The United Nations had designated 31 October as World Cities Day. This year, the UN has selected the theme of Changing the world: innovations and better life for future generations with the aim of increasing awareness on how digital innovations can be used for urban service delivery to enhance the quality of life and improve the urban environment.
As stated by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, “Let us commit to embracing innovation to ensure a better life for future generations and chart a path towards sustainable, inclusive urban development that benefits all”.
Smart cities can offer the tools to improve the quality of life in cities. According to Michael Mulquin, Chair of the IEC Systems Committee on Smart cities (SyC Smart cities), they can be defined as cities where improvements in quality of life, city services, sustainability and resilience are accelerated by the widespread and transformative use of data and technology. A smart city understands how to use data and technology efficiently and effectively in order to improve the quality of life for everyone living in the city.
Importance of standards
Data and technology open up great possibilities but they also expose us to potential risk and real damage. Mulquin explains that standards are needed not only for new technologies and new ways of using data but also on how to manage the whole eco-system to make sure that life is safe and secure for the people who live in the city.
Standards can help. According to Mulquin, standards are often considered to be about products and process. But they also provide a clear description of agreed best practices. As Mulquin noted, they offer “a common solution for a mutual problem”.
Standards can also accelerate the move to smarter cities through economies of scale. Mulquin noted that “standards build scale. Many cities implementing the same things will lead to cheaper and better products”. City planners do not need to worry about being locked into a single vendor or that different technologies will not work together.
According to Mulquin, “standards offer a consensus-based approach to identifying workable solutions”. They are considered objective and unbiaised, offering solutions that are trusted. And, with input from city planners, industry and academia, they represent the interest of all parties involved.
Standards can also provide definitions and frameworks to help smart city planners communicate. Mulquin noted, “they define the key things and concepts within a domain and show their relationships with each other. They help me understand the smart city and talk about it with others”.
Standards offer a means to measure and guide progress. The use of assessment methods such as indicators/KPIs or maturity models can give a precise measure against which a city can assess its progress.
Work of IEC SyC Smart cities
Standards are already vital to cities used for energy grids, lighting, transport and city services. The IEC has identified over 1800 standards that already impact smart cities.
The IEC has taken a systems approach to smart cities with the aim of providing a holistic approach to address complex situations. The SyC Smart cities is active in coordinating the standards work of various IEC committees as well as other groups such as ISO with the aim of promoting the development of standards to assist in the integration, interoperability and effectiveness of city systems.