Why cities must become smarter, now

Launch of global platform, initiated by the IEC

By Gabriela Ehrlich

Everybody wants to build Smart Cities but what is needed to make them come true? Which city pain points are hindering Smart City development and how can they be best overcome? A new online community initiated by the IEC in partnership with ISO and ITU aims to help stakeholders worldwide make their cities smarter. It is part of the lead-up to the first World Smart City Forum which will take place in Singapore on 13 July 2016.

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Cities: major challenges ahead

Sufficient fresh water; universal access to cleaner energy; the ability to travel efficiently from one point to another; a sense of safety and security: these are the kinds of promises modern cities must fulfil if they are to stay competitive and provide a decent quality of life to their citizens.

By 2050, 66% of the world’s population is expected to live in urban areas. The challenge will be to supply these populations with basic resources like safe food, clean water and sufficient energy, while also ensuring overall economic, social and environmental sustainability. Already today, cities consume more than 70% of all energy produced globally.

Electricity: No city will be smart without it

Cities are giant systems with countless subsystems. All of them depend on electric power and hardware to move people and things, collect data and exchange information. Without electricity, it is simply impossible to build an efficient urban infrastructure: no electricity = no Smart City.

Connecting things: a need for harmonized rules

Cities need to substantially increase the efficiency in which they operate and use their resources.  Major efficiency improvements can be achieved by horizontally interconnecting individual systems such as electricity, water, sanitation and waste management, transportation, but also security, environmental monitoring or weather intelligence.

But interconnection is easier said than done. Many of the currently deployed systems in cities originate from different suppliers and they are maintained by various agencies that generally work in isolation. To connect them both physically and virtually, standardized interfaces need to be put in place.

Also, most Smart Cities are not built from scratch in one go. They gradually evolve and become smarter, bit by bit. With time, these individual islands of smartness grow together and interconnect, but only if they use the same harmonized technical rules that are embodied in Standards.

Facilitating tailored Smart City development

Building a Smart City is highly complex. Every city faces its own challenges and requires its own mix of solutions. However, there is one common denominator that greatly simplifies this task.

International Standards can considerably facilitate the development of tailor-made solutions that are adapted to the particular circumstances of a given city. Standards are essential enablers that assure an expected performance level and compatibility between technologies. They embody strong technical and process expertise and facilitate the replication of outcomes. Standards propose common metrics that permit the comparative analysis and benchmarking of solutions.

Standards also open the door to a larger choice of products, increased competition and help foster innovation. In a systems approach they enable the integration of structures from different suppliers. This benefits both the city and its citizens.

Standards = many solutions

The large majority of big and small companies that build electrical and electronic components, devices or systems that are sold beyond a single market participate in IEC work and use IEC International Standards.

And while Smart City development will go far beyond integrating the right technologies, it is comforting to know that many of these devices and systems will support smooth and integrated Smart City development.

World Smart City online community

The aim of the online community is to engage all relevant city stakeholders globally. It will host and organize a range of in-depth discussions that will add value for these leaders, providing much more than a high-level networking platform. To help break down barriers and concretely speed up Smart City development, the community will focus on the top “pain points” that hold back Smart City development in four areas:

  • Mobility
  • Water
  • Energy
  • Cybersecurity and privacy

The community will organize regular monthly Google hangouts. The first will take place on 18 February. More information will be added online www.worldsmartcity.org/hangouts/

World Smart City Forum www.worldsmartcity.org/

The Forum will explore how interconnection can be accomplished and point to some of the tools that are already available to help cities reach their objectives faster, more efficiently and with better outcomes. The Forum will however not be solely focused on Standards.

Attendance is via registration on the World Smart City Forum website, and is free of charge for all people who register on the www.worldsmartcity.org website, members and invitees of IEC, ISO and ITU, as well as registered participants of the World Cities Summit and World Water Week. Places are limited and are first come, first served.

Practical information

Global Smart City Community: www.worldsmartcity.org

World Smart City Forum: 13 July 2016, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

Co-located with the World Cities Summit www.worldcitiessummit.com.sg/ and Singapore International Water Week www.siww.com.sg

Logo of World Smart City A new online community initiated by the IEC in partnership with ISO and ITU aims to helps stakeholders worldwide make their cities smarter
Singapore Marina Bay Sands The World Smart City Forum will take place on 13 July 2016 at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
Smart city of Vienna Most Smart Cities are not built from scratch, they gradually evolve and become smarter, bit by bit