In What Ways Data Collection in Smart Cities Is Threatening?

A look at the opportunities and security concerns with smart cities.
Kashyap Vyas

The concept of smart cities is inevitably the future that we are advancing towards each day. The changes that every one of our devices has undergone in the past five years is just staggering.

Every piece of technology, even light bulbs, are getting the smart treatment. And the result of everything getting smarter? 5 quintillion bytes of data being generated each day by IoT devices alone.

Even though modern technology is advantageous to each and every one us, there is always the worst case scenario where the data can fall into the wrong hands.

What Are Smart Cities

A smart city uses technology to improve life quality, better manage resources and mitigate risks. The scope of the “smart” technologies span not just for personal spaces, but also for public utilities like healthcare, public transport, water management, electricity grid, communication systems among many others.

In the future, we are going to greater cohesion between hardware and software, and within different device categories themselves.

More devices, More Platforms

Like we discussed, the number of smart devices, that effectively makes up smart cities is on the rise. And the rough number comes to 7 billion devices by 2018.

So, there is no doubt that the technology is on the rise and the devices being connected at a staggering rate. These advancements contribute to the rise of smart homes, smart offices and inevitably smart cities.

Nowadays, we see device manufacturers implanting both hardware and software optimizations to make their devices more secure. This is inevitable because not having s solid protection against software or hardware hacks can make the device prone to attacks.

There was a time when smartphones were considered as the pinnacle of smart devices. However, now we have smart devices both inside and outside of our homes.

Smart technology is being used to manage a city’s resources better. The prime drivers of this technology are sensors.

The vast amount of data is generated each second just from various sensors situated around a smart city to ensure that everything is operating efficiently.

A More Secure And Safe City Space

Source: Pixabay

With the help of strategically placed cameras around a smart city, surveillance can be improved by a great extent. There are infrared cameras available today that offer usable video feed even at night instead of ordinary cameras that can record feeds only when there is enough light available. This helps the city to fight crimes at night and also determine the culprits who have committed crimes in public.

Facial recognition is also a rising field where not only just cities but even countries are implementing it on a wide scale to make the place safer by identifying offenders the moment they are picked up by a camera.

There is also the emphasis on safety that cannot be avoided when we are on the subject of smart cities, because of innovations such as smart street lights and other innovations that paves the way for reducing the number of accidents in a smart city.

ICT – Information and Communication Technologies

What use do the modern devices, sensors, and hardware serve if they cannot communicate with each other? This is where ICT or Information and Communication Technologies come in.

With ICT comes unified communications, where communication channels, both wired and wireless are integrated within one service. The best thing about ICT is that it can integrate different device classes like hardware, software, cloud, and wireless communications together.

For short distance communications, these sensors can leverage connectivity solutions like Bluetooth or infrared pulses. For medium, range communication, WiFi is used to serve as the communication channel.

Whereas for long distance communication, wired means are used to transmit data effectively. This data that is transmitted to ICT brings in a great deal of cost savings to the smart city.

This is mainly due the wireless communication channels as well as powerful hubs that can interconnect a multitude of devices with ease. Smart cities become very hard to implement without a central communication solution and ICT provides just that!

With the advancements in technologies, faster and more powerful communication protocols are added to ICTs every single day!

Less Privacy As A Result? 

Data Breach
Source: Blogtrepreneur/Flickr

As the world is getting more and more connected, we see a diminishing return on people’s privacy. The recent Russia-linked botnet affected at least 500,000 vulnerable routers and network-access storage devices spread across 54 countries.

This was made possible through a malware called VPNFilter, which allowed the hackers to take control of connected devices and access sensitive user data.

This shocking situation is an example of how there are still voids in the system that can make it vulnerable, causing sensitive data to be lost in the process.

Modern devices use specific protocols to communicate with other devices. The portals that enable with two-way communication are often targeted by hackers to get access to the data within.

Another data attack that targeted Telnet passwords recently, is an example of how hackers or extremists try to gain access to these devices to pry out sensitive data. With more devices becoming smart each passing day, hackers get multiple entry points to tamper with the devices.

There are several ways in which hackers or data attackers try to access smart city data. The common ones are:

Man in the middle attack (MITM): A data attack where the hacker places themselves in the middle of the communication between two devices, intercepting data in the process.

Denial of Service or DOS: A scenario where the device cannot complete its task or service, most commonly due to an overload of data.

Identity theft: Stealing identity information of people by using malware or another form of software.

Botnets: Taking control of a group of devices without the knowledge of the owner.

Infrastructure attack: A targeted attack against specific infrastructures like electric grids, water lines or traffic lights etc.

But Should We Be Apprehensive About Development?

Data privacy and data management is certainly the prime challenges associated with smart cities. As we move towards the future, the rate at which data is generated and consumed will be only on the rise.


Since we talked about how modern sensors can easily identify a person through facial recognition or identify a vehicle by just glancing the numberplates, we also need a proper system to keep this data safe.

Data and security experts all around the world are trying their best to optimize these developments in such a way that the risks could be mitigated to a minimum. Remember, it is not the technology that is harmful, it is the way we use it that determines its effect.

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