Making our cities more resilient

making_our_cities_more_resilientAs we work to make our cities great places to live, the exchange of ideas is critical. And that’s exactly what the 2015 Asia Pacific Cities Summit (APCS) & Mayors’ Forum is all about. The 10th APCS summit, which just took place this week in Brisbane, Australia, brought together a 1,000 government and business leaders from around the globe to exchange best practices for urban development.

One topic discussed at APCS this week was how to make our cities more resilient. And one aspect of resilient cities is public safety, which I discussed as part of a three-member panel.

Although protecting citizens has always been a daunting challenge, the good news is that we’ve never been better equipped to address it. Thanks to modern technology such as cloud computing, big data, and mobile devices, cities have a wide range of tools at their disposal, and forward-looking administrators are starting to put these tools to use to make cities more secure and less vulnerable to disruption.

Using advanced data and analytics, for example, allows city leaders to analyze past crime patterns to predict areas with high probabilities for specific types of crimes-and then take proactive steps to prevent future crimes from happening. By analyzing massive amounts of data, they might discover that robberies are likely to occur in dimly lit parks between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m., and then use this information to install smart lighting devices that respond to motion. Or they might learn that burglars tend to stay in the same neighborhood, so it makes sense to add more patrol officers to a specific neighborhood once a burglary has occurred. By providing a more detailed understanding of crime patterns, predictive policing can help city police forces prevent crimes before they occur while allocating resources to the places they’re needed most.

Likewise, mobile technology can help public safety organizations perform their work far more effectively. Using mobile devices such as sensors, smartphones, and tablets, cities can reach citizens in real time in the event of a natural disaster or other emergency. They can communicate relevant, accurate information to employees in the field in a far more timely fashion. And they can bring about a far more collaborative work environment in which public safety issues are quickly identified and addressed.

Take the Queensland Government, for example. Using Office 365 and the Yammer enterprise social network, the government gave frontline police officers a way to share their experiences on the street, which is helping to increase public safety. In the past, for instance, requests to check on suspicious people and vehicles had been relayed via two-way radio, yet there were times when high demand on the police radio network created delays of up to 30 minutes.

Police officers voiced their suggestions using Yammer, and the police force has since developed faster, mobile solutions for communicating the need for checks. The result has been that police now conduct a greater number of checks, which is helping to keep Queensland’s streets safer. As Queensland Police Acting Chief Superintendent David Johnson told us: “In the last two months, we went from about 80,000 to 103,000 person and vehicle checks. We could not have done that over the radio. And Yammer was a forum that was used to identify that need.”

These are just a few ways in which cities can leverage today’s technology to bring about safer, more resilient communities. The opportunities for innovation are plentiful, which made the exchange of ideas so inspiring at this year’s APCS.

About the author
Joel Cherkis is the General Manager for Worldwide Public Safety and Justice at Microsoft. He leads a team of business development and technology professionals supporting policy decisions and the delivery of relevant and scalable technology solutions into public sector markets around the world.

This story was first published on the Microsoft CityNext blog on July 8, 2015.

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