How standards help Washington, D.C. accelerate smart cities efforts


The Council is excited to return to Washington, D.C., September 27-29 for the
second-annual Smart Cities Week. Check out the program grid and make plans to attend.

As we lead up to Smart Cities Week, I’ve asked our host city to share the work it’s doing and the lessons it has learned so far on its smart cities journey. Below, you’ll read about how standards are playing a role in accelerating its transformation as well as some of the guiding principles that have helped it as it has planned its strategy. — Jesse Berst


By Scott Pomeroy, Rimas Gulbinas and John Teeter

The inability to share information and action across the infrastructure silos within our current cities is a barrier to providing our next generation cities.  The need for an integral whole is clear. As described by the most recent directive of the eight joint ministries of the central government of China, Smart Cities:

... apply the new generation of information technologies, such as the internet of things, cloud computing, big data and space/geographical information integration, to facilitate the planning, construction, management and smart services of cities.  Developing Smart Cities can benefit synchronized development, industrialization, informationization, urbanization and agricultural modernization and sustainability of cities development. The main target for developing smart cities is to pursue:

  • Convenience of the public services;
  • Delicacy of city management;
  • Liveability of living environment;
  • Smartness of infrastructures;
  • Long-term effectiveness of network security.”

An all-encompassing directive indeed with implications of interoperability that extends throughout technology, policy and planning aspects of a smart city. It describes a complex space and one that is not fixed, but rather evolving as the potential to shape our urban environments unfolds.

As noted in this Overview of Smart Cities Standards by Rodger Lea, numerous organizations are tackling this problem. But they are not starting from scratch! Standards for communications, for data exchange, cybersecurity and process are in place that currently guide the various aspects of our digital lives and are directly applicable to the smart city. The primary first task is to inventory/identify those directly usable while identifying gaps that must be furtherexplored. The second task is to fill those gaps in the most expedient manner.

We are in the early, definitional stages of the identification of interoperability standards for smart cities. There are numerous Standards Development Organizations (SDOs) that are focusing in this problem. And we have learned that the process of identification of both applicable existing standards and identification of gaps may be accelerated.

The process is very similar to that undertaken by the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP) in the context of the smart grid. The resulting Catalog of Standards provides very good starting point in identifying the existing standards needed to support Smart City infrastructures.

In addition, we have learned that we might apply consensus driven, agile methodologies in achieving a workable path forward. The U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is taking a leadership role in convening stakeholders in this acceleration effort. The goal of the International Technical Working Group on IoT-Enabled Smart City Framework effort is to convene interested and active stakeholders to “... compare and distill … a consensus framework of common architectural features to enable smart city solutions that meet the needs of modern communities”. The effort is focused on providing a practical and expedient path to the future where adherence Smart CIty Standards of Interoperability.

In conjunction with this NIST lead effort, the MetroLab Network, a collaboration of 34 cities, 3 counties and 44 universities, organized in more than 30 regional city-university partnerships, is focused on providing platforms to test and validate smart city infrastructures.

Working together, we hope to accelerate the identification and adoption of standards of interoperability that will accelerate our ability to achieve the robust, secure and resilient infrastructures our Smart Cities need.

Scott Pomeroy is the Director of Sustainability Initiatives for the DowntownDC Business Improvement District. Rimas Gulbinas is the CEO of Maalka. John Teeter is the CIO Urban.Systems and the chairman of Maalka.