Making Sense of the Smart City Standardization Landscape

Making Sense of the Smart City Standardization Landscape

Making Sense of the Smart City Standardization Landscape

Over recent years there has been a major worldwide push towards smart cities with many major world cities rolling out initiatives and new services aimed at improving cities and the lives of citizens. Partly driven by this rollout, international and national standards bodies have begun to identify and propose standards for activities and technologies associated with smart cities.

However, because the breadth and range of activities under the smart city umbrella is so large–from smart city performance indicators to water pipes, from transportation to open data–the range and breadth of the standardization activities is equally as large and can be quite daunting. This short article aims to provide a high-level overview of some of the key standards groups and their smart city activities.
Categorizing Standardization Activities

The amount of activity in smart city standardization is truly broad and covers many areas. Some groups, such as IEEE, are looking at detailed technology aspects related to smart city networking or transportation while others, such as the International Organization for Standards (ISO), have a focus on higher-level activities such as strategies for smart city governance or procurement. A useful way to categorize these different types of standardization activities, and one promoted by the UK’s British Standards Institute (BSI), is to group them by level of abstraction into strategic, process, and technical. (See the BSI’s PD 8100 smart city overview for more details.)

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Level 1: Strategic. These are smart city standards that aim to provide guidance to city leadership and other bodies on the “process of developing a clear and effective overall smart city strategy.” They include guidance in identifying priorities, how to develop a roadmap for implementation, and how to effectively monitor and evaluate progress along the roadmap.

Level 2: Process. Standards in this category are focused on procuring and managing smart city projects–particularly those that cross both organizations and sectors. Essentially these offer best practices and associated guidelines.
Level 3: Technical. This level covers the myriad technical specifications that are needed to actually implement smart city products and services so that they meet the overall objectives

As the BSI states: “Strategic-level standards are of most relevance to city leadership and process-level standards to people in management posts. However, even technical specifications are relevant to people in management posts, as they need to know which standards they need to refer to when procuring technical products and services.” (From BSI PD 8100)

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Using the Framework to Position and Group Standards Activities

Using this three-tier framework, it is possible to place many of the major international standards activities to better understand where their focus lies. The major international groups that have smart city activities include:

ISO: International Organization for Standards is the main global body that national standards bodies work with and which many of us are familiar with via “ISO certified.” ISO has set up a strategy advisory group (SAG) for smart cities which is helping coordinate ISO activities and has been instrumental in helping in the formation of Technical Committee 268, which is developing standards across all three tiers.

CEN/CENELEC/ETSI: In Europe, standards are developed and agreed to by the three officially recognized European standardization organizations: the European Committee for Standardization (CEN), the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC), and the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI). These groups have set up a coordination group focused on smart and sustainable cities and communities.

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