Editorial By Andrew Elvish
As you are reading this, the chances are pretty good that I’m on the road. Getting to meet new people, seeing their challenges, and helping to develop solutions is one of the best parts of my job. But, while this requires a lot of travel time, it has also afforded me the opportunity to see and know a wide variety of cities and their airports.
In my experience, the best airports are those that have created a seamless collaboration between check-in, air-travel, and commerce. When travelers move easily through airport spaces, everyone benefits. Passengers have far less stress, airport personnel serve happy travelers, and airport administration increases revenue because people spend less time waiting in line and more time enjoying the services and products on offer.
My work has allowed me to help airports implement solutions that enable them to collect data, understand the way these elements fit together, and then make decisions with their passenger’s overall experience in mind. I just happen to find myself in the position of traveler benefiting from these efforts.
Not surprisingly, airports are a good microcosm for thinking about cities. In both cases, success can be measured in part by the safe and efficient flow of people.
How do we create safe, efficient cities?
A successful city is one in which everyone feels secure and, at the same time, is able to get through their daily lives with relative ease. Moving from home to work, picking up groceries for dinner, or meeting friends for a night out should be so easy that they seem almost effortless.
It is difficult to create spaces that support the efficient flow of people and commerce when city stakeholders work in isolation. You cannot, for example, focus on public transportation without also paying close attention to local hotspots, road conditions, and traffic signals. With so many moving parts and disparate groups, it can be hard to imagine how a growing city might be able to develop and maintain a vibrant, accessible environment. The key, of course, is collaboration.
Why is it difficult to work together?
We know that, when local government, law enforcement, private business, and ordinary citizens work together, they can create an environment where everyone thrives. At the same time, we also know that collaboration is not always easy. As my colleague Pervez Siddiqui says, “the difficulties associated with developing a collaborative approach come down to the challenges around time, trust, and turf.”
It takes time to build systems of collaboration – especially if you’re doing it on your own from the ground up. But it also requires that you assume that colleagues and other groups will honor the collaborative spirit and that they won’t damage data or take advantage of their access. And, finally, sharing turf is hard in any circumstance. So many of us have the instinct to protect what’s ours, which is easier to do when you don’t share.
How to make collaboration a reality.
What cities and airports —as well as hospitals, law enforcement, and other groups— need are solutions that have collaboration built-in. To build collaboration in means more than simply allowing disparate groups to connect. It means including mechanisms that facilitate the safe sharing of information and allow organizations to protect data in order to maintain privacy.
One good example is law enforcement. Increasingly, private businesses are deploying physical security systems —particularly video surveillance— to protect their people and operations. The data they are collecting might be of great value to police detectives as they work to solve a crime. The question is, how can businesses easily share their data without gaining access to the police department’s system and how does the police department access just the data related to the crime or criminal activity in question?
The answer is a solution that facilitates the secure collection, management, and sharing of evidence and, at the same time, allows for the setting and restricting of system and data access privileges. This concept of built-in functionality can be extended to video surveillance systems that help ensure privacy by making footage redaction possible. In the same way that solutions can be developed to support collaborative workflows, they can also offer privacy by design.
Whether it is people, ideas, or data, we are always talking about both security and movement. Ultimately, we need to deploy solutions that keep things safe while providing an easy, unencumbered flow. We can do this by building on infrastructures that minimize needless work and encourage collaboration and transparency. I will keep you posted on how well our cities are meeting this goal.
About The Author
Andrew Elvish is a columnist, explorer, and the Vice President of Marketing and Product Management at Genetec. Andrew has over 20 years’ experience in the software industry and will surprise you with his knowledge of great restaurants all over the world.