'It is simple, but not easy, to suggest using the IoT to increase the safety of our cities' Image: REUTERS/Nicky Loh
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Public safety is a hot topic of debate among both citizens and in the media, with the conversation revolving around expectations of what authorities should do to keep people safe. While it is clear that citizens have high expectations on city authorities and public safety agencies – such as fire and rescue services, ambulance, emergency medical services and police – engagement reaches beyond just raised voices. Citizens are increasingly using the internet for their own personal safety, and are now expecting authorities to do the same.
By accessing and sharing information on the internet and by using digital technology and apps on a broader scale, citizens are closing the gap between personal and public safety.
The internet of things (IoT) will have a profound impact on the future and as the public safety sector is challenged to make operations more reliable and efficient, this is an area that can greatly benefit from implementing the IoT.
The number of IoT-connected devices is expected to grow annually by 21% and is predicted to reach 100 million devices in Latin America by 2022.
According to the Ericsson Mobility Report, consumers in Latin America are rapidly moving towards a networked society. Life is more digital than ever and many daily activities are conducted online, rather than via traditional channels.
Public safety organizations are challenged to lower costs, improve response times, reduce crime and manage the impact of natural disasters and extreme weather. Dealing with this range of events requires multiple skills and capabilities, often from many different organizations, each with its own specialist capability. In addition, the time that elapses between the moment an alert is raised and the response can be critical to the outcome. In major emergencies, multiple groups and specialists tend to be required.
Today, every time emergency and police phone numbers are dialled within the city of São José dos Campos, São Paulo, Brazil, the municipality is ready to act and dispatch needed services. Whether a fire, road accident, crime or natural disaster, the caller in distress will receive prompt support and lives can be saved.
Since an emergency response system, developed by Ericsson, was deployed in São José dos Campos in 2012, the crime rate has declined by around 20%. What is more, by using ICT in their day-to-day public safety operations, 60% of homicide cases are now solved, in contrast to an average of 8% in the rest of Brazil.
Worldwide, emergency services receive a massive volume of daily calls and many lives depend on their response speed. As such, emergency operations need resources and tools that can assist decision-making in real time. São José dos Campos is no different from any global city: the integrated operations centre manages thousands of incidents that are reported via telephone calls or detected by officers within the centre. These events range from simple investigations of fires, accidents and administrative offences, to more serious crimes against life and property.
It is simple, but not easy, to suggest using the IoT to increase the safety of our cities. Ericsson believes the IoT can be used to provide the right kind of security for private citizens and safety for city governments, by combining networks, integrated solutions and real-time information.
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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.
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