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Why Smart Cities need Open Standards
Why Smart Cities need Open Standards
Why Smart Cities need Open Standards
Why Smart Cities need Open Standards
Why Smart Cities need Open Standards
Why Smart Cities need Open Standards
Why Smart Cities need Open Standards
Why Smart Cities need Open Standards
Why Smart Cities need Open Standards
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Why Smart Cities need Open Standards


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I gave this presentation at the launch of the British Standards Institutes Smart Cities programme - . Open Standards will be enormously important in …

I gave this presentation at the launch of the British Standards Institutes Smart Cities programme - . Open Standards will be enormously important in expressing visions for Smart Cities; winning investment to create them; and successfully implementing their social, governance, engineering, environmental and technology infrastructures. This presentation gives some examples of the issues that it's crucial for Smart Cities standards to address, based on my experience delivering large-scale technology solutions within business change programmes; and on my more recent experience delivering technology infrastructures that help to improve cities. The presentation has full speaker notes in the downloadable Powerpoint file.

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  • One of the most repeated characteristics of Smart Cities – though not everyone would agree the most important one – is interoperability. Standards are needed to define those points of interoperability between what are currently separate systems and services.
  • In particular, new integrations between technology and physical infrastructure are required; and we need these integrations to be reliable. That will only happen if we agree standards for them between their providers.
  • But more importantly, standards will help us to get what we want. Even within projects in a single industry, it’s common for what’s delivered to not be what was required simply because of misunderstandings between the parties involved. Standards can help to provide a shared language to minimise these misunderstandings, and that will be important amongst the very wide set of stakeholders in Smarter Cities.
  • But more fundamentally, we need standards to answer the fundamental question of what a Smarter City is.

    Is it about efficient and coordinated civic services?

    Is it about social mobility and thriving communities?

    Is it about economic growth with a reduced carbon footprint?

    Or is it about harnessing technology?

    These are different views of what a smart city is; but the stakeholders across cities won’t collaborate to deliver smarter cities unless we can harmonise them.
  • So we really need Smarter Cities standards because otherwise we won’t get agreement between all the stakeholders on what they are; why they’re important …

    … and most fundamentally, why we should pay for them. Whilst the TSB and EU are doing a fantastic job of stimulating the Smart Cities movement in Europe and the UK, ultimately they do not exist to finance the development of cities. That’s down to local and national government, and the finance sector.

    And as Jane Jacobs noted in 1961, if we don’t succeed in describing to those sectors the cities that we want and why, then they won’t finance them for us. Our cities will just be higher technology versions of the inequal, inefficient cities we have today.
  • Why does this matter? Because we have not been as successful as we would like delivering our existing cities to have the economic, social and environmental impact that we would like them to by acting across stakeholders to harness the technologies available to shape them to date. We can measure that in the fact that London is the only city in the UK performing above the national average; and in the fact that the difference in life expectancy for babies born in the richest and poorest areas of most UK cities varies is about 20 years; for baby boys in Glasgow it is 28 years.
  • Finally, to join the dots; once we’ve succeeded in paying for Smarter Cities, we need to ensure that that investment brings benefits to everyone. We won’t get this sort of Smarter Cities by default. Glasgow’s life expectancy discrepancy proves that. There’s been a lot of debate over the past couple of years between “trickle-down” economics – the idea that enabling wealth-creators to succeed allows the benefits of wealth to “trickle down” to everyone; and “middle-out economics” – the idea that concentrating on enabling growth in size and consumer spending power of the middle-classes is the most effective way to ensure that investments in economic development are broadly shared. Whatever your politics, the reasonable conclusion of the debate with an eye on history is that it takes enormously hard work to make sure that investment and growth in any one area of society and the economy results in widespread, equitably distributed benefits.

    As we think about how to enable cities to make the big investments they know that they need in digital infrastructure and efficient, resilient city services, we need to keep our eyes on this. And one conclusion is that the interfaces to these new infrastructures need to be made as open as possible, so that citizens, businesses and communities can adapt them to their own needs and maximise their value to them. This is the world of open data and open APIs; and it will succeed where there are effective standards to determine what aspects of those infrastructures should be made open; and how they can be accessed.
  • We need Smarter Cities; and we will need standards to ensure that they are successfully constructured and operate reliably and efficiently.

    But more importantly we need standards to open up the financing to pay for the future infrastruture for our cities; and to ensure that the benefits of those investments can be reached by everybody.

  • Transcript

    • 1. Copyright © 2012 BSI. All rights reserved. Why do Smart Cities need standards? Rick Robinson, Executive Architect, Smarter Cities, IBM 02/07/2014
    • 2. Copyright © 2012 BSI. All rights reserved. 2 Smarter city systems will need to interoperate seamlessly 02/07/2014
    • 3. Copyright © 2012 BSI. All rights reserved. 3 Smarter cities will need reliable and resilient physical and technology infrastructures, working together 02/07/2014
    • 4. Copyright © 2012 BSI. All rights reserved. 4 Standards help us to get what we really want 02/07/2014
    • 5. Copyright © 2012 BSI. All rights reserved. 5 What sort of Smart City do we want? • Efficient, intelligent transportation and utility infrastructure? • Well planned, operated and coordinated services? • A high degree of social mobility and a low degree of inequality? • A happy, safe and vibrant community? • Economic growth and job creation? • Reduced carbon footprint? • Intelligent and proactive city services that harness advanced technology? • Empowered digital citizens? 02/07/2014 William Robinson Leigh’s 1908 painting “Visionary City” envisaged future cities constructed from mile-long buildings of hundreds of stories connected by gas-lit skyways for trams, pedestrians and horse-drawn carriages. A century later we’ve realised that developments in transport and power technology have eclipsed Leigh’s vision, but do we still want to live in cities constructed from buildings on this scale?
    • 6. Copyright © 2012 BSI. All rights reserved. 6 How will Smart Cities be built? “Private investment shapes cities, but social ideas (and laws) shape private investment. First comes the image of what we want, then the machinery is adapted to turn out that image. The financial machinery has been adjusted to create anti-city images because, and only because, we as a society thought this would be good for us. If and when we think that lively, diversified city, capable of continual, close- grained improvement and change, is desirable, then we will adjust the financial machinery to get that.” Jane Jacobs, “The Death and Life of Great American Cities”, 1961
    • 7. Copyright © 2012 BSI. All rights reserved. 7 (“Lives on the Line” by James Cheshire at UCL’s Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, showing the variation in life expectancy and correlation to child poverty in London. From Cheshire, J. 2012. Lives on the Line: Mapping Life Expectancy Along the London Tube Network. Environment and Planning A. 44 (7). Doi: 10.1068/a45341) Smarter city systems should deliver better outcomes as well as better operations
    • 8. Copyright © 2012 BSI. All rights reserved. 802/07/2014 Smarter cities need an open infrastructure to support scalable, localised innovation Photo of a pickup in Cambodia by Hendrik Terbek
    • 9. Copyright © 2012 BSI. All rights reserved. 02/07/2014 Photo of pedestrian roundabout in Shanghai, China, by Chris UK Photo of Masshouse Circus, Birmingham, before its redevelopment, by Birmingham City Council Thankyou Rick Robinson, Executive Architect, Smarter Cities, IBM