Smart cities standards, the story so far


Saviour Alfino Smart Cities Standards Strategy Project Manager at BSI discusses how standards are shaping the future city landscape…

There are many reasons to support the case of the smart city, be that creating a ‘greener’ environment, with improved use of shared resources and greater efficiency. Or simply accommodating the needs of a world which demands better services and facilities for its growing populations. With these goals in mind the need for an intelligent use and sharing of existing data and resource within a city, through radical, new and innovative means, was needed. For this to work successfully a common language had to be set out through the development of smart cities guidance.

The UK leads the world in shaping business standards and to make the most of the global opportunities from smart cities, experts representing all stakeholders played their role in structuring their knowledge. As such BSI, the UK’s National Standards Body has been involved in a number of smart cities standards initiatives in the last 3 years with the core aim being to help accelerate the progress of the smart cities market. By addressing a number of key market barriers through the creation of leadership guides, management frameworks and other type of standards and activities, it has been able to pave the way for work in this arena.

So what are the key barriers to shaping the smart cities market? The centralised nature of public sector spending in the UK impacts negatively on the influence UK cities have in creating ambitious business cases that drive the smart city agenda forward. In addition, there is a need for building an ecosystem to share and build new service models using data, hence issues around data sharing become key in order to enable interoperability and break down market islands. In view of these and many other barriers, a number of key initiatives have been launched. BSI’s smart cities standards work provides a foundation of knowledge to help establish a common vision for smart cities. The first stage of work has focused on establishing a common understanding of the benefits of smart cities and the approaches that can be taken to improve city performance.

Specific projects include:

–          Establishing common terminology for smart cities, promoting a shared understanding of concepts;

–          Preparing smart city planning guidelines to set out how major new residential, retail and business developments can support the wider plans of that city to become smarter;

–          Providing a decision-making framework for smart city leaders, setting out how to deliver a smart city project.

The latest addition to the portfolio is a guide PD 8100 Smart Cities overview – Guide which provides an overview description of a smart city, hence providing a basis for communicating the benefits of smart cities to key decision makers. In addition, this guide provides a number of tools for decision makers such as a smart city process framework and a capability assessment/ gap analysis diagnostic tool to help cities in the development and implementation of a roadmap towards becoming smarter.

As an integral part of the second stage of this programme, BSI and the Future Cities Catapult have joined forces and created the Cities Standards Institute (CSI). The CSI board is composed of some of the largest UK cities and a number of key industry players that came together to explore market barriers even further.

Two immediate challenges have been identified by the CSI board and consequently 2 further initiatives have been launched:

A decision-making framework

This is required to outline good practice in a number of areas when it comes to data sharing and interoperability. This management framework will address issues such as privacy, security, integrity, provenance, availability, quality and format of data. It aims to support data sharing in cities and between cities and the establishment of data sharing agreements, particularly where data is being shared by multiple organisations at once. Missing data or misinterpretation of data can lead to the wrong actions being taken by city decision-makers. A decision-making framework for sharing data can help ensure that they have the best overall data on which to base decisions.

Leadership guide

This is also being considered to address the issue around developing sound smart cities business cases. It will focus on assessing existing business models and the suitability of alternative business models that could help drive the smart cities agenda forward. For instance, collaborative procurement models will be explored. This aims to help cities to benefit from new technology in commissioning new projects and exploit opportunities where the procurement process can support a smart city agenda. In addition, considerations when planning and preparing smart city business cases will be explored (audience, defining projects, criteria measures, solutions, costs, benefits and risks), together with guidance on securing funding for smart city initiatives. Targeted mainly at business decision makers in cities, and also of interest to local authority procurement officers, suppliers of products and services to cities, city funders and citizens. As the price of digital technologies fall, market forces will drive their adoption to make infrastructure and city services more efficient. However, there is a need to shape the market to make sure the right conditions are created for innovation through citizen/community and business engagement. In order to achieve this objective, the CSI board will address market barriers as the need arises and ensure the right engagement is in place with UK government forums, European and international activities.

Saviour Alfino

Smart Cities Standards Strategy Project Manager



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