Technology Implementation Guides for Smarter Cities
Who will you meet?
Cities are innovating, companies are pivoting, and start-ups are growing. Like you, every urban practitioner has a remarkable story of insight and challenge from the past year.
Meet these peers and discuss the future of cities in the new Meeting of the Minds Executive Cohort Program. Replace boring virtual summits with facilitated, online, small-group discussions where you can make real connections with extraordinary, like-minded people.
Considering the rapid, even relentless, pace of innovation and advances in the Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) of cities, how can cities – especially those with restricted budgets – plan for, maintain, and reap the desired benefits now and into future?
Just like with IT, widespread deployment of smart cities technologies can be accomplished more effectively, and with less cost, when an implementer can apply a shared ‘collective understanding’ based on proven, reusable design patterns.
The risks to municipal governance of not achieving functionality and fitness-of-purpose can be reduced through agile, rapid, and incentive-based prototyping, demonstrations, and deployments of the new technology, ironing out the problems and refining the technology before it’s put in place.
Standards-based approaches to system engineering and development save money, minimize time to mobilize new solutions, and reduce program and lifecycle risk, simply because much of the work has already been done – and proven effective – by others with similar goals.
Combine the two approaches by implementing refined, standards-based technologies, and a city will reduce its technology risk while saving money.
This is why the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), with support from the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is currently leading a process to create a Smart City Interoperability Reference Architecture (SCIRA). SCIRA will provide free deployment guides and reusable patterns that municipalities can use to plan, acquire, and implement standards-based, cost-effective, vendor-agnostic, and future-proof smart city IT systems and networks using technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), Sensor Webs, and Geospatial Information.
SCIRA defines interoperability requirements based on a system-of-systems approach for information technology in smart city deployments, meaning that municipalities are able to build up smart cities little by little, project by project, safe in the knowledge that future expansions will work with, build upon, and gain value from the systems that they’re implementing today.
The SCIRA Deployment Guides aim to provide plain-language guidance on implementing the architecture, and will address a range of smart city functional areas, such as transportation and connectivity. Crucially, the guides will come in different forms for the different audiences relevant to smart city capability development, including City Managers, City IT Managers, City innovators, DevOps Facilitators, and commercial providers.
A key emphasis of SCIRA will be to enhance community resilience in the face of human- or nature-caused emergencies and catastrophes, and to aid in the DHS First Responders Group’s mission to “identify, validate, and facilitate the fulfillment of [first responders’] needs through the use of existing and emerging technologies, knowledge products, and standards.”
Open Standards, Open Options
Crucial to creating ‘future proof’ smart cities will be the incorporation of open interface and content standards in its solutions. When a solution is implemented using open standards, all it takes for any future project to be compatible is for it to be designed around open standards, too – which is a requirement achievable by any reputable vendor. By using open standards, even competing technology providers can create solutions that ‘just work’ with each other. This means that municipalities using open standards in their IT infrastructure are free to choose the most appropriate solution to derive value from their existing systems, rather than having to return to a single provider every time, commision potentially expensive data transformation systems, or – at worst – start anew and render an old system obsolete.
For example, if a city implements city-wide video feeds for monitoring transport flow and congestion, and then later wants to monitor pedestrian movement, there’s a good chance that if proprietary formats were used in the initial monitoring system, the data will remain ‘siloed’ within that system. This would likely require the city to return to the original provider to purchase pedestrian monitoring software (if they sell it), or else install another set of cameras from another technology provider, with another separate back end to process the data, and then yet another system to join it all together.
If, however, the video cameras are creating data in an open format, then any other analysis apps can just ‘tap in’ to that data feed – saving the city the cost of new hardware and increased data transport costs. This isn’t just for video, but for any sensor or data collection device – from smart trash cans and lamp posts, to air quality and water level monitors, and beyond.
One recent example of an OGC Innovation Program initiative in the smart cities space is its successful Future Cities Pilot (FCP) Project. Phase 1 of FCP demonstrated how the use of geospatial and 3D building information data together can provide stakeholders with information, knowledge, and insight that enhances financial, environmental, and social outcomes for a city’s citizens. Phase 2 of FCP, currently underway, is aimed at improving the automation in the flow of data, as well as addressing a number of related interoperability challenges.
OGC also successfully completed an Incident Management Information Sharing Internet of Things Pilot Project (IMIS IoT Pilot) in 2016. The IMIS IoT Pilot produced initial specifications, profiles, best practices, and demonstration designs for connecting sensors and response information systems in a just-in-time fashion to aid in the management of a range of different incidents.
Additionally, the OGC Innovation Program is currently running an Underground Project that will lead to improved public safety, project delivery, and urban resilience from a secure 3D repository of urban underground infrastructure. An Underground Concept Development Study (CDS) paved the way for an Underground Pilot with a data content model known as the Model for Underground Data Definition and Integration (MUDDI). The MUDDI is the starting point for a Workshop and Pilot, and will lead to verified, standards-based interoperability for ‘smarter’ underground projects in cities around the world.
There are many other organizations developing IT architecture guidance and standards for use in smart city deployments. As part of the SCIRA project, OGC is closely monitoring these developments and participating in the most promising ones. Part of the work of SCIRA will be to reconcile all of the many existing standards relevant to smart cities.
In particular, the SCIRA architecture will consider developments by leading Standards Development Organizations (SDOs) involved in smart city activities, such as ISO/IEC JTC 1/WG 11 – Smart Cities; ITU-T SG20 – IoT and its applications including Smart Cities and Communities (SC&C); DIN; BSI-PAS; as well as existing frameworks from OGC, such as Sensor Web Enablement (SWE). Additionally, OGC will partner and coordinate with other organizations to identify relevant Smart City approaches for inclusion in the SCIRA, including: IEEE Smart Cities; the TM Forum; the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST); ISE’s Geospatial Interoperability Reference Architecture (GIRA); the Smart Cities Council; and the EU H2020 ESPRESSO program (SystEmic Standardization apPRoach to Enable Smart citieS and cOmmunities) that is in support of the European Innovation Partnership for Smart Cities and Communities (EIP SCC).
Steps to SCIRA
The first step to developing the Smart City Interoperability Reference Architecture began with an OGC Concept Development Study (CDS). As part of the SCIRA CDS, A Stakeholder Concerns Workshop was held on May 1-2 at the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) in Herndon, VA. The event was jointly organized by OGC’s SCIRA initiative and the The Smart City IoT Innovation (SCITI) lab of the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT).
The Stakeholder Concerns Workshop is a key activity to understanding municipal needs and constraints for use in creating reusable patterns and practices that cities can use to achieve and sustain smart city benefits in infrastructure resilience, public safety, improved governance, and quality of life for all residents.
The workshop was organized as a series of conversations to both ‘teach and learn’ from each other. Participants, including City Managers, City IT Managers, DevOps teams, and Municipal Innovation Leaders, were invited to share their experiences with smart city deployments, including successes and lessons learned. Through a combination of presentations and breakout sessions, the workshop identified the requirements, constraints, and measures of success for smart city innovation that were most important to city stakeholders – particularly from a perspective of repeatable innovation, deployment, and operations. Summaries of the findings and breakout sessions will be used to inform the next phases of SCIRA development.
Following the Stakeholder Concerns Workshop, an Architecture Viewpoints Workshop will be held with municipal leaders, first responders, and select stakeholders. The Architecture Viewpoints Workshop will serve to gather input from participants on the draft SCIRA architecture, including initial contents of each viewpoint as well as its value to municipal planning for Smart City development.
Beginning Q3 2018, the SCIRA CDS will conduct an Innovation Challenge where participants will be challenged to find creative uses for municipal datasets that would make cities smarter and/or safer. The idea behind the Innovation Challenges is to have a fresh set of eyes create some innovative uses of data that weren’t considered by the architects of SCIRA. The ideas generated in the Innovation Challenges will then be used to update the SCIRA.
After the Innovation Challenges have run, a Deployment Guides Workshop will create the first versions of the deployment guides, consistent with the architecture up to that point in time. The guides will then be made available for immediate use by municipal IT decision-makers and DevOps staff. To remain in-step with technology trends, and to make sure that the guides are as beneficial as possible, they will continue to be refined over time. The Deployment Guides Workshop will occur in October 2018.
Refining SCIRA through Pilots
To best test and refine the architecture and deployment guides, OGC’s Innovation Program will run a SCIRA Pilot. Starting from Q4 2018, the OGC Pilot will run across multiple cities and will refine elements of the architecture through implementation and testing in functional, ‘real world’ smart city applications.
This process of iterative refinement and interactive development will result in a reference architecture that is both feasible and effective for smaller municipalities to adopt. Further, the Pilots and deployment guides will reduce the risk that the reference architecture becomes simply ‘shelfware.’ The pilots will create prototype applications that help reduce risks and illuminate opportunities for key parts of the architecture, while the deployment guides will provide for key Smart City staff useful, practical, and actionable direction that is consistent with the reference architecture.
Smart city technology has the potential to simultaneously create efficiencies in governance while providing benefits in infrastructure resilience, public safety, and quality of life for all residents. Implementing new technology always comes with risks; OGC’s SCIRA aims to minimize those risks, and further the spread of beneficial technologies, by providing a freely usable, easily accessible, and proven-working model that will help municipalities of almost any size develop their strategies to achieve a future-proof and budget-friendly smart city implementation.
If you’re interested in contributing to the July SCIRA workshop, or any other subsequent SCIRA activities, please let OGC know how and what you wish to contribute by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. More information on SCIRA, including the ability to sign up to a regular newsletter, is available on the SCIRA webpage.
Leave your comment below, or reply to others.
Please note that this comment section is for thoughtful, on-topic discussions. Admin approval is required for all comments. Your comment may be edited if it contains grammatical errors. Low effort, self-promotional, or impolite comments will be deleted.
Read more from MeetingoftheMinds.org
Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
Why one city decays and another thrives can sometimes seem random. So, trying to foresee downrange why the future will happen in City A and not City B is hard. Moreover, to imagine that there is one formula that all 7.8 billion of us should adhere to, wherever it is we live, is clearly nonsensical.
In our work, we study, research, and rank places to determine what the best practices are to increase economic prosperity, social equity, and quality of life. Ultimately, the question we want to answer is: What is it that makes a city a place of the future? In our research, one thing has become clear to us: next-gen talent is the fuel for the future of place. And by extension, jobs of the future will happen in places of the future.
Digital twins and AI analysis would offer significant benefits to organizations across all sectors. By providing a comprehensive look at a geographical area and its infrastructure and assets, these technologies will enable smarter and more targeted field planning optimization. It could help digitize field surveys, offer new levels of remote engineering access, and enable contact tracing around COVID-19.
The focus will continue to shift away from the data itself and towards its relationships. The connections between data are where the most powerful insights lie. With enough data points, organizations can look to analytics to better understand the context and “see” the future.
AI at scale and emerging data technologies truly illustrate this connectivity and potential. Although it’s an emerging field, the benefits are limitless.
In my business, we’d rather not be right. What gets a climate change expert out of bed in the morning is the desire to provide decision-makers with the best available science, and at the end of the day we go to bed hoping things won’t actually get as bad as our science tells us. That’s true whether you’re a physical or a social scientist.
Well, I’m one of the latter and Meeting of the Minds thought it would be valuable to republish an article I penned in January 2020. In that ancient past, only the most studious of news observers had heard of a virus in Wuhan, China, that was causing a lethal disease. Two months later we were in lockdown, all over the world, and while things have improved a lot in the US since November 2020, in many cities and nations around the world this is not the case. India is living through a COVID nightmare of untold proportions as we speak, and many nations have gone through wave after wave of this pandemic. The end is not in sight. It is not over. Not by a longshot.
And while the pandemic is raging, sea level continues to rise, heatwaves are killing people in one hemisphere or the other, droughts have devastated farmers, floods sent people fleeing to disaster shelters that are not the save havens we once thought them to be, wildfires consumed forests and all too many homes, and emissions dipped temporarily only to shoot up again as we try to go “back to normal.”
So, I’ll say another one of those things I wish I’ll be wrong about, but probably won’t: there is no “back to normal.” Not with climate change in an interdependent world.