‘Smart Cities’ are increasingly promoted as a potential solution to all kinds of problems associated with urbanisation. The concept relies on making innovative use of data sources across the city to achieve specific outcomes: better services that can improve a citizen’s quality of life, for example, or more efficient transportation that could reduce the city’s environmental impact. How can we help city leaders unlock this data to deliver their aspirations and demonstrate value for money to citizens and investors alike?
One urgent task is to help cities determine the outcomes they want to achieve so that people know what is on offer. Innovators can explain the benefits of their solutions and city authorities can spend public funds with confidence. Voluntary consensus standards provide a powerful tool to share good practice, providing agreed ways of doing things are published openly.
British Standards Institution (BSI), as the UK’s national standards body, was commissioned by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to identify where good practice can help cities plan, procure and implement smart technologies. One of the first standards (PAS 181), published in February this year, provides a framework to guide decisions on how to create smart cities. Other standards will cover an overview of the concept, a common vocabulary (PAS 180), and guidelines on planning. These good practice standards will help cities develop smart projects designed around citizen’s needs.
To deliver these projects, cities will need a holistic view of the information that is available across the city, much of which will come from buildings and infrastructure assets. From 2016, all public sector construction projects in the UK will use Level 2 Building Information Modelling (BIM) to manage information in the delivery phase. As cities become smarter, the information and data gathered will go beyond the delivery to the operational and maintenance phase. Standards such as the BIM standard PAS 1192-3, which covers data transfer processes between these phases, as well as throughout the life-cycle of an asset will be critical in specifying how this data is captured and should lead to significant cost savings in the way the assets are managed.
Cities will want to integrate this data with other sources of information, such as GSM data and local authority databases. This will require new data protocols and interoperability standards. As a first step, BSI is developing a smart city data concept model (PAS 182) that will allow data from different sources to be compared and analysed.
This is a rapidly growing global market, estimated to be worth around $400 billion per year within a few years. The strategic approach taken by the UK towards smart city standards has led directly to an invitation to chair a new international advisory group on the overall standards landscape that cities and industry urgently need. Bundling the UK’s world-leading smart city standards with other UK initiatives, such as the Technology Strategy Board demonstrator projects in Bristol, Glasgow, London and Peterborough, is a vital step towards creating a ‘UK brand’ for future cities.