Century City Smart City | Explaining the first segment

Smart Safety and Security

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Date 31 May 2021

Smart City is still an evolving concept, with an increasing body of research and papers questioning what a Smart City comprises and where expectation meets reality. Is Smart City just a buzz-phrase of some golden promise or is it something tangible and beneficial for those who live and work in such an environment?

Due to the evolving nature of the Smart City definition, and the fast-changing pace of technology and innovation, there is no city in the world that has achieved a full application of being smart across all aspects – the goal posts keep on moving and every city has its own unique set of challenges. Challenges that become increasingly complicated when multiple role players and contributing factors enter the fray – from socio-economic challenges to friction between stakeholders who have varying agendas and goals.

While many are of “The city is a computer” thinking, where everything is about data and data collection, Century City embraces the integrated philosophy that urban intelligence involves experience, observation and sensory engagement.  A Smart City is more than just technology, at its core are its people and community. It is a holistic approach, necessary to move forward gradually, always within a scalable vision.

In short, “Smart” includes many features such as being technological and inter-connected, but also sustainable, comfortable, attractive, and safe. The Smart City definition in essence is about emerging concepts, flexible terms that are in constant revision and evolution. By focusing on only one aspect, its multi-objective orientation is ignored, which is based on sustainability.

“At Century City, we looked at the emerging trend of being or developing into a Smart City and realised that there were several significant areas, some of which having been in practice for 10 or 20 years, that makes us a Smart City.” says Chris Blackshaw, CEO of Century City Property Owners' Association (CCPOA). “Part of Century City’s DNA is to continuously evolve and look for new ways to do things, to do them better and responsibly. To start off with, we have identified five smart segments that we currently have in place. As we continue to grow, learn, and evolve, we will be adding more segments as we become a more holistic Smart City. The segments we have identified are: Smart Safety and Security, Smart Connectivity and Communication, Smart Community, Smart Environmental Sustainability and Smart Urban Precinct Management.”

Let’s look at the first of Century City’s Smart Segments: Smart Safety and Security.

“An expectation of being completely crime-free is unrealistic”, explains Marinus Boshoff, Century City Safety and Security Manager. “Century City is a public precinct, managed by its own “private municipality” and our main purpose is to be as pro-active as possible to prevent crime and to act quickly and effectively in the event of an incident. Together with our multiple stakeholders – landlords, tenants, owners, visitors – we combine our best efforts to keep Century City a desirable place to work, live and visit.”

“From the moment that you enter the Century City precinct through one of its six gateways, we have you on camera.” explains Boshoff. “License Plate Recognition (LPR) cameras read the numberplate of every vehicle and forward it to the LPR software to verify against their databases, including that of SAPS.  Should a vehicle be flagged on one of the databases, an alert is sent to the Century City Security Operations Centre (SOC) for action. With our SOC receiving early warning of any suspicious vehicles entering the Century City precinct, we can take pro-active and preventative action.”

Annual reviews of various cameras, locations and software are undertaken to determine where the infrastructure requires adjustment or improvement. Smart analytical software has been installed onto individual cameras, which cover high-risk areas.  Using this analytical software speeds up detection and the processing of alarms.  With accurate detection, the requirement of manpower is reduced substantially, which improves the efficiency of the team.

“A first in South Africa is the integration of our LPR software with the At-the-gate security system, used at access control points at office parks and residential developments. The At-the-gate scanner scans the license disk of the vehicle, while the number plates are tested against the LPR databases. Together, they act as a very effective early warning system, an additional tracking mechanism for suspicious vehicles and we have a snapshot of the vehicle and its occupants.” explains Boshoff.

In addition to and complimenting the network of cameras across the precinct that stream and record 24/7 to the SOC, a strategic mix of vehicle, bicycle and foot patrols provide a visible deterrent and rapid response to any incident that may occur.

Boshoff explains that the use of technology improves the effectiveness of the patrol teams, “Our software allows us to use the built-in GPS tracking system to live-track our radios via an App. This gives the SOC Shift Manager a live view of the location and movement of all security personnel in the precinct which assists in the dispatching of teams closest to an incident.”

“In addition to GPS, dashcams are worn on the body, as well as mounted inside response vehicles. These cams remain live and stream back to the SOC. When responding to an incident, the officer starts the recording function.  Footage is recorded on the unit and they can transmit any recorded footage to the cloud system that is fully POPI compliant.  This dashcam and bodycam footage allows the SOC Shift Manager to monitor and manage staff on a scene, and it substantially reduces the time taken to relay important information to Management or Emergency services. The recordal of the incident becomes vital when evidence is required after the fact.”

Other Smart Safety and Security measures in operation in Century City include an integrated and expanded alarm monitoring system, remote video surveillance monitoring, tactical response teams that are ready for all eventualities and incident management systems.

“At the heart of Century City and our Smart Safety and Security is our state-of-the-art SOC”, says Boshoff. “Our SOC has been created and refined to efficiently integrate a variety of software systems including the systems already mentioned as well as a traffic monitoring and virtual messaging boards.  On our new Century City app, you can phone the SOC directly from the app in the case of an emergency and it has a reporting function which allows you to take photos of an incident or maintenance problem and supply details of the issue.  This immediately goes through to the SOC’s incident management system and the matter is automatically escalated to the appropriate team.” 

A Smart City in its essence enables its occupants, communities, entrepreneurs, and businesses to take an active part in the solution rather than the problem.  A Smart City can make a success of the present and is on course for a successful future.  It operates as efficiently and intelligently as possible, so that resources such as energy, transportation systems and water are used optimally, providing a low-cost, low-carbon basis for economic and social growth, and an attractive, healthy, safe, and secure environment in which to live and work.

Is that not what everyone wants?