White Paper

The Benefits of Safe Cities

Safer Cities Creating a Better Life

For the first time in history, there are more people around the world living in cities than people in rural areas. While the global migration to urban areas is improving their living standards, health, and financial prosperity, it also brings challenges to a city’s infrastructure, resources, security procedures, and emergency response systems. Meeting these challenges will be critical to the success of cities in the decades that follow.

The safe city concept has been developed precisely to help government stakeholders, city mayors, and police departments mitigate these challenges. Leveraging the internet of things (IoT) and the connectivity now found in core security and safety technologies, safe city solutions are providing a range of systems including predictive analytics and big data, real-time response procedures and emergency response systems. These solutions are enabling governments and police departments to better protect their citizens from everything from terrorist attacks to natural disasters. They are also supporting wider city organizations such as public health, fire and rescue, border control and social services to better serve their citizens.

Safe cities create a better life

The safe city concept is based on a consolidated ICT platform which combines public-safety information of different types and from different sources, obtained through sensors and multi-agency collaboration.

Safe cities are an essential pillar supporting the development of smart cities throughout the world. They provide the security and safety required to protect citizens from crime and terrorism as well as mitigate, as much as possible, the impact of natural disasters and other threats. A successful safe city solution should support a city’s security agencies, fire and rescue departments, public health and social service departments before, during and after an event, and integrate the disparate technologies and government departments responsible for citizen safety.he safe city concept is based on a consolidated ICT platform which combines public-safety information of different types and from different sources, obtained through sensors and multi-agency collaboration.

Four major requisites

  • Prevention: It provides reliable and comprehensive security measures to predict threats and hazardous situations.

City authorities must be able to take measures to prevent threats from occurring in the first place. Simulation and forecasting technology, based on big data mining, can help the relevant authorities to predict public threats and support police and military assets to prevent the event before it begins.

  • Detection: It aids to public-safety organizations in collecting, sharing and analyzing data more effectively to provide early warnings and raise situational awareness.

Sensor systems in the city will proactively gather information. These sensors may include video surveillance cameras, CBRNE (Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear) sensors, gunshot-detection sensors, and weather sensors. The type of sensor used is determined by the scope of the safe city project and how much inter-operability is required. Information can be used to provide early detection and alerts when events occur. Increasingly, sensors include ‘listening’ to social media for relevant posting by netizens.

  • Response: It enables the key organizations in the city to react to security threats in real time.

City authorities must be able to prevent an adverse event from escalating. Safe city projects enable an effective response by using a consolidated ICT platform to provide a common operational picture to all relevant agencies, including law enforcement, public health, fire and rescue services; and to allow the critical communication systems of these agencies to inter-operate. This helps to raise the situational awareness for each of the responding agencies, and their command, control and coordination.

  • Recovery: It provides post-event examination and analysis, identify victims and provide assistance in rescue actions.

After an event, city authorities must be able to quickly examine and analyze all data received from the relevant sensor systems. This supports the subsequent search for suspects as well as the process of building a case based on incriminating evidence. Information can also be used to facilitate rescue actions, and the identification and assistance processes for both victims and survivors.


The safe city concept typically promotes inter-operability across law enforcement, emergency services and other government agencies (public health, border control, social services) to streamline operations and provides ‘situational awareness’ to all stakeholders involved in the management of a city’s security. This approach fosters better cooperation and sharing of intelligence.

While much of the emphasis of the ‘safe city’ discussion involves security technology implementation and investment, the operational procedures and ICT backbone are just as important in the solutions’ ultimate success or failure. This reality means that ICT and security agencies must work together for the greater good of the safe city project. One cannot exist without the other.

The size of the city does not impede its ability to be considered a safe city but differing city sizes require different levels of technology investment, stakeholder ‘buy-in’ and planning. Safe city solutions are often layered on top of the legacy infrastructure that is in place. Overall, detailed planning around the use of legacy technology and the need for new infrastructure are key considerations when deploying safe cities.

Market drivers

There are a number of market drivers that government agencies need to consider when deciding how to proceed with a safe city project. These can be broadly grouped as safety drivers, social drivers and economic drivers, and the government investment in safe cities has a positive impact on each of them.

  • Safety drivers: at its core, a safe city addresses issues related to crime and terrorism. Often, these types of incidents cause regulations surrounding data privacy and national security to shift. For instance, after the September 11th attacks, the United States Congress passed the Patriot Act, which set up fusion centers to surveil and aggregate vast amounts of data including video surveillance streams, social media, arrest records, warrants and even mug shots. These centers, now known as ‘Intelligence Fusion Centers,’ are becoming increasingly important, as agencies emphasize predictive policing.
  • Social drivers: Political motives are a key driver of safe city projects. Politicians can use safe city initiatives to generate support in their campaigns with citizens who are concerned about terrorism or high crime rates. A safer city also increases retail spending, means citizens are more likely to visit leisure and sports facilities, and generally improves the happiness of people living in the city. Furthermore, a safer city may see fewer citizens migrating out due to security and safety concerns.
  • Economic drivers: it is evident that there are economic benefits to safe city solutions. These include savings from the reduced impact of crime and terrorism; promoting business and commercial opportunity; mitigating costly natural disasters and generally increasing the productivity and wellbeing of citizens. A safer city also attracts foreign investment and tourism. On top of promoting business, safe city initiatives allow a city to save on technology operational costs. Sharing and re-using optimized infrastructure across agencies helps a city eliminate repeated spend on technologies. There is also a return-on-investment (ROI) opportunity for cities, in particular from traffic violation fines. Automatic number plate recognition can be used to identify and fine cars driving in car-pool or bus lanes and video analytics can be used to recognize when parked cars have exceeded a designated length of stay and issue a penalty notice charge.

The role of governments in safe cities

Government stakeholders typically manage the safe city initiative and make the final decisions with regard to technology investment. Stakeholders include government employees, law enforcement, public health, fire, rescue, border control and social services. It is the government’s job to give the security consultants and technology providers a comprehensive scope of the goals the city would like to achieve. Enough time must be allocated for these steps so that the thought processes of both the city and the technology experts can align.

Governments must also determine how the initiative will be funded initially and what revenue streams will be leveraged to support the project. Safe city projects are ‘living,’ and as such require a continuous stream of revenue. One of the best things a government can do with regard to leadership and ‘driving’ the safe city project is to build a steering committee. This committee would include representatives from various agencies across the city who might be stakeholders. Additionally, the committee can include experts from consultants or technology providers, who can provide guidance.

For positive reasons Safer Cities intrude on the privacy of citizens. To avoid concerns about privacy negatively impacting on achieving the best safe city result, Governments should be open and honest about the nature of the intrusion. This will include capturing and storing data about citizens as they go about their daily lives. Most citizens will be satisfied to know that first, the data has been collected and securely stored only for legitimate reasons related to making their city safer, and second that there is a clear policy on how long that data will be kept before it is deleted.

The role of technology providers in safe cities

Technology providers play a major role in safe city initiatives. Ultimately, their solutions will be brought together to create an advanced security solution. However, there are no comprehensive safe city technology standards. Instead, each technology type has its own set of standards and regulations, and these often change between vertical markets. For this reason, integrators, consultants, and technology suppliers and their concepts and technologies must be vetted heavily to determine if they work together effectively. Technology suppliers must gain a deep understanding of what the government is trying to accomplish, and how they will achieve key performance indicators with their safe city initiative.

The role of the maintaining service providers in safe cities

Safe city projects are not just about building a system; running the system successfully is also very important. Therefore, maintaining service providers play a key role. These organizations upgrade and maintain the security equipment – important given much of it is installed outdoors – and have professional ICT skills to maintain the back-end systems. In most cases, the government will outsource the maintenance to either a system integrator or a dedicated maintaining service provider.

The role of citizens in safe cities

Citizens are critical to the safe city project. While citizens may not directly affect decision making around the technologies or operational processes, their engagement with the government and emergency services is important for the success of safe city projects. Allowing citizens to share information means they will be more engaged in the project and will feel a civic duty for reporting crime or providing crowd sourced evidence. Governments who deliver successful, effective safe city projects can also enhance their reputation as leaders who have improved the quality of life of their citizens.

Quantifying the benefits of Safe Cities

Evaluating the impact of safe city projects

The benefits of the safe city projects can be broad and difficult to quantify. Often, the goals of safe city projects range from reducing crime rates and improving public safety to driving economic growth and improving general citizen wellbeing.

Based on primary discussions with executives from leading safe city security firms, city officials and other industry experts, IHS Markit identified four indexes to measure the success or failure of a project. These indexes use an aggregation of public data, IHS Markit research data and an IHS Markit commissioned citizen survey, and measure the government investment, safety result, social benefit and economic benefit of safe city projects in key cities across the world.

Each index comprises either six or seven primary indicators which are used to review how safe city projects are influenced over a set period of time. The purpose of analyzing multiple indicators in one index is to take into account the wide range of project aims and challenges. The Indexes and their constituent indicators are summarized below:

  • Government investment: It measures the level of a government or city administration’s continued commitment to spending on safe city ICT equipment as well as the level of ICT competence, the police resource allocated to public safety and the coverage of physical security and critical communications equipment.
  • Safety result: It measures the level of crime, the risk to individuals and property from riots, protests, terrorism, and kidnapping as well as the public’s perception of crime and the police department’s ability to respond to events quickly and effectively.
  • Social benefit: It measures social benefits such as the ability to enjoy entertainment, leisure and sporting events safely, the public’s appreciation of the government and police force based on their response to security and whether talented employees are moving to the city.
  • Economic benefit: It measures economic benefits such as personal wealth and prosperity, spending on tourism and retail, employment rates, city investment and the risk and prevention of serious economic challenges happening in the short term.

Each index has been compiled from a series of 26 primary indicators. Weightages have been applied to differentiate between indicators and reflect their importance on the over all category. A score of between one and five has been allocated to represent the level of commitment, spending or risk for each category. A score of 5 relates to the most positive impact and a score of 1 to the least positive impact. Index data has been sourced from IHS Markit research and public resources.

Summary of key points for global safe cities

The safety result, social benefits and economic benefits generated by a safe city project are greatly dependent on the government investment. The figures show that government investment has a direct relationship on the benefits of a safe city project; however, the impact is different depending on the stage of government investment. There are three distinct stages of government investment that impact the safety result and social benefit of a city.

Government investment versus safety result

The initial government investment in a safe city project is primarily about security and can drive a large increase in the safety result. As much of the security infrastructure and technology is not deployed, the required government investment is high. At this stage, only the city’s critical locations are covered by video surveillance cameras, basic command and control equipment, and the government begins to build the ICT infrastructure. Maximizing these security technologies can drive a 25% increase in the safety result score, with significant improvements in property and individual risk levels, police conviction rates and emergency response times.

Once the initial safety result improvements have been achieved the projects can often become more challenging. Continued investment does not have the same impact on the safety result as many of the primary risks have been mitigated. This calls for the second stage of government investment. At this stage, the city has better video surveillance camera coverage of key and secondary locations. The city also has the advanced security technology in place to start to deploy big data and intelligent analysis. Additionally, these cities often have more stakeholders involved following the initial government investment which makes it more difficult to agree on the projects direction.

If a city has the capital resources to continue investing in these projects, the third stage of deployment is to leverage opportunities such as big data analytics and predictive crime centers. At this stage, the city has almost full video surveillance camera coverage. The city also emphasizes more on data sharing, predictive technology and other intelligent analysis than physical security equipment. Furthermore, the city’s resources can be used more effectively through the deployment of a safe city. The key benefit is the reduction in the operational costs for the city without impacting the security level. At this stage of government investment the safety result shows a slight increase and then tends to be stable.

Government investment versus social benefit

The second stage of government investment typically results in a lower increase in the social benefit score. TheGovernment investment versus social benefit social benefit does not change dramatically here, and the limited deployment of leading-edge technology does not generate as much appreciation of city leaders or impacts the citizens’ lifestyle.At the initial investment stage in a safe city project, the primary focus is on improving the safety result. That being said, the city can generate an increase in the social benefit score as citizens begin to appreciate the government and police force’s efforts to make their city safer, and generally feel happier living and working in the city. In fact, the safety result is a critical foundation to the social prosperity at this stage of project deployment.

If the safety result benefits most from the initial government investment, the social benefit score improves most in the third stage of the government investment. A key component of the social benefit score is citizen feedback on the government and police, and the general happiness of citizens living in the city. The security and safety improvements made during the initial investment take time to make an impact, but ultimately drive an increase in the social benefit score. Citizens appreciate the value of innovative solutions that are making them safer, which is reflected in their appreciation of the government and police force.

Overall, a 20-25% increase in government investment can result in a 35-40% increase in the social benefit score of the city at this third stage. The government appreciation and police appreciation scores can increase by over 50%; citizens in connected cities value the impact safe city projects have on their city environment and way of life.

It is clear that safe city deployments have a positive impact on many of the key indicators of a successful city. That being said, there is no one size fits all solution. Projects need to address the unique threats of a city and focus on the areas of opportunity. This could be crime prevention in cities where government investment has historically been low or tourism and citizen happiness for cities that have already made significant investment. They also need to take into account the ICT environment to maximize the opportunity to improve the safety result, social benefit and economic benefit.

Key enabling technology: The cornerstone of safe city construction

While safe city projects typically integrate a large number of security and communications technologies, there are a few critical segments and emerging applications that are extremely relevant to the future success of safe cities.

Enabling the detection: Video surveillance and video analytics

Video surveillance is a critical element of a safe city. Security cameras provide the ‘eyes’ for all other operations and collect information remotely for live operations and forensic investigations. Each video surveillance scenario and camera site is different. Video surveillance deployments used in safe city projects can be especially challenging due to the size of the geographic area of coverage, the number of cameras integrated into a single system, and the range of conditions and operational purposes for each individual camera.

Video surveillance cameras can fulfil various functions in a safe city project including: general security monitoring of public spaces; suspect tracking; forensic investigations and evidence gathering following an incident; traffic monitoring and enforcement; and number plate recognition.

The video surveillance industry has undergone a transition from analog to network products. Picture quality has many components but the higher resolution in network cameras has driven adoption. To cope with the largely outdoor deployments and large variance in environmental conditions the use of wide dynamic range, high color fidelity and advanced low light technologies has increased. Furthermore, high resolution and panoramic cameras have the ability to cover wide-areas from a single vantage point, meaning objects within wide urban areas can be recognized and identified.

The video management element of a safe city video surveillance system critically allows operators to collate all live video inputs to build a picture of current scenarios. Underlying ICT platforms and the use of cloud management enable a large system to be managed on a single platform through distributed multiple control rooms (potentially with varying levels of authority). A flexible cloud infrastructure allows for seamless resource (transmission, analytic processing or storage) sharing across the network. Another of the trends in video surveillance technology is the evolution of an ‘information island’ to the ‘cloud,’ which could raise working efficiency, advance data sharing and big data analysis, maximizing the benefits of video surveillance, and reducing the cost caused by repeated construction.

Developments in the field of video content analysis (VCA) are most crucial to enabling the next-generation of safe city capabilities. Video analytics technology is now able to characterize the entire environment captured by a video surveillance camera, allowing the system to interpret the relevant information from the video, truly providing ‘eyes’ and a ‘brain’ to an entire safe city system by analyzing live and recorded video streams to detect, classify and track predefined objects or behavioural patterns. These technologies are used as a means to automate the video monitoring process and can be particularly effective in proactively identifying events as they happen and extracting information from recorded video. The latest deep learning analytics are able to more accurately recognize details, objects and behaviours. In a crucial difference to rule based analytics, once ‘trained’ – analytics using deep-learning technologies have the potential to continue learning from their training, gaining accuracy and efficiencies as a human operator would.

Increasingly a hybrid approach is being deployed where analytics workloads are more distributed using a powerful mix of smart cameras at the edge combined with centralized server and/ or cloud based analysis. This means some analytics can be run at the camera, for example crowd monitoring and counting, but more powerful centralized analytics could be used to run processor intensive applications such as face recognition against a nationwide-shared suspect database.

A significant element of the deep learning analytics revolution is the potential for multiuse and big data applications of video based metadata. The data which can be leveraged from surveillance cameras using analytics is not limited to security purposes. The potential for operational data relating to crowd management, sanitation, public transport and traffic monitoring amongst other examples can be leveraged – meaning potential for the integration of safe city technologies into a smart city.

Enabling the quick responses: Internet of Things (IoT) and connected devices

The IoT is not a specific device or technology – it is a conceptual framework, driven by the idea of embedding connectivity and intelligence in a wide range of devices. IHS  Markit defines an IoT device as a device which has some form of embedded connectivity that allows the device to be directly connected to the internet (i.e., IP addressable), or allows the device to connect (tether) to an IP addressable device. This connectivity can be wired or wireless.

These devices can include a range of sensors as well as some type of user interface (UI), but neither sensors nor a user interface is required under this definition. The ability to collect vast amounts of data in near real-time from this broad range of intelligent connected devices is the foundation of the IoT. This data can then be accessed directly, or via the cloud, and unique value propositions can be created through the application of complex analytics and big data techniques.

IoT is an important trend, especially within the safe city space. With more connected devices comes more data, which when combined with strong analytics, can provide intelligence that decision makers can use to preemptively alert to attacks, improve responses in real-time and speed up forensic analysis. Connected devices specific to the public safety sector can be connected to a control room or storage platform via a sensor. In the case of law enforcement, one such application could be a fire alarm connected with a sensor. The agency could gather data from this sensor such as drawing of the gun, firing of the gun, and time and locations where the gun is drawn.

Analytics can be run on the data collected to identify the city sectors most likely to result in a drawn weapon and officers who are more likely to draw the weapon. These types of sensors are the future of public safety and safe city, but many challenges surround the use of these systems. While this market is in an ‘early-days’ phase, it is evident that these technologies offer significant benefits to government agencies. In order to leverage these opportunities, governments should build up dedicated IOT for their safe city projects. LPWA (Low Power Wide Area) networks such as NB-IOT technology could be leveraged to realize the full city IOT coverage.

Enabling the efficient policing: Mobile policing

The transition from narrowband communications such as licensed mobile radio to broadband communications such as LTE is expected to be a facilitator to communications used as part of safe city initiatives. These networks will be able to carry high-speed data, location information, images, and video to provide first responders with enhanced ‘situational awareness.’ LTE is well placed to meet all the critical communication demands in various scenarios enabling data sharing and collaboration across agencies and districts to improve the coordinated response to emergencies, which are chief goals of safe city initiatives. The implications of the network for safe city projects are tremendous. Vastly more and ‘heavier’ information can be sent over a broadband network. Additional access to data means more options, which can be analyzed in control rooms and disseminated into the hands of field personnel.

Various programs such as the United States’ FirstNet and the United Kingdom’s ESN have made plans to migrate the countries’ emergency communications networks on to broadband. While these transitions will take time, and will work with mobile radio networks concurrently during the transition, it is evident that broadband will be the future of emergency communications.

Enabling the integration: Control room consolidation and resource sharing

A significant trend impacting public safety and law enforcement control rooms, especially in North America and Europe, is the consolidation of single-agency control rooms to form large multi-agency control rooms. This trend is driven by control rooms attempting to manage increasing budget restrictions, to improve efficiency and to improve inter-operability between different agencies.

Consolidation depends heavily on the productivity metrics that a control room uses. The agency must evaluate call taking and dispatching capabilities and processes. A typical consolidation might include rolling up city control rooms into a more regional entity. This task will encounter different local processes and it is therefore an opportunity to introduce the best practice process across all agencies.

Physically combining control rooms into one large unified control room is not necessarily the only way in which this consolidation can happen. With the increasing pressure to budgets and also in an effort to increase data sharing, it is becoming more common for several control rooms in a region to issue a joint tender for a single platform to be shared by each agency. There are several benefits to this shared purchasing process. There is a cost benefit, but it also enables control rooms to design emergency management systems to their own needs as well as expand their cooperation with geographically separate control rooms, leading to considerably improved resource management. There is also a benefit in the integration of voice, video and other data; the integration of video surveillance, video conference and narrowband/ broadband trunk.

Enabling the prevention: Predictive crime centers and big data analytics

A number of police departments around the world are placing more importance on predictive crime centers. After the September 11th attacks, the Department of Homeland Security provided US states with funding to facilitate collaboration and information sharing among law enforcement agencies. As a result, ‘fusion centers’ were developed as part of counterterrorism analysis. Today, there are 78 fusion centers across the United States, which range in size from staffs of three to 250, including officers, analysts and agents.

Fusion centers are slower time analysis units which look at big data sets from both traditional police data and many other sources. These can include video surveillance streams, social media, arrest records, warrants and mug shots. Fusion centers can provide intelligence packages for patrol briefings and operations as well as support real time intelligence cells. These real time intelligence cells are typically attached or embedded into control rooms to provide intelligence supporting either command and control decisions or deployed officers. Furthermore, LTE networks have the potential to support richer data and image packages. These centers will become increasingly important as agencies place an emphasis on predictive policing.

Departments, including the Houston Police Department, are hiring specialized analysts to review social media during major criminal incidents to gather and send out data to officers in the field. This allows resources to be dispatched in a more focused manner saving time and cost. Predictive crime centers like the one in Austin, Texas, provide information including traffic camera data to the police force to facilitate investigations. The future of analytics will shift from a data sharing approach to a data mining approach, with the purpose of intelligence gathering, and disseminating those results across relevant agencies. Predictive analytics are typically deployed from traditional intelligence units and sometimes from Fusion centers. It is important to note that these systems require a significant amount of data to work effectively, and even advanced city deployments remain in the early stages of what is possible.

Enabling the sustainability of safe cities: Cloud and SaaS solutions

Cloud services can be defined as convenient, on-demand services provided over the Internet by a third-party provider. Rather than committing upfront to a fixed cost, platforms, hardware (servers, storage etc.), applications and software are provided as a service. The payment is typically on a periodic basis and based on usage. Consequently, cloud networks are designed to be scalable, rapidly elastic, and require minimal management, allowing increasing demand to be met dynamically.

On the flip side, if a user or enterprise starts to downsize, usage and payments for cloud services can be scaled back allowing the consumer to save money. Data stored in the cloud can also be accessed anywhere and shared seamlessly with other qualified users at any time across multiple devices. One of the factors hindering adoption of safe city projects is financing. As these projects are a capital expenditure (CAPEX), a city has to fund this type of project through some form of local, state or federal government funding. For small and medium-sized cities, typically without access to significant funding, this can be a great impediment to initiating these projects. The city can also be stuck with obsolete technology that it cannot afford to upgrade.

Cloud based technology has the potential to alter the way safe city projects are funded by changing the projects from a CAPEX model to an operational expenditure (OPEX) model. OPEX typically covers the day to day costs of running a city and includes rent, payroll, utility bills and maintenance. Two benefits of an OPEX model versus CAPEX model are that cities can deploy safe city projects in a more incremental fashion and there is no long-term commitment.

A further benefit of OPEX models that cloud-based technology provides is that it shifts responsibility and risk away from the city itself and onto the provider of the technology. One issue cities have faced in the past has been continuing to fund safe city projects after the initial funding had run out. As the project shifted from a depreciating capital expenditure to an ongoing operational expenditure, the city had to find money again to continue the project.

Safe cities are living projects, which means that even after extensive video surveillance infrastructure, a centralized command center, advanced analytics platforms and a robust storage system have been installed. The technologies and platforms used as well as the operational procedures employed will continue to evolve.

Multiple technologies and trends are shaping what safe cities will look like in the future, but the reality is that each city will have a unique solution based on their needs and the goals they are trying to achieve. Increasingly, cities will rely less on hardware and will instead rely more on software based applications. Infrastructure such as cameras will remain in place, but software will be used to access relevant data from systems across a city. Collaborative software systems will be used to disseminate this data to each agency involved in emergency response or security incident management. The future of safe cities is on the platform and solution rather than the equipment and technology.

Development strategy

The safe city represents the intersection of ICT and security technology. However, there is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to implementing and deploying a safe city solution. The key success factors can differ dramatically depending on the city’s specific security threats, government investment, existing infrastructure and the roles of the stakeholders involved in the safe city initiative. That being said, a number of strategic recommendations can be made based on the government investment stage of the city which will help to ensure a more successful safe city deployment.

First stage of government investment

In the first stage of government investment, the city typically needs to replace outdated security technology and critical communications systems. While this stage involves the largest capital expenditure, it also generates the largest improvement in the overall safety result. Furthermore, the implementation is more straightforward than at other stages, with higher resolution video cameras, LTE networks, IoT sensors, and command centers all likely to be deployed around the city. Given the limited existing infrastructure in place, the city can make a dramatic impact by reducing emergency response times for police, fire, and rescue services and lowering the overall crime rate through the safe city deployment.

Second stage of government investment

The second stage of government investment is more challenging. The safety result benefits generated in the first stage of investment have already been achieved and many of the social and economic benefits associated with the project will not be achieved until the government investment reaches the third stage. At this stage, the government should set targets and expectations for the third stage of government investment focused on the social and economic benefit improvements required. It should also build and motivate the project team to deliver on these targets. Furthermore, the government should start to build advanced data sharing platforms and continue to invest in ICT to maximize the safety result of the city and work towards the next stage of government investment. In the second stage of investment it is important to manage expectations and ensure that the city exploits the benefits of the project through continued spending to progress through to the next stage of investment.

Third stage of government investment

By the third stage of government investment, cities already have a mature physical security and ICT infrastructure. Consequently, much of the additional planning and investment in these cities surrounds the integration of existing systems, setting up collaborative or data sharing platforms and building advanced analytics solutions, which can mine data across the legacy systems. Project leaders need to ensure they work well with technology suppliers, systems integrators and security consultants to leverage the best of breed solutions available.

Key elements of successful safe city projects

It is evident that the approach to deploying a safe city is challenging. For this reason, planning and discussion between stakeholders is important regardless of the city size or development stage. The projects which have been successful had one major element in common: the various stakeholders worked together and constructed a consolidated project team and dedicated safe city initiative. Projects fail because the different agencies do not identify unified objectives, are unwilling to collaborate, or do not engage the city’s citizen stakeholders effectively. A few components are critical:

  • Steering committee: a group which takes the lead on the safe city initiative. Their responsibility surrounds securing funding and establishing stakeholder partnerships. There has to be a clearly defined lead agency or person and an agreed definition of what success looks like.
  • Identified funding source(s): this may take the form of a wider federal grant, but also from private sources such as a foundation or local businesses.
  • Strong partnerships with a range of agencies: police departments, transit organizations, universities, public health, social services, and business stakeholders need to work together. It is also important that the city’s citizens embrace the safe city concept.
  • Project goals: specific targets with regards to the security need to be addressed and technologies to be implemented.

Benefits of a dedicated ‘safe city’ initiative

There are several benefits to establishing a wide-scale safe city initiative. Firstly, it involves a greater range of stakeholders, which means that there is not only more publicity, but greater potential for ‘buy-in’ amongst city agencies and other organizations. The greater range of stakeholder involvement brings with it a larger pool of financial resources. For example, if only the police are involved in a safe city initiative, it is likely that only their budget could be used to finance the project.

However, if transport, police, public health, fire and rescue, border control, social services and private organizations are involved, budget availability becomes larger. Multiple agencies working together do present additional challenges. However, it is for this reason that the steering committee is set up. This organization would ideally have an awareness of the technological needs of each of the different agencies and work to address those needs in the planning stage.


The safe city is ultimately a government-driven approach to security. However, multiple stakeholders must be involved. The continuous evolution of technologies, city structure, and security requirements, means a broad range of expertise is needed to make safe city projects a success. Strong government support facilitates these projects, but ultimately a collaborative approach between the government stakeholders, including public health, fire and rescue, and social services, its citizens, and technology firms will provide the best opportunity for successful safe city projects.

Thomas Lynch



Thomas Lynch, Director-Safe Cities, IHS Markit

Niall Jenkins



Niall Jenkins, Senior Consultant-Security, IHS Markit


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