Across the world, many urban road networks are already saturated. This causes long delays for drivers, increasing frustration and reducing productivity. It also creates major public health risks due to poor air quality. Together, the effects of excessive traffic negatively impact city dwellers’ quality of life and the sustainability of cities.

According to one study from INRIX, a provider of transport insights, Los Angeles commuters spent over 100 hours a year in traffic jams in 2017 – more than any other city in the world. Additionally, London traffic jams cost drivers the equivalent of £2,430 (USD$3,135) each, equal to more than £9.5 billion (USD$12.3 billion) across the city as a whole.

Root causes of traffic congestion

Needless to say, traffic becomes a headache for city administrators, particularly in cities where rapid urbanization and economic growth have led to increased ownership of vehicles. To find long-term solutions, city authorities are looking into the root causes of traffic congestion. In Hong Kong, the city’s Transport Advisory Committee published a report identifying the top-three causes of excessive traffic.

In these circumstances, city authorities are beginning to look to smart technologies

These are: ‘too many vehicles on roads’, ‘illegal parking’, and ‘too much road works’ – factors that all contribute heavily to traffic jams in cities worldwide. In many cities, building new road capacity is not an option – either because of available space, disruption to economic activities, or budgetary constraints. In these circumstances, city authorities are beginning to look to smart technologies to make people’s journeys faster and safer.

Traffic management control centers

In the portfolio of available traffic easing technologies, latest-generation video technology is the star. In particular, innovations in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and deep learning have transformed standard video monitoring with features that alert operators about traffic issues in real time. This allows them to take immediate action to keep lanes clear and to keep traffic flowing.

Next generation video solutions are already helping city authorities to reduce congestion and deliver major time savings for drivers. Three examples are: This kind of solution uses smart cameras installed at intersections to monitor and report on real-time traffic flow. It works by constantly observing the flow of traffic lanes, and by counting vehicles within defined areas of the road. Data is then sent to traffic management control centers where operators can see the build-up of traffic across the city.

Traffic guidance solutions

This citywide view of traffic allows operators to take action in real time to reduce the root causes of congestion

Critically, this citywide view of traffic allows operators to take action in real time to reduce the root causes of congestion, such as misuse of bus lanes or illegal parking. In the event of a traffic incident, traffic guidance solutions are also great news for drivers. Congestion information is displayed for them at each intersection, helping them predict their arrival time and – if delays are serious or persistent – to choose alternative routes or travel options.

While video is a critical element of the solution, full integration with third-party systems and algorithms is also needed. In this way, traffic data can be visualized on city maps and transmitted effectively to the control center, drivers, emergency services, and others. Traffic signal control solutions allow traffic lights to be coordinated to keep traffic flowing as freely as possible.

Intelligent traffic cameras

They consume traffic data from traffic guidance systems to understand where traffic is building up at an intersection. To do this, intelligent traffic cameras count vehicles that cross an intersection as well as detect the length of vehicle queues at an intersection. They simultaneously share the real-time data with the traffic signal system.

Based on this data, traffic lights can be coordinated automatically to even out the traffic flow, giving traffic more or less priority, as needed, by extending or reducing the time available to cross the intersection. This helps to speed up journeys, reduces drivers’ frustration and eliminates the need for manual intervention by traffic police when traffic builds up in one direction.

Reducing traffic congestion

In many cases, traffic congestion is caused by illegal or irresponsible road use, such as illegal parking and use of bus lanes. With traffic enforcement video solutions such as wrong-way driving detection, illegal U-turns and illegal parking detection, these kinds of incidents can be identified in real time, allowing operators in traffic control centers to alert the authorities in immediately.

This makes it faster to react to incidences of illegal or irresponsible driving and remove obstacles on urban roads

This makes it faster to react to incidences of illegal or irresponsible driving and remove obstacles on urban roads, while also holding drivers accountable. As well as helping to reduce traffic congestion, traffic enforcement video solutions can also help to improve public safety. They can be used, for example, to detect drivers who run red lights or otherwise drive dangerously, and to take action against them.

Improving urban air quality

With urban traffic management now topping the agenda for most city authorities, intelligent video technology is a beacon of hope. By monitoring traffic in real time, these kinds of solutions allow city authorities to take immediate action to ease bottlenecks – reducing drivers’ frustration, reducing lost productivity and improving urban air quality.

Additionally, real-time incident detection helps to improve overall driving standards, which ultimately reduces the number of accidents and saves lives. As more and more city authorities begin to see the huge value of latest-generation video solutions for traffic management, adoption is accelerating. This is especially the case where cities have been able to implement a suitable regulatory and funding structure to support the implement of these kinds of solutions.

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Water Plant Attack Emphasizes Cyber’s Impact On Physical Security
Water Plant Attack Emphasizes Cyber’s Impact On Physical Security

At an Oldsmar, Fla., water treatment facility on Feb. 5, an operator watched a computer screen as someone remotely accessed the system monitoring the water supply and increased the amount of sodium hydroxide from 100 parts per million to 11,100 parts per million. The chemical, also known as lye, is used in small concentrations to control acidity in the water. In larger concentrations, the compound is poisonous – the same corrosive chemical used to eat away at clogged drains. The impact of cybersecurity attacks The incident is the latest example of how cybersecurity attacks can translate into real-world, physical security consequences – even deadly ones.Cybersecurity attacks on small municipal water systems have been a concern among security professionals for years. The computer system was set up to allow remote access only to authorized users. The source of the unauthorized access is unknown. 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Water plant attacks feared for years Cybersecurity attacks on small municipal water systems have been a concern among security professionals for years. Florida’s Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted that the attempt to poison the water supply should be treated as a “matter of national security.” “The incident at the Oldsmar water treatment plant is a reminder that our nation’s critical infrastructure is continually at risk; not only from nation-state attackers, but also from malicious actors with unknown motives and goals,” comments Mieng Lim, VP of Product Management at Digital Defense Inc., a provider of vulnerability management and threat assessment solutions.The attack on Oldsmar’s water treatment system shows how critical national infrastructure is increasingly becoming a target for hackers as organizations bring systems online “Our dependency on critical infrastructure – power grids, utilities, water supplies, communications, financial services, emergency services, etc. – on a daily basis emphasizes the need to ensure the systems are defended against any adversary,” Mieng Lim adds. “Proactive security measures are crucial to safeguard critical infrastructure systems when perimeter defenses have been compromised or circumvented. We have to get back to the basics – re-evaluate and rebuild security protections from the ground up.” "This event reinforces the increasing need to authenticate not only users, but the devices and machine identities that are authorized to connect to an organization's network,” adds Chris Hickman, Chief Security Officer at digital identity security vendor Keyfactor. “If your only line of protection is user authentication, it will be compromised. It's not necessarily about who connects to the system, but what that user can access once they're inside. "If the network could have authenticated the validity of the device connecting to the network, the connection would have failed because hackers rarely have possession of authorized devices. This and other cases of hijacked user credentials can be limited or mitigated if devices are issued strong, crypto-derived, unique credentials like a digital certificate. In this case, it looks like the network had trust in the user credential but not in the validity of the device itself. Unfortunately, this kind of scenario is what can happen when zero trust is your end state, not your beginning point." “The attack on Oldsmar’s water treatment system shows how critical national infrastructure is increasingly becoming a target for hackers as organizations bring systems online for the first time as part of digital transformation projects,” says Gareth Williams, Vice President - Secure Communications & Information Systems, Thales UK. “While the move towards greater automation and connected switches and control systems brings unprecedented opportunities, it is not without risk, as anything that is brought online immediately becomes a target to be hacked.” Operational technology to mitigate attacks Williams advises organizations to approach Operational Technology as its own entity and put in place procedures that mitigate against the impact of an attack that could ultimately cost lives. This means understanding what is connected, who has access to it and what else might be at risk should that system be compromised, he says. “Once that is established, they can secure access through protocols like access management and fail-safe systems.”  “The cyberattack against the water supply in Oldsmar should come as a wakeup call,” says Saryu Nayyar, CEO, Gurucul.  “Cybersecurity professionals have been talking about infrastructure vulnerabilities for years, detailing the potential for attacks like this, and this is a near perfect example of what we have been warning about,” she says.  Although this attack was not successful, there is little doubt a skilled attacker could execute a similar infrastructure attack with more destructive results, says Nayyar. Organizations tasked with operating and protecting critical public infrastructure must assume the worst and take more serious measures to protect their environments, she advises. Fortunately, there were backup systems in place in Oldsmar. What could have been a tragedy instead became a cautionary tale. Both physical security and cybersecurity professionals should pay attention.

Expert Roundup: Healthy Buildings, Blockchain, AI, Skilled Workers, And More
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Our Expert Panel Roundtable is an opinionated group. However, for a variety of reasons, we are sometimes guilty of not publishing their musings in a timely manner. At the end of 2020, we came across several interesting comments among those that were previously unpublished. Following is a catch-all collection of those responses, addressing some of the most current and important issues in the security marketplace in 2021.

Smart Offices: How Is Mobile ID Changing The Way We Access The Office?
Smart Offices: How Is Mobile ID Changing The Way We Access The Office?

If you’re a security or facilities manager, you may already be aware of the quiet revolution that’s taking place across businesses and organizations up and down the country. By the end of 2020, 20% of all ID and access control systems featured mobile capability, and this is set to increase by a further 34% over the next three years. There’s no doubt that using a smartphone or mobile device in place of traditional credential and access control is a growing trend that’s only been sped up by the pandemic. It’s true that many businesses are still very much focused on remote working, although many are now starting to implement new-and-improved strategies that are better suited to protect the workforce moving forward. Mobile ID systems As the next normal becomes clearer, businesses will be reviewing procedures such as access control, occupancy monitoring, reducing touch points, and tracking visitors. Mobile ID systems are ideally suited to this task. But what are the key reasons for considering such a setup in 2021? But why is this new technology so well-suited to future-proof your physical access system, and why is it becoming so popular? Eradicating outdated legacy credentials Have you seen just how vulnerable outdated Proximity card technology can be? Low-frequency 125kHz cards can be cloned in a matter of seconds with the use of cheap, readily available tools. Despite their weaknesses, they are still used by a huge majority of businesses – big and small. All smartphones include two industry-standard features that make them perfect for operating a secure, contactless credential Replacing such a system with a mobile-enabled system is one of the best ways to increase security ten-fold. Thanks to a cloud-based infrastructure, mobile ID offers best-in-class security and cryptography. All smartphones include two industry-standard features that make them perfect for operating a secure, contactless credential. Bluetooth Smart and NFC (Near Field Communication) make them the best product to operate such a credential via a secure app. If you’re looking for best-in-class security in 2021, mobile access is most definitely the way forward. Removing touch points across the business Reducing touch points and the adoption of touchless facilities has become a key priority for businesses in the wake of COVID-19. Even as businesses start to return to the office and operate a home/office split, it will be imperative that unnecessary contact is kept to an absolute minimum between staff. The traditional issuance of identification and access control credentials can pose problems in this regard. Facility and security managers who are responsible for onboarding and processing ID have done the process face to face. Mobile access makes it possible to carry this process out without people coming into direct content. First, the security manager has access to a secure portal, allowing them to create, manage and edit credentials anywhere. They can upload and remotely transfer mobile ID and access control credentials directly to users’ smartphones over the air. Via the secure app, users can view and see their credentials and immediately begin using it for ID and access control by simply placing their smartphone over card readers. Enabling a more flexible way of working The way in which we work has changed for good. Even as people more people return to the office in 2021, a majority of businesses will be operating a home/office split indefinitely. This once again reinforces the need for a smarter, more adaptable onboarding system. Implementing mobile ID is the perfect way of doing this: over-the-air delivery of credentials and security data is now a given, helping businesses create the perfect balance between the home and the office. No longer do people have to come into the office for the onboarding process. Increasing convenience and user experience More often businesses are realising the value mobile ID can have for enhancing the work experience as well as security Ok, so mobile ID is the perfect way of increasing security and adapting workplaces to a post-COVID way of working. And we’ve not even touched on the most obvious advantage yet: Convenience. How many times have you forgotten your ID card? We’re sure it’s more times than you forget your smartphone. These powerful processors have become intertwined with the way we carry out tasks on a daily basis. They’re so vital that people will soon notice if they’ve forgotten it. From an employee’s perspective, mobile ID and access control is simple, convenient, and extremely user-friendly. More and more businesses are realizing the value mobile ID can have for enhancing the work experience as well as security. From the employer’s perspective, mobile ID means it’s easier for administrators to manage access and credentials. Future-proofing access control now will ensure that in the longer term, mobile ID is well worth the investment. The annual expenditure of printing ID cards and purchasing credentials can be vast, while reissuance costs can also quickly add up for larger organizations. These issues are a thing of the past for businesses using mobile ID. Mobile ID perfect tool for 2021 and beyond Until mobile ID, new and improved credentials’ main focus was on increasing security. Mobile ID not only delivers that, but it also provides a more convenient way of accessing the office in a way that’s perfectly suited to returning to the office in 2021. If there was ever a time to upgrade, now is the time. Summing up, mobile access is changing the way we access the office by: Eliminating weak links in security systems such as outdated legacy card technologies Eradicating the need for touch points across multiple areas of the workplace Enabling a smarter, more flexible approach to onboarding Increasing convenience – for both employers and employees.