and enable new services the community will benefit from.

From your travel around the world, how do you see governments looking at national security from an IT perspective?

Cybersecurity is top-of-mind for governments now, and into the foreseeable future.

In fact, I am sure many are starting to reconsider corporate support for BYOD, and certainly SDN, where open code architecture is being promoted and expected to help drive business agility. From a more fundamental security point of view, governments and enterprises are very concerned about anyone penetrating their corporate networks and assets, which exposes their intellectual property and of course, potential citizens and customer information.

Therefore, seeking solutions that reduce the ability for hackers to gain access and visibility of their IP infrastructure and topology tops the minds of decision makers in the private and public sector.

There are solutions out there that can assist, however, they require a shift in mindset and a transition from legacy architecture. Customers need to urgently open their minds and quickly evaluate what’s on offer. The key to a viable solution is to embrace an ecosystem of technology to address these needs.

No one vendor can do this on their own, which reenforces the need for an open architecture away from proprietary schemes. The good news is that there are solutions out there, the bad news is that if private and public enterprises are looking at the same vendors that built their networks 20 years ago proclaiming they can do it all, this approach will fail.

My recommendation is for them to open their minds to an open architecture, and yet controlled with accountability from specific technology experts, which will provide pieces to the puzzle. This is clearly very complex and challenging.

You’ve traveled around the Middle East. What tops the mind of public safety owners, and what can you tell us about their vision and their challenges?

For the last year, I’ve met most of public safety owners in the region and my observation is that public safety and potential exposure related to it, tops the agenda in the Middle East. The issue is that while most look at “emergency services response” as the best answer for public safety, the current emergency response centers have shockingly serious limitations.

With mobile devices being the main mode of communications, you may want to ask if legacy PSAP systems can locate users in the event of an emergency. The traditional model was not built with mobile devices in mind, and hence, it was easier to tie a location to a hard phone in your home or office. Today however, numbers are associated with a person and not with a location, or even a device. Where is that person located, and how can he or she be helped in crisis?

I have been pleasantly surprised with some areas in the region where applications have been developed to provide instant location services as the person in crisis dials for emergency. Without getting into details, this means some systems have already established both a voice and data channel, allowing location to be immediately sent to a central command, as the individual dials for emergency. This is very positive to see, but, as you can imagine it is not broadly implemented in all countries. Some are clearly lagging behind.

In addition, the next step is to take full advantage of the multimedia capabilities and also enable a discrete video channel when dialing for emergencies.

One benefit of the data channel through simple functionality is SMS; this means a video can be pushed to the person in crisis. Imagine someone having a heart attack in a restaurant right next to you. You are not CPR trained; what do you do?

What if the emergency services operator could instantly forward you a video showing how to perform CPR? This can save a life. What if someone was trying to rob a bank, what if your mobile device could be instantly converted into a video surveillance input for the emergency response team to have a live video feed of the situation as they are en route to the bank?

This is what I call “Smart Safety,” and the use cases are unlimited. Smart Safety is now live in many parts across the world and the region, but there is a wide opportunity to progress and make it consistent across countries.

Do smart cities create security challenges? What are they?

I think it is the opposite, if they are truly implementing a “Smart City” solution. Smart City is more than just enabling Wi-Fi services. My observation is that there is a new trend taking shape: while Wi-Fi is certainly one of the services, part of most Smart Cities initiatives that I am seeing are adding video surveillance and analytics in very large scale, which is quite difficult when using a legacy infrastructure.

As governments provision all these new capabilities and services to their smart cities, they will have to review their infrastructure to be able to scale and meet the real-time analytics requirements.

They would also have to consider adding sensors technology to address various needs contributing to making the city safer. As an example, if the city uses natural gas, they may want to implement sensors to detect the flow and potential leaks of gas throughout the city to quickly react to a potential issue. For instance, governments can leverage video surveillance analytics to be able to intelligently track an Emergency Response Vehicles and control the lights and reduce the time to destination and collision potential.

In many cities around the world, street lights are a source of wasted energy, which can be remotely controlled throughout the night depending on cars and people traffic intensity. By leveraging real time analytics, this can be easily achieved, reducing electricity consumption without compromising residents or visitors security.

There are many examples like this, but I would summarize in saying, Smart Cities will improve security as opposed to augment or create security risks if properly implemented.

Nations have different visions of what Smart Cities are. What is a Smart City from your perspective?

Smart Cities are about enabling new services to better service your population. This is about making your city safer, offering new services while enabling consumers to use to drive net new revenues or in some cases focused only on providing a better experience to visitors and tourists.

If residents feel safe, get best-in-class services, and feel their city is at the forefront of offering new services, they will be happier and they will share their feelings with others and especially on social media.

In the Middle East we refer to the “Happiness Index.” Smart Cities are all about delivering on that objective. It is about providing best-in-class services, making governments and cities stand out from other destinations around the world.

People have many destinations to choose from. They can live anywhere. Would you want to live in a city not committed to improving the population quality of life? All of these define what Smart Cities are all about. Drive the “happiness index” to new levels and have the world know about your city being the best, most secure and interesting city to visit and potentially move to.

From a technical perspective, how can governments make their cities safer?

Cities have to move to a different architecture model to support next-generation “Smart-X” services. The legacy client-server model has served us well, but over the past 25 years, have increased in complexity and made reliability a huge challenge due to complex protocols required to address all of these business needs.

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