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Collaborative Public Safety – An ecosystem of agencies and communities enabled by digital platforms

Mr. Hong-Eng Koh at the Global  Safe City Summit (Photo credit: Huawei)

OpenGov interviewed Mr. Hong-Eng Koh, Global Chief Public Safety Expert of Huawei Enterprise Business Group. He discussed threats to public safety in the ASEAN region, the challenges posed by legacy systems, the impact of emerging technologies, and using collaborative communication and collaborative cloud for ensuring safety in a smart city.

Mr. Koh is the chief expert in Huawei on the use of ICT in enabling Public Safety and Justice (PSJ) agencies to achieve a safer city and nation. Mr. Koh started his career with the Singapore Police Force (SPF) where he went on to hold various appointments. His last appointment with SPF was as head of the Computer Systems Division, where he led the implementation of various operational and administrative systems including SPF's first internet project, and systems for one-stop change of address, investigation management, automated vehicle screening, resource activation management, casualty information, and more.

Prior to joining Huawei for this pioneer global chief expert position, Mr. Koh spent over 15 years in Oracle, including Sun Microsystems which was acquired by Oracle. He was the Global Lead in PSJ with similar roles as in Huawei. Over the years, Mr. Koh was actively involved in many PSJ projects globally, including citizens registry/ID; ePassport; border control system; advanced passenger information system; licensing system, command, control, and communications (C3) system; traffic incident management system; national disaster warning system; video surveillance system; electronics surveillance system; automated fingerprint identification system; criminal records system; investigation/case management system; court case management system; and prisons management system.

Leveraging his frontline policing experience and deep ICT knowledge, Mr. Koh helps PSJ agencies to better understand their future challenges, trends, requirements and best practices.

What are the major threats to public safety in the ASEAN region? What are the challenges governments faces in tackling those threats?

Terrorism remains a dominant threat in the ASEAN region. Other major threats include organized crime, human smuggling and drug trafficking. With increasing adoption of technology, cybercrime is becoming a major concern too. In ASEAN, we are also constantly under threat from natural disasters.

While dealing with these “traditional” threats, public safety agencies also have to prepare for threats emerging from their “digital transformation”: the bad guys are leveraging technologies such as social networking, mobile computing, cloud and even big data. For example, a terrorist cell today is not limited by geographical constraints, it adopts a platform to widen its ecosystem of likeminded terrorists across the world. People with ill-intent can spread rumors and incite violence during mass protests through the use of mesh-networking, such as Firechat. We are even seeing Cyber-Attack-as-a-Service, such as those services offered by Lizard Squad.

Governments cannot uphold public safety and maintain safe cities on their own, especially with perpetrators leveraging platforms to widen their ecosystems of likeminded individuals.

Therefore, it becomes challenging when a single government agency is working alone for public safety/safe city and not involving the communities in all phases of public safety threats: prevention, detection, response, and recovery. Another challenge is not having the right legislation to uphold public safety. For example, a high percentage of emergency calls today are made through mobile phones; a law, such as e911 in the USA, is needed for telcos to provide more accurate location information of mobile phone making emergency calls.

How are developments in technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, cloud computing, software-defined networking etc. impacting approaches to public safety? 

When I headed the IT of Singapore Police Force more than 20 years ago, my principle was that operations drive technologies. But today’s technologies are evolving and developing at such a fast pace, many new processes and operations can be introduced through the use of technologies.

Today, I believe strongly that operations and technologies are in a cycle: operations still drive technologies, and technologies can drive innovation in operations. For example, in the city of Qiqihar in China, 5,000 private taxis are able to share real-time videos from their personal in-vehicle cameras with the local police on a secured wireless broadband platform to help the police solve crimes. This is a great example of Collaborative Public Safety.

Just as the bad guys are leveraging platforms to widen their ecosystems of likeminded individuals, public safety agencies need “A Network to Fight A Network” and I call this Collaborative Public Safety, which comprises:

  • Inter-Agency Collaboration (ecosystem)
  • Communities Collaboration (ecosystem)
  • Digital Platforms to enable the ecosystems

This approach is not new. Uber leverages digital platforms to support the ecosystem of passengers and drivers. Digital platforms are built on technologies such as IoT, Big Data, cloud computing, SDN, LTE, etc.

How can ICT help in dealing with cross-regional crimes and increasing inter-governmental collaboration? 

Collaborative Public Safety, described above, is the way forward. While digital platforms aim to counter the barriers of government agencies working alone without involving other agencies or communities, there is another barrier that we need to consider: trust. Digital transformation is built on trust; just as we have to trust the AirBnB platform before we stay in the house of a stranger.

To build trust, an agency needs leadership and commitment to innovate the agency’s operations to support Collaborative Public Safety. To gain trust from other agencies and from communities, an agency needs to be transparent and respect the rule of law, including privacy.

Huawei offers a Unified Security solution platform, safeguarding the security of the device, connection and cloud, so that entities can connect, share, and even collaborate knowing the right data is accessed by the right people at the right time at the right place on the right device.

In 1996, I was fortunate to lead the implementation of the Electronic ASEANAPOL Database System to share certain criminal and crime information between the police forces of ASEAN countries. Such Collaborative Public Safety was not just built on technologies, it was built on trust between the countries, and a legal framework.

Do governments face issues in adoption of new technologies because of legacy systems and infrastructure? 

There are some specific challenges faced by public safety agencies due to legacy systems and infrastructure. These include:

  • Command & Control: multiple public safety agencies with different emergency numbers and even different operations centers; agencies also have to deal with prank or repeated emergency calls, and are largely unaware of caller locations; agencies rely only on data and mapping, with poor awareness of the extent of threats.
  • Communication: largely using voice only (e.g. TETRA, P25, analogue) with limited data; reliance on a separate network, mainly public LTE for broadband data which gives rise to problems such as high costs, additional devices, and threat of public network outage during major incidents; different agencies using different devices/networks; blind spots or damaged infrastructure.
  • Cloud: hundreds of silo applications, especially across multiple public safety agencies; lacking in information sharing; difficulty in launching new services for both internal and community users.
  • Intelligence: data silos across agencies and with different data types; dealing with new modus operandi and unknowns, especially among the massive databases; lacking in real-time data processing made worst by aging technologies.
  • Surveillance: silo video surveillance sites lacking intelligent analytics; slow transfer rate even if the sites are connected; poor power and data lines in developing nations.
  • Reconnaissance: poor security and identity management of sensors/devices; complex management of such sensors/devices from vast numbers of vendors; massive scale in terms of data and concurrency.
Another issue with developed nations/cities, which tend to have legacy technologies, is resistance to adopting new technologies despite the obvious benefits. We have seen developing nations/cities leap-frog by adopting state-of-the-art safe city technologies.

While Huawei offers such state-of-the-art technologies, we also understand the need to protect the past investment by government agencies. We build solutions based on open standards allowing interoperability with older technologies, allowing the latter to be used until they run out of their operational value. For example, Collaborative Communication allows LTE-based broadband critical communication trunking system to interoperate with legacy systems, such as TETRA and P25. Huawei’s Collaborative Cloud adopts OpenStack standard to work with other brands.

Can you tell us about case studies where Huawei has worked with governments for building public safety systems? 

Take Kenya as an example. Safe City solutions that require innovative ICT for security management are part of Kenya’s national strategy. Kenya has abundant natural resources, including wildlife protection zones which occupy a large part of the country's territory. Tourism is one of the country's pillar industries, but it is vulnerable to security threats. Huawei partnered with Safaricom, Kenya’s leading mobile network operator, and discovered the following challenges:

  1. Legacy Systems: Analog trunking systems were still being used for emergency communications; outdated devices left systems vulnerable to interference from external signals, leading to unclear communications.
  1. Disparate Systems: Kenya’s police system included numerous agencies across the country, creating difficulties in planning and building subsystems into the solution for quick use across agencies and multiple locations.

       3. Project Delivery: Complexity of the project required collaboration with upstream and downstream enterprises in the industry chain.

Keyna’s National Police Service Commission has now deployed a high-speed private broadband network, reliant in part on Huawei’s proprietary wireless eLTE solution. In regions without CCTV, 1,800+ HD cameras have been implemented for use by over 7,500 police officers and 196 police stations.

The new infrastructure links its command center using Huawei’s converged command solution with over a thousand high-definition cameras in downtown Nairobi, more than a hundred cameras at city checkpoints and any number of wireless devices in the hands of officers in the field.

Authorities have panoramic video surveillance of Nairobi’s urban center, and a highly-agile visualized command and dispatch setup, running on satellite-based GPS and software-based GIS, the geographic information system designed to store and manipulate GPS data.

An intelligent video analysis platform has been established to manage video resources and meet a variety of service needs, including real-time surveillance, video browsing, data sharing and evidence collection.

The new system has enhanced police collaboration, coordination, decision-making, more rapid response to security incidents and quick identification of useful clues and more efficient resolution of criminal cases.

We’re received great feedback from our customer in Kenya:

  1. On November 26, 2015, the system successfully guaranteed the Pope's visit where 0.12 square kilometers gathered 300,000 people and 10,000 police without zero incidents and complaints.
  1. According to an annual report by the Kenya Police, the crime rate in regions covered by Huawei's solutions was reduced by 46% between 2014 and 2015.
  1. In an interview in July 2016, Kenyan tourism minister said the number of international visitor arrivals in Kenya had increased by 14%.
  1. Kenya's gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 5.8% in 2016, the growth rate was higher than that in 2015, according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) 5.7%. The report also said Kenya's economic growth last year was largely due to the strong recovery in tourism. As the security situation improved, the number of international visitors visited in 2016 reached 1.34 million, an increase of 13.5%.

A safer environment helps stimulate investment and employment, improve how people work and live, and contribute to sustainable social and economic development.

Could you share your vision of what public safety would look like in a smart city? 

Collaborative Communication and Collaborative Cloud mentioned above are part of this vision, which I call Collaborative C4ISR, or C-C4ISR:

  • Collaborative Command & Control (C2), enabling a converged and visualized command center, allowing multiple agencies to work together through a single emergency number with automatic call analysis, filtering and distribution, and with visualization beyond mapping, such as real-time video surveillance and social media integration.
  • Collaborative Communication (C), an enterprise LTE-based broadband critical communication trunking system that allows voice, video and mobile apps on a single device, and with the ability to interoperate with other and legacy systems. It must have a rapid version for fast deployment in areas with no coverage.
  • Collaborative Cloud (C), an OpenStack-based scalable and elastic platform that maximizes computing resources, supports information exchange, allows user-centric apps, provides dynamic resource allocation when demand surges, and facilitates agile deployment of new services.
  • Collaborative Intelligence (I), using Big Data technologies including massively parallel processing database and analytical algorithms, to discover unknowns and to connect the dots.
  • Collaborative Surveillance (S), a two-tiered intelligent video surveillance system for effective analysis and efficient archival, with virtualized processing at the edge nodes, and super-fast transfer of high resolution video between edge nodes and central node.
  • Collaborative Reconnaissance (R), a secured IoT cloud platform, with unified API interface for sensors from various suppliers that supports massive concurrent processing.
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