Why Cities Must Become Smarter, Now

SPONSORED POST: Join the smart city online community and help shape the program of the World Smart City Forum.

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 fulfill if they are to stay competitive and provide a decent quality of life to their citizens.

By 2050, 66 percent 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 percent of all energy produced globally, while generating 70 percent 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 and 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.

Join the smart city online community and help shape the program of the World Smart City Forum!

With your participation in the online community you are able to help shape the final program of the first World Smart City Forum, which is organized by the IEC, in partnership with ISO and ITU on July 13, 2016 in Singapore, co-located with the World Cities Summit and Singapore International Water Week. If you would like to participate live in the World Smart City Forum in Singapore, please register here (free-of-charge: first come, first served).

The forum will explore how interconnection can be accomplished and point to some of the tools that are already available to help cities reach their objective faster, more efficiently and with better outcomes.

The community will offer city stakeholders from around the world value-add discussions and high-level networking. It will also help crystalize the top pain points of cities; those that hold back smart city development in areas such as mobility, water, energy, cyber security and privacy.

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Gabriela Ehrlich is the Global Head of Marketing & Communications at IEC in Geneva, Switzerland.

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Tags: smart cities

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