Fifteen - the number of vehicle-ramming attacks from 2016 to 2017. Most recently, a man driving a vehicle on the streets of New York City in Lower Manhattan intentionally steered a pickup truck down a bike path, killing eight.
It was an act of terror, said Mayor Bill de Blasio. It was the deadliest attack in New York City since 9/11, taking place near One World Trade Center.
These vehicle-ramming attacks have presented security services around the world with new, complex, setbacks in the fight against terrorism that occurs in cities.
Stockholm, London, Germany
In Stockholm, Sweden, a vehicle-ramming attack in April 2017 had the city turning to a sturdy material that could stop vehicles in their tracks: concrete. After the attack, authorities asserted that putting obstacles in the way of vehicles in densely populated areas would help curb the likelihood of a vehicle driving down a sidewalk.
The street where the attack occurred, Drottninggatan (Queen’s street) already has 38 lions. But the country wants to purportedly order in larger, heavier concrete lions. The town would also start using concrete blocks and wooden furniture to create further obstacles.
Similarly, concrete barriers were placed at the site of the Berlin Christmas Attack of 2016.
In London, a shocking attack on London Bridge has led to sizeable barriers placed in the middle of sidewalks to prevent vehicles mounting and driving down the length of the sidewalk.
Do the security measures solve the security issues? Not by any means. That’s why Sweden is going a step further.
After the NYC attack this week, Stockholm’s transport commissioner, Daniel Halldén, stated that the concrete lions were unlikely to stop an attack of the same magnitude as NYC. To safeguard Stockholm a new technology is being considered: geo-fencing.
Here is a brief explanation of what a geo-fence is:
Geofences can be setup to send out notifications once an unwelcome entity breaches a designated boundary. These notifications alert security services as soon as the virtual border is traversed.
The geofence requires an electronic device to make an identification. Historically these devices have been smartphones with GPS capabilities.
Whilst not every car and truck will have a smartphone built in, they could all contain a RFID tag. RFID tag technology is infiltrating a plethora of new industries. A recent upsurge of RFID tags has been observed in the retail, agricultural, and now transportation industries. They are considered, at present, the best way to track items in a multifaceted system.
The geofencing system has another possible benefit; it has the ability to notify and alert users, via their smartphones, of the comings and goings within a geo-fenced area. The intention behind this is to alert those within the system that there is a potential threat and consequently reduce casualties during a terrorist attack.
Daniel Halldén believes, however, that the technology needs to be more sophisticated if it is to defend civilians against terrorism. He may be alluding to an interconnected system of vehicles linked to a central hub. He envisions that all vehicles entering the geo-fenced area will have their speed controlled. He said:
“What we need is a system where larger vehicles can’t drive through the tolls without a device that controls the speed. If a vehicle drives too fast in a spot where it’s not allowed, it would automatically stop.”
Other futurists believe that we could begin to see geospatial intelligence employed in an effort to combat terrorism; real-time satellite and unidentified aerial vehicles monitoring from above the earth. This will indeed prove a controversial form of engineered surveillance, but if it has the potential to save lives in the future it is likely to be embraced.
Hermesauto. “Lions and Sandbags: Europe Protects against Car Attacks.” The Straits Times, 18 Aug. 2017, www.straitstimes.com/world/europe/lions-and-sandbags-europe-protects-against-car-attacks.
Local, TT/The. “Sweden Mulls Introducing Digital 'Anti-Terror' Fences.” The Local, The Local, 2 Nov. 2017, www.thelocal.se/20171102/sweden-plans-digital-fences-to-protect-against-terror-attacks.