The National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Department of Homeland Security are sponsoring a cybersecurity challenge to develop secure technology for “smart cities.”

The 2018 Global City Teams Challenge, or GCTC, will focus on cybersecurity for networked systems that cities increasingly rely on to run essential services. “The more than 100 existing GCTC collaborations worldwide have allowed cities to use wireless sensors to test water mains for leaks, or to dim the streetlights when a sidewalk is empty of pedestrians,” notes a NIST news release.

But these capabilities come with vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers, which is why NIST, and the Cyber Security Division of DHS’s Science and Technology Directorate, are sponsoring this year’s event, called the Smart and Secure Cities and Communities Challenge.

“The GCTC has been extremely successful in creating partnerships between cities and companies,” said Chris Greer, director of NIST’s Smart Grid and Cyber-Physical Systems Program. “But we need cybersecurity and trustworthiness in the projects themselves. So, we’re taking on the new challenge of helping the teams converge on secure solutions.”

“We also will be encouraging innovators from the cybersecurity industry and research communities — which have had limited connections to the smart city ecosystem in the past — to help teams understand how cybersecurity can be incorporated,” said Douglas Maughan, director of DHS’s Cyber Security Division. “Strategically, communities should take time to understand the possible threats and then adjust their particular systems iteratively to deal with them.”

The new challenge was announced at the 2017 GCTC Expo in Washington, D.C., Aug. 28-29.