Trusted Systems, Smarter Lighting

Eric Talley
Business Development Manager - Smart Cities

Cities worldwide have been embracing the smart revolution: using data flows to guide decisions has enabled everything from smoother traffic flows to better recycling rates. Lighting is no exception. Smart technologies can be used to do everything from optimising light levels to save energy, to integrating electric vehicle charging points into street lighting systems. 

Behind every smart lighting system is a Central Management System (CMS) such as Schréder EXEDRA. This brings together lighting assets, sensors and other Internet of Things (IoT) devices so that systems can be controlled remotely for maximum operational efficiency. 

Being a smart city does not mean being a vulnerable city. Urban centres around the world are targets for cybercrime because they house vital data from their citizens. Protecting that data means updating your cybersecurity at every turn. As a city’s IoT device count grows, so should network security requirements. 

At Schréder, we created Schréder EXEDRA to be Simple, Modular, Automation-driven, Resilient and Trustable - as every option on the market should be. In this blog, we consider why being Trustable matters for cities looking to go smart. 

Why Trustable?

Modern cities are driven by data drawn from every device across the city, from street lights to security cameras. Every public infrastructure asset that is connected to the internet is a potential target for a cyberattack. 

Cyberattacks have shut down the municipal tram system in Dublin and power plants in Johannesburg. NotPetya hit some of the world's biggest companies, bringing global ports to a standstill. In 2007, two men hacked traffic control systems in Los Angeles, turning off four traffic lights and creating gridlock and traffic issues for days.  
The answer to cybersecurity risks is not to give up on the myriad benefits smart systems can bring. Smart lighting provides better driving environments, safer sidewalks, visibility for first responders, and helpful insights for cities wanting to improve neighbourhoods.

Instead, we need to mitigate risk by following industry best practices and creating Trustable systems. In April 2023, the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and its global counterparts issued new guidance on cybersecurity best practices for smart cities. Trusted, secure systems have never been more important.

Trusted, secure systems have never been more important for smart cities which is why Schréder EXEDRA is ISO 27001 certified

Open, Secure, Scalable

Cities are open spaces, where people come to live, explore and exchange ideas. However, some infrastructure systems can lock down options instead of opening up choices. Interoperability with existing lighting systems and assets is vital for trust and security: assets that do not integrate properly are a weak spot.  
Smart systems should be regularly tested and audited to ensure that data remains private, safe and secure. Ideally, systems should be certified to ISO 27001, the world's most recognised standard for information security management systems. We are proud that Schréder EXEDRA has achieved this standard. Firmware needs to be regularly updated, ideally remotely, to minimise risk and maintenance costs. And there should be secure policies and rules on each layer of the solution, so-called “end-to-end security”.  
Cities grow, and so do systems, so scalability is important. Schréder EXEDRA is based on Microsoft Azure, which is hosted in the most secure environment imaginable. Just one example: Azure’s servers analyse 8 trillion threat signals daily. We can therefore deploy Schréder EXEDRA in line with specific local requirements/policies aiming to reinforce security and/or data privacy. 

Smart Solutions for a Maritime Metropolis

Bristol, one of the UK’s most vibrant cities, chose to convert around 29,000 street lights to low energy LED units and install the Schréder EXEDRA CMS as part of a £12 million upgrade to its lighting system. In the UK, public realm and street lighting are treated as critical infrastructure, so cybersecurity matters.

Bristol implemented Schréder EXEDRA to manage its street lights in part thanks to its cybersecurity features

Schréder created a trustable solution with access to a wealth of cybersecurity experience. For example, when a vulnerability was discovered in the MOVEit app used by the council in June 2023, we were able to quickly demonstrate that the council's data hadn't been compromised. This responsiveness is part of the ongoing customer relationship that sets Schréder apart. With more than 500,000 luminaires and other assets controlled by Schréder EXEDRA worldwide, we learn from each one and always put cybersecurity first.

Minimising Vulnerabilities, Maximising Usefulness

Trustable means dealing with threats effectively, at every point in the system. Schréder EXEDRA applies secure policies and rules to each layer of the solution: device, communication, data, and the app used by the customer to control the CMS. 

The edge of the control system is the node, which passes information back to the CMS. The node might be cellular, or in a mesh configuration. Regardless of the configuration, they are vulnerable to “sniffing” attacks, where the flow of wireless data is intercepted and the hacker can gain access to devices or a network to control part of your lighting system; our systems come are encrypted to prevent this.
At the other end of the scale, Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks have not gone away as a threat. The CMS should analyse all traffic at the edge of the application before it has the chance to infiltrate. Hackers are refining their methods every day. Software should be able to withstand external testing on a regular basis by third parties - something Microsoft Azure actively invites.  

Finally, the failure point in smart city systems is rarely the actual servers. Two of the most common failures in cloud security are human error and weak credentials. There is a data breach every 39 seconds on average. System owners can counter this by encrypting passwords, changing them frequently, and using firewalls. Above all, users need to be educated, ideally with specialised training in place to reduce these risks. A system is only as trustable as its users!

SMART Choices, Trustable Outcomes

Urban centres worldwide are targets for cybercrime because they house vital data from their citizens. Activating a system should take into account the system’s certification, compatibility with existing assets, cloud provider, security of the system’s edges, and include robust training for everyone who has access. To explore in more detail why Trust matters, read our white paper.  

To learn more about what Schréder EXEDRA can offer your city, get in touch with our sales team today.

About the writer
Eric Talley is the Smart City Business Development Manager for Schréder in North America. A market leader in Smart City technology with expertise in electronic security and network infrastructure, Eric is focused on bridging the gap between smart technology and digital literacy to better improve the lives of citizens in our communities.

Connect with Eric on LinkedIn.