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Creating Standards for Smart Cities

Updated: Mar 1, 2019

Cities around the world are gathering huge amounts of data that contribute to a large extent in their transformation towards being smarter. Data and IoT have great potential to solve issues of city planning, water management, lighting or transportation and this potential has to be fitted well into solutions. Still, municipalities are struggling to make ends meet when it comes to making reliable measurements that will not only be of help on the local level but could eventually empower other cities through the exchange of knowledge and intelligence – rather than everyone gathering all the knowledge on their own.

The reason it can not be compared is because each municipality has its own definition for each indicator that they are measuring and use different methodologies in order to gather their results. For example, two cities can have different standards on what classifies a firefighter and what are their attributes are. In fact, at Nordic Smart Cities in Stockholm in November 2016, Patricia McCarney of the World Council on City Data stated that the only standard that was identical across cities was the murder/homicide.

‘Data can be a universal language so that cities can learn from each other and talk to each other.’  – Patricia McCarney, City Data, World Council

In order to be able to deliver data as accurately as possible, cities need to depend on well-defined standards, which will provide each player with the same interpretation of relevant indicators. By having one standard on what classifies X, means that all cities across the world can compare themselves and learn from what others are doing well.

The need for a common language has led to the development of an important standard which provides a uniform approach on what is measured and how the measurements should be done.

In 2014, International Standards Organisation published the ISO 37120 standard for Sustainable development of communities – indicators for city services & quality of life which defines and establishes methodologies for a set of indicators to steer and measure the performance of city services and quality of life.

The first standard regarding sustainable development is the institute’s attempt to provide indicators that will track and monitor the progress of city performance. The standard was designed for three main reasons, but namely to help cities:

a) measure performance management of city services and quality of life over time) learn from one another by allowing comparison across a wide range of performance measures) share best practices

In addition, ISO is working on a second standard – ISO/NP 37122  Sustainable development in communities – Indicators for Smart Cities – which will strengthen the link between the bulks of data available and the development of smart solutions.

Measuring the relevant indicators according to international standards is a crucial step in providing international organisations with the most accurate information of what happens on the ground. Being able to make a picture of what is really happening in cities gives these organisations the chance to implement solutions that will improve services and quality of life.

The main idea for developing standards is to get well-calibrated data; not to rank cities as in which has the cleanest air or the best waste management system. Moreover, this approach regarding data will also allow cross-city standardisation which in turn makes room for deeper analysis and better solutions.


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