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Global IoT Partnership Helping to Secure Arizona Town

Florence, Ariz., and India-based Subex are partnering on an Internet of Things initiative to advance end-to-end cybersecurity, while at the same time teaching residents about how they can secure their own technology.

An Arizona town with a history of adopting smart city initiatives has launched a new Internet of Things (IoT) security lab as a way of engaging the public about cybersecurity, while also advancing a program designed to secure the community’s public infrastructure.  

A little over a year ago, the town of Florence partnered with Subex, a global company specializing in critical infrastructure security solutions, to advance cybersecurity research and development that could be scaled and used by other communities.

The town, which has long sought to be a pioneer in IoT, initially partnered with the company to work toward a goal of total end-to-end cybersecurity in Florence. Since then, Subex, which is based in Bangalore, India, and has partnerships in countries around the world, has been using the town as a testing ground for new security solutions and products.  

“They said, 'We want to develop some new tools to be able to sell to local governments to protect their public infrastructure through solutions,'” said Town Manager Brent Billingsley in an interview with Government Technology. Billingsley noted that for smaller communities and governments, there are myriad issues that require attention and defense. 

“In a government setting like ours, we’re not just worried about protection against threats that may come from the Internet. We’re also concerned about additive devices that can come on our network; we’re concerned with radio frequency communications; we’re concerned with VPNs we have on our systems ... all those things and how they work together on our network are issues of concern for us." Subex, he said, wanted to create security solutions for all of them. 

Trenton Shaffer, Florence's information technology manager, said that much of Subex's research has centered on finding weak or vulnerable spots in community infrastructure and creating security solutions for those areas. 

To help with outreach surrounding the initiatives, the town recently launched its IoT security lab designed to educate the public about future smart city initiatives, officials announced Thursday. Operated out of the community library, the lab is specifically targeted at a younger audience to encourage local young people to invest in skills and knowledge surrounding IoT and cybersecurity, Billingsley said. 

“Not only do you want to create jobs, but you want to keep your kids in town,” Billingsley said. “You want to have them educated and have them come back to town and raise their families here — that’s where the IoT lab came from. How do we engage our citizens? How do we engage our youth? How do we get them excited about technology?”  

The ultimate goal for Florence is to turn it into a role model for smart city initiatives, Billingsley added. 

“Our ultimate goal is to be an innovative smart city, but to do it in a different way than most others,” he said. 

Vinod Kumar, managing director and CEO of Subex, said in a statement that the newly launched lab would help to raise public awareness about issues surrounding cybersecurity. 

“I am confident that this lab will prove to be immensely useful in raising awareness on cybersecurity across Arizona. In a world where the security environment continues to be threatened by the emergence of new threats in various forms, it is essential for all stakeholders to maintain the highest levels of situational and operational awareness. This lab is a significant step in that direction,” said Kumar.

Lucas Ropek is a former staff writer for Government Technology.