Public safety and critical infrastructure agencies should consider developing a pan-Australian data infrastructure, similar to our academic research community, to empower a suite of new digitally driven services, according to a recent expert seminar in Canberra.
The seminar was discussing the strategic opportunity for domestic security and safety agencies to design an integrated approach to technology system development. The opportunity comes as the underlying networking and operating systems become all digital, opening up the possibility of a powerful digital platform that all federal and state agencies can contribute to and use.
The panel agreed such a platform approach would be the foundation for a suite of services that are expected to have profound impact on how we live, reducing car accidents through automation, better emergency service response through truly unified command, communications and control systems, and a whole suite of connected cameras, devices and drones to support public safety in major crowd precincts and critical infrastructure systems.
The panellists were Fuad Siddiqui, senior partner at Nokia Bell Labs, the general manager of Transport Technology Futures Taskforce, Roland Pittar, and the Chair of the IoT Alliance’s Platforms & Interoperability group, Geof Heydon. The panel was facilitated by The Mandarin publisher, Tom Burton.
The seminar heard Australia was in a similar position to where the US was in the 50s and 60s. Siddiqui explained that having studied the golden century of economic growth in the US, his team found several core physical foundational network technologies that contributed directly to the remarkable economic growth and technological superiority of the US over the last decades. These included transport, health and communication systems that began small, but became increasingly foundational for the US economy.
There are two things to keep in mind, according to Siddiqui: “One is that the individual diffusion was very important, that they had to be widespread before a tipping point was reached. The second, is that they have to work in tandem before a massive aggregation growth came about.”
It was suggested that by taking a similar ecosystem approach to the world of public safety and infrastructure resilience, this would provide a powerful incubator to a suite of services to support the various mission critical systems that underpin and secure the public infrastructure domains governments run or over see.
There was a consensus for the need to improve data standardisation so that services can be interoperable and artificial intelligence be exploited to predict and prevent public safety incidents.
“What I find really interesting and valuable is that it’s a layer of data that can be standardised whilst the telecommunication layers are becoming unified and consistent,” said Heydon.
“It is possible to make the data layer more universally standardised than telecommunication layers because of all the large investments that happen in those different agencies over time.”
This he said highlighted the challenge for Australian thinking: to progress to a practical testing and implementing stage rather than remaining at the theoretical planning stage.
“In the academic research world, they recognised 15 years ago they needed to start analysing standardising ontologies and sharing frameworks,” said Burton.
The seminar heard that while big computing power can help sort unstructured data, the big tech companies such as Google had been active proponents of building standardised terminology and classification to facilitate widespread use of API’s and data exchange.
This would be critical to enabling various agencies to work in a unified manner to improve their front line response, control and decision making. The development of common standards would underpin a whole suite of new digital empowered services. These include the use of AI to rapidly compare say images and the use of predictive algorithms to identify early threats to mission critical systems that support much of Australia’s modern infrastructure.
Fuad Siddiqui, senior partner at Nokia Bell Labs, encouraged the seminar to consider this from the point of view of service delivery.
“Most of data is very unstructured. Big data is nothing but noise. I think what is important is small data.”
The machines forecasted to run algorithms require smaller sets of data in order to translate them into customised context.
“In the next generation of architecture, some of the intelligence will reside at the edge is very local to the constituents and the local population. So the contextualisation of service delivery can happen, and machine learning algorithms will play an important role,” said Siddiqui.
This would also help high level decision making promoting the type of multi-disciplinary decision making that is increasingly being seen as critical to high performance incident response..
“An agency who knows about something is a contributor into that knowledge. They’re not necessarily the provider of an answer,” said Heydon.
“The most likely innovation and the most likely benefit to society is likely to come in the gaps between those traditional agencies because those agencies have all become very good at what they do, in isolation.”
Security and integrity baked in
The seminar heard that the current pivot to all digital systems and embracing of latest generation networks created a powerful opportunity to bake in new security and resilience approaches.
Siddiqui noted that cyber defence was already drastically changing from the traditional sense of firewalls and digital perimeter security.
“In this world of programmability and software defined networks, we need to implement a complete new holistic security mode.”
This would be needed to be supported by a mature framework of operating practices and protocols to ensure high level resilience. The roll out of the EFTPOS system in the late 90’s was suggested as a good model to learn from. The EFTPOS system has built high level trust through a strong system that secures millions of payment devices and enables sophisticated financial services to be managed across a wide portfolio of retailers and banks, in real time.
Similarly it was noted the DTA had developed a major framework for managing digital identity, which forensically detailed how to ensure ongoing citizen trust in identity management.
The seminar heard of the importance of ensuring citizens had a clear understanding of what the data was being used for and for agencies to take a proactive approach to ethical issues, which inevitably are becoming more pronounced and complicated.
“The big players in artificial intelligence are now putting a lot of work into how they continue to monitor the ethics of the software as the software evolves,” said Heydon.
“Being able to monitor and provide mechanisms for adjusting ethics is a very, very sophisticated, very high end analytics piece of functionality. Those big players are working on that issue for that reason but have a tick mark for ethical behaviour is a really touch one because it’s just too easy to be dishonest.”
Organisation is key
It was observed that there will need to be strong agency, portfolio and jurisdictional collaboration around a broad shared vision for development of mission critical safety and infrastructure systems.
Roland Pittar, encouraged agencies to embrace collaboration moving into the next generation of networking.
“Building these collaborative approaches so that we can all share our thinking and what our forward casts might be in order to make the best shared observations and decisions on going forward,” said Pittar
Pittar explained the Transport Technology Futures Taskforce was an example of this collaborative approach. The taskforce is seeking to facilitate a co-ordinated approach to the use of autonomous road vehicle, expected to be in use in the early 2020’s.
Autonomous cars are expected to rely on telecommunications and IoT infrastructure to support their various data hungry systems. By taking a system wide approach it would facilitate common standards and compliance, and build a base for innovation and new services
The work around the development of a new public safety mobile communication system was also cited as a good example of high level governmental leadership. The NSW Telco Authority has taken a leadership role, working closely with Victoria and Commonwealth agencies to first create a framework, then requirements and now a proof of concept all Australian trial of a new mobile broadband network.
This will need a pan-agency governance structure to help develop the network and the plethora of new emergency and safety services expected to come from this new communications platform.
The consolidation of the Commonwealth’s emergency, safety and domestic security agencies into the Home Affairs portfolio, was seen as a real opportunity to develop a pan-Australian approach to an integrated all digital vision to combat the increasingly volatile domestic and international threat environment.