Who Will Shape Global “Smart Cities”?

The internet can help you watch your favorite TV show or lookup your favorite law firm.  Soon, cities will attempt to use it to deal with problems like pollution, transportation, and public safety.  To support that vision, the government has set in motion several activities, including President Obama’s “Smart Cities Initiative.”  This initiative features important standards work by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which the Internet of Things ecosystem should watch as a harbinger of federal and global technology policy. 

A year ago, the Obama Administration announced its Smart Cities Initiative, creating a forum for cities, federal agencies, universities, and the private sector to connect to research, develop, and deploy new technologies.  The White House hopes the “Internet of Things” will connect devices and systems in innovative ways to solve everyday problems.  

On September 26, as part of “Smart Cities Week,” the Administration announced, several new programs and investments.  One area of focus is on interoperability and models for future deployments.  The Administration highlighted ongoing efforts by NIST, which has taken a leading role in understanding and shaping the Internet of Things. 

Specifically, NIST is creating a global coalition to develop an IoT- Enabled Smart City Framework, which, among other things, aims to develop a model smart city architecture.  It builds on NIST’s earlier Framework for Cyber Physical Systems, which looked at connectivity, data use, interoperability, cybersecurity and privacy.  NIST’s IoT- Enabled Smart City Framework will document the scope of smart city applications and metrics, determine “Pivotal Points of Interoperability” (PPI) that smart city technologies have in common, and document smart city deployments that use two or more different technologies and are integrated using PPI. 

The Smart Cities Initiative aims to show how to use the internet in new ways to solve problems and transform everyday life.  It will produce white papers, model architectures, and lists of solutions and contributors in IoT.  If successful, it may create a baseline snapshot of existing Smart Cities approaches and may become the building block for future global efforts.

The private sector has been calling for more international cooperation in the area of global IoT standards, and NIST’s effort could be a step in that direction.  U.S. innovators should consider whether to engage in this effort, which may shape the model that cities and states follow.  Those interested in shaping the development of smart city architecture at NIST can find more information here.


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