Powering your city tomorrow hinges on adhering to standards today

Thu, 2016-07-07 11:05 -- SCC Partner

A city cannot function without power and, as you’re about to read below, you will soon need a lot more of it. But it’s not just a matter of adding a little capacity here and a little production there. For a city to truly be smart, all the elements need to be able to talk to each other.

Standards are what make those connections possible. And between new sources of energy and long build-out times, it’s more critical than ever for utilities to pay attention to get the most out of today’s investments. There’s great advice below. Please share it with your team. — Jesse Berst

By IEC - International Electrotechnical Commission

Sufficient fresh water; universal access to cleaner energy; the ability to travel efficiently from one point to another; a sense of safety and security: these are the kinds of promises modern cities must fulfil if they are to stay competitive and provide a decent quality of life to their citizens.

By 2050, 66% of the world’s population is expected to live in urban areas. The challenge will be to supply these populations with basic resources like safe food, clean water and sufficient energy, while also ensuring overall economic, social and environmental sustainability. Already today, cities consume around 70% of all energy produced globally, while generating 70% of world GDP.

Electricity: No city will be smart without it
Cities are giant systems with countless subsystems. All of them depend on electric power and hardware to move people and things, collect data and exchange information. Without electricity, modern city management, the Internet of Things, and all resulting city services remain wishful thinking. Energy is the golden thread that allows cities and economies to prosper. It is simply impossible to build an efficient urban infrastructure without reliable energy access: no electricity = no smart city.

Connecting things: a need for harmonized rules
Cities need to substantially increase the efficiency in which they operate and use their resources.  Major efficiency improvements can be achieved by horizontally interconnecting individual systems such as electricity, water, sanitation and waste management, transportation, but also security, environmental monitoring or weather intelligence.

But interconnection is easier said than done. Many of the currently deployed systems in cities originate from different suppliers and they are maintained by various agencies that generally work in isolation. To connect them both physically and virtually, standardized interfaces need to be put in place.

Most smart cities are not built from scratch in one go. They gradually evolve and become smarter, bit by bit. With time, these individual islands of smartness grow together and interconnect, but only if they use the same harmonized technical rules that are embodied in standards.

Facilitating tailored Smart city development
Building a smart city is highly complex. Every city faces its own challenges and requires its own mix of solutions. However, there is one common denominator that greatly simplifies this task.

International standards can considerably facilitate the development of tailor-made solutions that are adapted to the particular circumstances of a given city. Standards are essential enablers that assure an expected performance level and compatibility between technologies. They embody strong technical and process expertise and facilitate the replication of outcomes. Standards propose common metrics that permit the comparative analysis and benchmarking of solutions.

Standards also open the door to a larger choice of products, increased competition and help foster innovation. In a systems approach they enable the integration of structures from different suppliers. This benefits both the city and its citizens.

Standards = many solutions
The large majority of big and small companies that build electrical and electronic components, devices or systems that are sold beyond a single market participate in IEC work and use IEC international standards.

And while smart city development will go far beyond integrating the right technologies, it is comforting to know that many of these devices and systems will support smooth and integrated smart city development.

Smart Cities Readiness Guide
Standards are at the very heart of what it means to be a smart city. The Council’s leading Smart Cities Readiness Guide helps you map targets on all aspects of city management — from transportation and waste management to public safety and telecommunications — to the ISO 37120 standards for measuring city performance.