The City Built for You: How Biometrics will Drive Personal Security in Smart Cities

How would you like to live in a city that’s perfect for you? Today, thanks to real time connected applications such as public transport services and heating systems that can be turned on remotely, we are used to higher levels of convenience in our lives than ever before. But as technology continues to advance, these levels of convenience look set to rise even further. With the growth of IoT sensors and big data analytics, smart cities will emerge, where everything from travel to payment systems will have the potential to enhance city living.

While projects to increase connected infrastructures in urban areas have started growing in the past few years, fully smart cities are only now starting to be built from the ground up. In October 2019, Sidewalk, a division of Google, received government approval to move forward with its plan for a £1.3 billion smart city infrastructure in Toronto.

The scheme aims to build one of the most advanced hyperconnected cities in the world, where everything in the urban area can not only connect, but also interact with its people. In this smart city, pavements will be heated via sensors and a network of underground tunnels will allow automated robots to deliver goods without clogging up roads. Thanks to rapid urban growth, 65% of the world population will be dwelling in cities by 2040, making this technology even more important to best manage the scale of our new cities.

A city tailored to your preferences

One of the greatest benefits to residents of smart cities is the level of personalisation on offer allowing users to tailor their experience of workspaces, homes or even city services.

In smart workplaces for example, buildings can automatically register that you’ve logged in and set the facilities in your meeting room to your desired lighting ambience or temperature through a process called commercial building automation. Similarly, bike hire schemes can register your preferred route to work, and suggest ways to avoid the traffic, to help you get to where you need to be.

To achieve this level of personalisation, connected systems need a way to identify each user and tailor everything to their preferences. With a fingerprint biometric ID card, or city card with fingerprint biometric authentication, users can authenticate themselves and connect to systems based on personal information. This means all technology in a smart city, from lighting choices to building temperatures, can be attuned to each identity allowing citizens to enjoy personalised city experiences.

Securing smart cities

While smart cities can offer unprecedented levels of convenience to improve our everyday lives they also rely on vast networks of data, including personal customer information to predict our preferences. This has led to concerns around the high levels of data used and stored by smart systems, and the security provided to our data.

We know that existing personal and unique identifiers, such as passwords and PINs are no longer secure enough to protect our systems, and this is even more important in hyper-connected cities as, once a city becomes ‘smart’ the inter-connected networks widen, and the potential for cyberattacks or data breaches grows. So as this trend continues, how can we develop smart cities that are both convenient and secure?

In order to resolve this, it is important for providers of smart city networks to establish a chain of trust in their technology. This is a process common in cybersecurity, where each component in a network is validated by a secure root. In wide connected networks this is vital to protect sensitive personal or business data and ensure consumer trust in the whole system.

Therefore, fingerprint biometric authentication should sit at the root of that chain of trust in smart city networks. Here, a smart card embedded with a fingerprint sensor will provide users with the ability to personalise systems as well as ensure that only the right people have access to specific information – all in one secure element.

Today, fingerprint sensor technology has advanced to a point where shared databases are no longer needed. When combined with contactless smart card technology this creats a unifying device allowing users to access banking, retail and connected services all from one place.

Protecting citizen data

Importantly, on enrollment to a fingerprint biometric smart card, the owner’s fingerprint would be immediately transformed into an abstract biometric template. This is then stored in the secure element of the card’s EMV chip meaning the full fingerprint image isn’t stored and the data never leaves the card. With this secure biometric authentication process, fingerprint data is held securely on the card, not in a shared database and cyberhacks or breaches of fingerprints aren’t scalable.

By eliminating passwords and PINs, fingerprint biometric authentication smart cards will provide a revolutionary step in the field of cybersecurity, and allay some of the concerns around the security of the large levels of data needed in a hyper-connected city.

Ultimately, in the smart cities of the future, a fingerprint biometric smart card is the ideal solution to balance personalised services with a high level of authentication, security and privacy and ensure that we can live in a city tailored to us.