Smart thinking

Smart thinking

Leveraging data-driven tech with surveillance will help to keep critical infrastructure protected, says Tertius Wolfaardt, Architecture and Engineering Manager at Axis Communications.

Critical infrastructure is never seen nor heard yet serves as our civilisation’s fundamental building blocks. Despite its importance, protecting it remains a challenge that doesn’t receive the attention it deserves. Every critical service that a country or city requires, ranging from energy production and distribution, transportation, and water and sanitation to communication, needs reliable and robust security and surveillance solutions that protect and help ensure their utility and longevity.

The issue becomes even more pertinent when you think about smart cities and how information and communication technologies (ICT) can revolutionise how people live, learn, work, and play in these spaces. Today, urban area infrastructure is being retrofitted to accommodate next-gen, data-driven solutions that aim to transform existing functions for years to come. The Middle East is a leading example, with three major cities, Riyadh, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi, scoring high marks in this regard in the Institute for Management Development’s Smart City Index. This is in addition to the region’s many smart city projects, such as NEOM and Amaala.

The solution to keeping our critical infrastructure safe in smart and more traditional cities, as well as less urban areas, lies in combining analogue surveillance and next-gen, data-driven technology. Different sectors have different infrastructure needs, and considering how we can apply new technologies to these sectors can help us understand how we can best protect our infrastructure for the long term to ensure that it continues to contribute to economic growth and social upliftment.

The energy plants and mines of the future

Energy production and the mining of essential minerals are undergoing a revolution. Focus is shifting towards alternative energy sources and the environmental impact of resource extraction globally. With the move toward sustainability, new sources and locations have to showcase high levels of efficiency while also being as secure as possible. Monitoring systems and surveillance are essential to achieving this.

Whether a solar farm or an oil rig, perimeter protection is the starting point for any security strategy. High-tech surveillance cameras can detect intruders and immediately activate security personnel, automatically classify humans and vehicles, and, when powered by AI-based computing systems, can use data to identify blind spots and improve security-based routines and protocols.

Health and safety must also always be a priority. Network video surveillance, a solution that is scalable and can cover large and widespread areas, can ensure plant workers and miners are strictly adhering to all guidelines that protect both them and the infrastructure itself. Anomalies and faults are detected in real-time, which means that repair turnaround times are kept to a minimum, improving performance and output levels.

Safe transport for all

Everyone hates getting stuck in traffic, but the consequences of unprotected transportation infrastructure on a country or area’s ability to function can be dire. This extends from roads and major highways to railways and airports, with each facility playing an important role in the movement of people and goods.

To prevent and mitigate malicious activity, officials can deploy network video solutions that give them 24/7 coverage and let them monitor assets and areas. The deployment of traffic management centres (TMCs) expands on this need for coverage and helps centralise command units and information. Major routes and locations with extensive equipment are monitored for any accidents while discouraging criminal acts such as vandalism and theft.

Here, safety and security are intertwined. Technologies such as license plate recognition and camera analytics mean that city officials and law enforcement have a more accurate view of misconduct. Traffic cameras and sensors allow for data gathering and better coordination with emergency officials and teams. Simply put, technology applications such as these allow critical services to be proactive.

Clean and secure water

Whether dealing with freshwater or wastewater, management facilities come with their own unique set of requirements when it comes to their security requirements.  There are common threats relevant to this type of infrastructure, such as contamination and widescale disruption; hence there is a need to standardise surveillance technology that can not only counter these common threats but also take into account the level of automation and level of human activity at facilities.

Using cameras enabled with edge-based computing and analytics lets officials monitor the smallest of anomalies remotely and, when combined with perimeter protection and access control, can ensure that restricted areas stay restricted. Cameras can also be equipped with radar capabilities, thus giving them the means to monitor bodies of water at night or when visibility is hampered by weather. Taking this a step further, drone detection solutions can oversee large volumes of water to prevent any attempts to contaminate or compromise water supplies and flow.

Communication is critical

The Middle East has emerged as a region that is quick and eager to embrace new communication technologies. For example, the UAE stands as one of the world’s leading 5G countries thanks to mobile broadband services’ level of access to licensed spectrum, according to GSMA. With this embrace comes the need to prioritise, and subsequently protect essential infrastructure such as mobile towers and installations that provide not just for the private sector but also critical public services.

Similar to water management facilities, access control is a major factor when dealing with highly sensitive communications equipment. Cameras and biometric authentication devices can ensure that the right people have the right permissions to access the right areas. Meanwhile, audio speakers can alert and deter trespassers, reinforcing access restrictions and ensuring that sites are established as public no-go areas.

Planning for a secure future

These use cases demonstrate the need for tailored security and surveillance solutions that deploy the latest technological innovations. None are a one-size-fits-all scenario. Through public and private partnerships and with the expertise of trusted vendors, organisations in the Middle East should prioritise how they safeguard critical infrastructure. This will go a long way towards laying the foundation for our future and setting the global benchmark for secure infrastructure.