Information technology for smart cities

Update on the smart city work taking place in ISO/IEC JTC 1

By Natalie Mouyal

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 that can function together, but they also provide clear descriptions of best practice and enable common approaches to tackling common challenges.

Image of a modern city Smart cities will need standards for ICT applications

The IEC has developed many standards that are important for the efficient functioning of cities. Over 1 800 standards have been identified that are vital to cities, in sectors such as energy, lighting, transport and city services. However, smart cities require a holistic approach. As a result, the IEC has taken a systems methodology to better address the complexity of smart cities which are systems of systems.

Standards for smart cities can help cities all over the world to benefit more quickly and effectively from global best practice and provide new opportunities for industry. In the area of information technology, the IEC partners with ISO to develop standards for smart cities. According to Heng Qian, Convenor of the joint IEC and ISO working group on smart cities (ISO/IEC JTC 1/WG 11), “JTC 1 is focused on ICT aspects. Many of the technologies used in smart cities, such as software engineering, artificial intelligence, privacy, rely upon the standards developed by JTC 1”.

New standard published

In October 2019, IEC and ISO published a new standard, ISO/IEC 30146, which provides assessment indicators and evaluation methods to measure the functionality of different ICT systems within a city. Indicators have been developed to evaluate such systems as a city’s transportation, public safety and city management services. The indicators can be used to measure a smart city holistically or tailored to measure individual parts of the city.

According to Qian, “the standard is based on international best practices and is already being tested in several countries around the world. It can be used to help promote the harmonious development of smart city projects”.

Standards under development

Work is underway to develop a smart city ICT reference framework. Three standards will be published, each addressing a different viewpoint within a city and focus on the concerns for each of the viewpoints, to be used by city information officers when planning and implementing a smart city. The frameworks include business process, knowledge management and engineering. “From the ICT perspective, it gives the stakeholders in the smart city a common understanding of the full framework”.

Two other standards are also under development which address smart city data terminology and digital platforms.

ISO/IEC 21972 will establish the general principles for an indicator upper level ontology (IULO) that allows for the representation of the indicator definition and the data used to derive the indicator. Qian remarked, “ontology in information science is used to support sematic interoperability. We are looking at upper level ontology for smart city indicators, including data models, so that we can better understand what we mean by the indicators and their data”. This standard is expected to be published by March 2020.

ISO/IEC 24039 is another standard in development which will define a smart city digital platform at the basic level. “We know that cities are comprised of vertical applications. However, these applications generally share a similar common platform which could serve as a basis for all vertical applications. Each vertical application can focus on their specific area but use a common digital platform for their ICT requirements”. By sharing a common digital platform, sectors such as public transportation or government services could easily share data or simplify user access to their offerings.

Areas for future work

It can be expected that the new areas of interest in ICT standardization work, such as digital twins, trustworthiness and data usage, will find their way into smart cities. However, as Qian notes, “we need to be aware of the uniqueness of smart cities and their ICT requirements. They will require the interoperability of data, the coordination of urban operating systems and a platform for open data”.

Other topics of interest include city data models and smart city visualization. Smart cities will need to integrate data from multiple systems and a framework will be necessary to integrate the information. With smart city visualization, users can access a single platform that brings together the various data points about a city and its various systems in real-time and in a visual manner. Doing so provides contextual information on the environment and the various systems within the city.

However, as Qian noted, “we need to work quickly because cities need these standards”.

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Image from the ISO/IEC JTC 1/WG 11 meeting held in Toronto Participants at the ISO/IEC JTC 1/WG 11 meeting held in Toronto
Image of a modern city Smart cities will need standards for ICT applications