Cities getting smarter around the world

IEC International Standards help meet the challenges faced by smart projects developers

By David Appleyard

Smart Cities promise both to provide a sustainable energy solution to the challenges of the urban environment and improved quality of life for the millions of city-dwellers across the world. IEC work underpins much of the development of such cities.

View of Songdo International Business District, Incheon, Korea View of Songdo International Business District, Incheon, Korea

It seems that the electricity distribution grid is getting smarter – and our towns and cities with it.

The drivers behind this transition are relatively well known. Some 75% of Europe’s population already lives in cities and consumes 70% of EU (European Union) energy production. In Asia a rapid increase in urban migration added more than a billion people to cities between 1980 and 2010, making Asia home to 8 out of the world’s 10 most densely populated megacities, including the top three: Mumbai and Kolkata in India, Karachi in Pakistan.

There is an overarching need to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from cities in the face of increasing urbanization.

 Naturally there are challenges, such as the need to maintain grid stability while integrating an growing body of intermittent renewable energy from wind and solar, being generated increasingly in small decentralized units. Simultaneously, there are other factors at work, such as the rise of the producer-consumer and the integration of electric vehicle charging. Meanwhile, large numbers of existing coal-fired and nuclear power plants are expected to be decommissioned in coming years. Addressing each of these issues will require the development of smarter technology.

 However, while the need for this technological advance is well understood, its execution is still in its earliest phases nearly everywhere. That’s not to say that the benefits are not recognized. Fully integrating energy generation and supply provides a clear route for sustainable use of energy and improved quality of life for urban populations.

Making European cities smarter

Acknowledging the long timescale implicit in implementing such fundamental change, the European Commission has been active in developing smart city support networks. Having launched its Smart Cities Initiative in 2011 and a European Smart Cities Innovation Partnership in July last year, EUR 365 million of EU funding has been allocated to the demonstration of urban technology solutions in 2013 under this programme. Furthermore, starting from this year, demonstration projects must cover and combine three areas: energy, transport and ICT (Information and Communications Technology).

 Overall, the Smart Cities Initiative aims to support cities in achieving a 40% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 through the sustainable use and production of energy. The cost of the programme is estimated at EUR 10-12 billion over the next decade.

 In mid-October the Partnership members adopted a SIP (Strategic Implementation Plan), which is to serve as the basis for accelerating deployment.

 As the SIP decision was being taken, the European Commission adopted a list of close to 250 key energy infrastructure projects that may qualify for EUR 5,85 billion of funding under the Connecting Europe Facility from 2014-2020. Including a small number of Smart Grid-specific projects, well over half of these developments are in related areas and apply to either the transmission grid or storage.

Demonstrating smart cities in action

The European Commission’s latest announcement comes at the head of a long line of Smart Grid and smart city research projects which have been initiated across Europe. The largest is another European Commission supported umbrella group GRID4EU. This is a multiple Smart Grid demonstration project launched in November 2011 and designed with wide replication and scalability in mind. It is due to run until early 2016.

 Major R&D (research and development) challenges already identified by the GRID4EU project include MV/LV (medium voltage/low voltage) network supervision and automation and improving peak load management between the network and consumers through DSM (Demand Side Management), virtual power plants, storage and the like. Furthermore, one of the work groups, GWP4, is tasked with developing technology and communications standards for the six demonstrators.

Asia, North America

It’s not just in Europe that the idea of smart cities is taking hold of course. There are some interesting developments underway in Asia, for example, where rapid urbanization is placing greater emphasis on environmentally-friendly approaches to city development.

 The Songdo International Business District near Incheon in South Korea is a new city built on reclaimed land over the last decade which officially opened in 2009. Serving as a model for smart cities around the globe, Cisco Networking and Gale International companies have invested more than USD 40 billion in ICT networks which connect every home, office and school through video. They also help to regulate electricity and water use in all the city's buildings and give residents the power to control their own energy use.

 Commenting on the project, Casper Herzberg, Managing Director of the Smart+Connected Communities Advisory Practice at Cisco Systems, said: "the underlying technology infrastructure that links all of these buildings together allows some dramatic benefits of 30% energy reduction."

 Another country with a rapidly expanding urban population, India is also recognizing the benefits of getting smart. In late February, India’s Finance Minister, Palaniappan Chidambaram, confirmed that plans for seven new cities along the DMIC (Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor) had been finalized and work on two new smart industrial cities – at Dholera in Gujarat and Shendra Bidkin in Maharashtra – would start in the next financial year.

 Located some 110 km from Ahmedabad, Dholera is set to become one of the country’s first smart cities with plans to be developed in six phases – the first of which could potentially start within a year.

 The proposals envisage monitoring and integrating water management, road infrastructure, fibre networks and street lighting through ICT networks.

 In Japan, the Yokohama Smart City Project targets three Yokohama-based areas with a combined surface area of around 60 and a population of more than 420 000 people in 170 000 households. The project will demonstrate energy management and DR (demand response) across a wide area with a goal of "building social systems targeting a 30% reduction in CO2".

 North America is doing its bit, too, with a great example coming from Iowa and the city of Dubuque where a Sustainable Dubuque Initiative was announced in 2006. 

 Smarter Sustainable Dubuque is a public/private partnership between the city, IBM Watson Research Center’s Global Smarter Planet Initiative and other partners which was launched in September 2009. Started with USD 30 000 seed money from the Greater Dubuque Development Corporation it has grown to include over two dozen industries and eight state and federal agencies. Featuring smart technologies coupled with community outreach and implementation strategies it is designed to serve as a replicable, international model of sustainability for communities of 200 000 and under.

 Programmes include the introduction of smart water and electricity meters and the Smarter Travel initiative. In this scheme 1 000 households have volunteered to let IBM and the city follow their movements via smartphone and RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology to help make the flow of people through the city less energy intensive.

IEC smart activities

Many if not most, services in cities and buildings are directly or indirectly dependent on electricity and electronics. The most obvious is the electric infrastructure that carries electricity to and within buildings and in transportation, medical facilities and factories.

 The IEC is actively involved in developing new International Standards to support smart projects, including smart city development. The SMB (Standardization Management Board) has recently founded a SEG (Systems Evaluation Group) on Smart Cities. This SEG is now identifying the many electrotechnical systems that are found in cities, with a view to integrating and optimizing them. The Smart Cities Group is currently preparing a reference architecture and standardization roadmap in cooperation with different organizations, fora and consortia.

 In parallel, the IEC Market Strategy Board, which brings together Chief Technology Officers of leading international companies, is preparing a high-level White Paper on Smart Cities. The goal is to outline how cities can move towards "smartness" and the new business models that need to be put in place, as well as identifying the value, cost and benefit of standards in these processes The core objective of the White Paper is to guide all relevant stakeholders towards integrated solutions that are going to be accessible, affordable and sustainable.

 Many IEC TCs (Technical Committees) also enable the development of Smart Cities.  A non-exhaustive list of these includes the following:

 IEC TC 8: Systems aspects for electrical energy supply, which prepares and coordinates, in co-operation with other IEC TCs, the development of international standards and other deliverables focusing on overall system aspects of electricity supply systems. These include transmission and distribution networks and connected user installations.

 Its recently-created SC (Subcommittee) 8A will develop standards for the grid integration of large-capacity RE (renewable energy) generation, which is set to play a central role in future energy supply and smart projects. Standards prepared by IEC TC 82 and IEC TC 88 in particular, which cover generation from photovoltaic and wind energy sources, form an integral part of the overall portfolio of Smart Grid Standards.

 IEC TC 57: Power systems management and associated information exchange, set up in 1964, covers communications between equipment and systems in the electric power industry, a central element in smart buildings, cities and grids projects.

 In September 2011 IEC PC (Project Committee) 118: Smart grid user interface, was established to develop standardization in the field of information exchange for demand response and in connecting demand side equipment and/or systems into the Smart Grid.

 TC 65: Industrial-process measurement, control and automation, and its SCs, as well as TCs involved in storage (rechargeable batteries) and fuel cell technologies (TC 21 and TC 105, respectively), to name only a few, also form part of the overall IEC contribution to smart projects, without which Smart Cities would never become a reality.

View of Songdo International Business District, Incheon, Korea View of Songdo International Business District, Incheon, Korea
Aerial view of Masdar City, Abu Dhabi, UAE (Artist rendition - Photo: Masdar City) Aerial view of Masdar City, Abu Dhabi, UAE (Artist rendition - Photo: Masdar City)
PRT (Personal Rapid Transit) System station at the Masdar Institute Campus (Photo: Masdar City) PRT (Personal Rapid Transit) System station at the Masdar Institute Campus (Photo: Masdar City)