Columbus, Ohio: America’s first smart city

Columbus, Ohio, was recently announced the winner of the United States Department of Transportation’s (DOT) “Smart City” Challenge. As the top city in this lucrative competition, Columbus will receive $40 million from DOT and $10 million from Vulcan, Inc., a company founded by Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen. This $50 million award will be matched with $90 million from the city’s business and community partners. The goal of the project is to specifically infuse cutting-edge technology into the city’s transportation system in an effort to improve mobility for Columbus residents.

While the city’s proposals show an impressive and holistic vision for how technology can help Columbus residents with more accessible and efficient transportation, this unique opportunity invites cybersecurity risks that cannot be ignored. As we’ve seen with other recent technological advances including drones, advanced surveillance, self-driving cars and robotics, new technology can lead to vulnerabilities in cybersecurity and increased risk of cyber-attacks.

For example, Columbus’ proposal includes the establishment of three electric self-driving shuttles, a new bus rapid transit center, street-side mobility kiosks, smart lighting and more in hopes of connecting more residents to jobs, improving access to health care in neighborhoods and increasing safety. But what happens when autotomized services are interrupted or become inaccessible? Could a smart city quickly recover from a technology glitch or cybersecurity breach? Commuting would be forced to a halt. Electricity services could be suspended. Streets may be darkened. Public services, such as garbage collection, mail delivery or public utilities, could also be affected.

Many agree that now is a good time to promote technology in cities. As more people choose urban lifestyles, a wide range of innovations are in reach to aid in the design and operation of growing cities, like Columbus. However, the more interconnected and interdependent cities become on technology, the greater the impact an attack will have the innovative systems they rely on.

As the winner of this unprecedented competition, Columbus has a great opportunity to be a leader in technological innovation, specifically in the transportation world. In order to protect the public and protect the advancements, the city must seriously consider the possibility of cyber attacks and other cybersecurity implications of becoming a smart city.  

General News, Prevention