Smart cities can benefit from the widespread use of data and technology. However, in order to leverage the benefit of new technologies, standards are needed. Not only do they allow for the provision of competitively priced and effective products and services but they also provide clear descriptions of best practice and enable common approaches to tackling common challenges.
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 with the aim of providing a holistic approach to address complex situations. The Chair of SyC Smart Cities, Michael Mulquin has recently published an article in the IET Smart Cities Journal which provides a thorough overview of the work of the IEC in supporting effective smart city standardization, including an update on the current work items.
Defining a smart city
Mulquin begins by defining a smart city as a “city where improvements in quality of life, services, sustainability and resilience are accelerated by the widespread and transformative use of data and technology”.
He notes that a smart city is not only about incremental improvements to the current ways of doing things but rather about the implementation of new and better ways of doing so. Mulquin considers it to be about “transformational change”.
The challenge of developing smart city standards
The development of smart city standards can help cities all over the world to benefit more quickly and effectively from global best practice. It can also provide new and profitable opportunities for industry.
In his article, Mulquin group the standards used by cities into three categories:
- basic standards that help cities work,
- new standards that support incremental improvements, and,
- big picture standards that focus on citywide transformation.
However, many challenges exist in the development of such standards. They include the uniqueness of cities, the need to address the requirements of different stakeholders and the fact that cities are complicated systems of systems.
Mulquin also notes that a smart solution developed within any one of layer of the city will most likely require a change in some or all of the others layers. No solution developed within one of these layers will work unless the required changes in the other layers are also addressed.
Work of the IEC
The IEC has developed many standards that are important for the efficient functioning of cities. However, rather than addressing each of these standards in isolation, the IEC developed a systems approach to smart city standards.
According to Mulquin, a systems approach can be defined as “as a holistic, iterative, discovery process that helps by first defining the right problems in complex situations and then by finding elegant, well-designed and workable solutions. It incorporates not only engineering, but also human and social aspects”.
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.
While SyC Smart Cities may develop some systems standards, such as frameworks or use cases, its most important role is to bring the expertise of the 20,000 IEC experts to help solve the problems of cities, and to collaborate with other standards development organizations to develop coherent packages of city standards.