ISO 37120 : ISO standards for world cities has been created

There has been talk of an ISO standard to compare smart cities for a little while now. I recall a conversation in CAP Gemini’s London offices around 2 years ago when the concept was mooted by some leading thinkers in industry, academia and those who are just downright disruptive (in a good way!). Finally, clear performance data for comparing the world’s cities is possible (this story comes via @Citiscope).

[Citiscope.org as an independent, nonprofit media startup, focused on finding innovations in cities around the world and spreading the word about them through independent, quality journalism. Its storytellers are local writers, people who understand the context and culture where urban ideas are born and can track the progress of those ideas. Citiscope is supported by the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations. Get Citiscope’s weekly featured world city innovation story and roundup of news and reports on global cities at citiscope.org/subscribe]

Now, cities everywhere will have an internationally agreed upon set of standards indicating data that should be collected, and the definitions and criteria to use in collecting it. They won’t be legally required to do so, but they’re likely to be under pressure from citizen, business, academic and other groups insisting they use the ISO standards so that their performance can be benchmarked clearly against peer cities, both in-country and — in today’s increasingly globalized economy — across the globe.

Smart Cities : The 2nd Electrification : Definitions and Standards

Just how smart are our cities now and how fast are they becoming smarter? A short discussion led by The Economist suggests there are parallels with the way in which cities took advantage of electrification to change their scale, their topography and their form.

It’s a very worthwhile sub-6 minute discussion that promotes a view that smart cities need to have both ‘top down’ approaches to build the data platforms and a thriving ‘bottom up’ community to exploit those rich data veins that are full of opportunity.

Academics like Ricky Burdett of the London School of Economics (LSE) see integrated systems for collecting, processing and acting on data as offering a “second electrification” to the world’s metropolises. The power cables that penetrated cities in the late 19th century transformed their shape (there are no tall buildings without lifts), their transit systems, their nightlife, their sewerage (cities need a lot of pumps). Ubiquitous data services might have impacts as wide-ranging: they could make cities more liveable, more efficient, more sustainable, perhaps more democratic. In an era of mass urbanisation—the United Nations expects the number of city dwellers to reach 6.3 billion by 2050, as many people as there were on the planet ten years ago—that could matter a lot.

The use of data in cities pits top-down against bottom-up in a similar way. One side stresses the need for citywide planning and control, the other advocates just providing access to data that lets citizens make their own decisions. “The technology giants building smart cities are mostly paying attention to technology, not people…ignoring the creative process of harnessing technology at the grass roots,” writes Anthony Townsend of New York University in his forthcoming book, “Smart Cities: Big data, civic hackers, and the quest for a new Utopia”. But the two sides need not necessarily be opposed.

But, irrespective of how you get there – what ratio is delivered by state-driven, public sector centric and how much is from communities of data miners and entrepreneurs – doesn’t change the outcome we’re looking for.  We all want our cities to become better functioning, more efficient, with integration between related and key systems such as modes of transport or energy, healthcare, education. The Future Cities Catapult video is a decent stab at explaining what it could be.

As the concept, narrative and description around Future Cities and Smart Cities develops, it’s worth noting that there is a BSI Consultation on Smart City Framework live now. The PAS 181, Smart city framework – Guidance for decision-makers in smart cities and communities is a sponsored, fast-track, consensus-building informal standard that is produced by the UK national standards body, BSI Standards Limited. The development of PAS 181 has been sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

To download, review and comment on the draft, please go to http://drafts.bsigroup.com/Home/Details/51672 and register for free online (new users) and log in.

The closing date for consultation is 20 September 2013.

Smart Cities Need Smart Data

Underpinning any smart city – in fact, any city that will thrive in the future – is smart data. Data helps everyone, from individual citizens to city planners, make informed, intelligent and evidence-based decisions. It allows the development of new products and services and creates a new market for creative and digital industries to exploit. Data rich cities will be best placed to create that market.

Cities need to invest now in the infrastructure that will ‘harvest’ data they can provide. ‘Dumb’ cities will be left behind as those with high quality, fine granulated data will be attractive locations in which to do business.

Good data means lower risk investments – if you can predict with greater accuracy how a city responds to external effects, such as a prolonged period of hot weather, or through a football tournament, or when congestion is high on the road network, you can provide, with greater certainty, solutions to those circumstances that have value to customers.

Whilst investing in instrumentation to gather that harvest of data cities should exploit the data already available to them. Some already exists and is freely available. The UK’s Knowledge Transfer Network is promoting what is already available ahead of a formal launch of a call in the autumn – you can see some short videos online now: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxlnivuEFDA&feature=share#!

China recognises this and has launched 9 smart city pilots – they are Taiyuan in Shanxi, Guangzhou in Guangdong, Xuzhou and Wuxi in Jiangsu, Linyi and Zibo in Shandong, Zhengzhou in Henan, Chongqing, and Huhan in Hubei. Every pilot city will invest more than 36 million yuan ($5.8 million) in the program each year. Like the KTN, it’s led by the National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation which unveiled its Smart City program on Tuesday with the first nine selected pilot cities. Li Weisen, deputy director of the administration, believes the program will trigger a potential market of more than 30 billion yuan ($4.8 billion).

Alongside this, I have just read a great piece on the value of using geographical information systems – http://www.ubmfuturecities.com/author.asp?doc_id=525581&f_src=UBMFutureCities_theurbanizer written by Mary Jander, Managing Editor, UBM’s Future Cities. It advocates the investment in GIS such that cities remain resilient through being smarter and, ultimately, more sustainable.

Sustainable Cities Need Committed Leadership

When city leaders embrace innovation and when they collaborate, significant long term benefits can be achieved. Across the globe, forward-looking city leaders are embracing change and reaching beyond city hall to drive sustainable economic growth and enhanced quality of life for their citizens.

In the UK the break-up of old-style regional government and the abandonment of regional development agencies has led to a void in mid-scale governance that is being filled by cities.  Aside from London, the UK doesn’t have too many big cities, perhaps with the exception of Birmingham. But whilst those cities might not be big in numbers, they’re certainly stepping up to the plate in building relationships with central government, demanding devolution in return for delivery.

Over the last two years the 8 Core Cities in England (www.corecities.com) have led the development of ‘City Deals’ and there are many excellent writers on that topic – in particular I would point you towards http://charleslandry.com/ and http://davidmarlow.regen.net/

Now, other cities have joined the City Deals process – see https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/giving-more-power-back-to-cities-through-city-deals for more information.

It is clear that cities have a key role to play. They are being given the opportunity to set out how they could deliver better, faster and more sustainably. These factors are at the heart of city deals.

But those cities are also part of a changing city region geography, based on economic geography as opposed to traditional regions and that is scaling up both the challenge and the opportunity.

Cities are now being tasked with developing Growth Plans – setting out lnger term strategies and priorities for sector growth, employment, skills with a strong private sector role and an invitation for multi-stakeholder buy-in. As an example, see http://www.sheffieldcityregion.org.uk/growth-strategy/

But herein lies the danger. The pace at which growth plans and investment plans are being produced is in danger of focusing on the traditional economic approaches and failing to address emerging agenda.

Collectively, and individually, cities in the UK are beginning to understand the ‘Smart City’ concept. It’s been propogated by initiatives such as the Technology Strategy Board’s ‘Future Cities Programme’ and forward thinking (but entirely commercially focused) protagonists such as IBM. It is crucial that in our growth plans, individually, and collectively, the ‘smart city’ concept is embraced and integrated. It will prove essential if we are to achieve the resource efficiency needed to ensure citizens continue to enjoy a good quality of life. It will prove vital if the cities in the UK seek to attract visitors, investors, ambassadors.

The leaders within our cities are key to ensuring this ambition is spelt out. Without endorsing any one business the film produced by IBM here certainly makes the case for the use of data to inform decisions and improve the quality of life for its citizens.

When city leaders embrace innovation and when they collaborate, significant long term benefits can be achieved. Across the globe, forward-looking city leaders are embracing change and reaching beyond city hall to drive sustainable economic growth and enhanced quality of life for their citizens.