Smart Cities must be able to measure whether or not they’re becoming smarter, and the extent to which they’re smart. But how?
Measurement provides a basis to track progress, to make decisions and to compare cities. Terms such as ‘indicators’ and ‘metrics’ are often used interchangeably, although their meanings can differ across organisations. A key performance indicator (KPI) is a quantifiable measure that an organisation uses to assess performance on objectives. Measurements that are based on a standardised method are called metrics.
Measuring the extent to which a city is getting smarter is by no means a straightforward task. For a start, there’s no standard set of smart city indicators. Even though cities often apply KPIs to measure the progress of their smart city projects – for example tonnes of CO2 emissions per capita or the number of Wi-Fi hotspots installed – the KPIs are not comparable across all cities. Then there’s the problem that it’s difficult to measure direct links between some of the things you would implement as a smart city. So, while KPIs tell us about performance in specific areas, such as increased broadband connectivity, how can we know whether this improves city outcomes such as more jobs for citizens?
Putting in place accurate and regular measurement can also be time intensive and expensive for cities. However, many smart city aspirations, such as delivering a more effective transport system or reducing carbon emissions, are existing city priorities that have indicator sets. So there are opportunities for collaboration and integration to share resources across organisations in city reporting.
City governments around the world publish suites of city indicators for a variety of reasons. But the reports produced can be difficult to navigate; they can be long and contain hundreds of indicators. It’s important for cities to consider who their audience is, and how to present the information in accessible and meaningful ways. Technology can help by creating more accessible interfaces such as smart city dashboards.
Effective smart city measurement will include both quantitative and qualitative measures. Whether a city has 10 or 10,000 smart street lights might not be that meaningful to citizens who understand little about smart cities. Some cities are starting to think about how they consult more closely with citizens about the outcomes of smart activities, such as through crowdsourcing websites or citizen panels.
There is an independent agency, The WCCD is a global leader in standardised city data. It hosts a network of innovative cities committed to improving services and quality of life with open city data. The WCCD hosts a network of innovative cities committed to improving services and quality of life with open city data and provides a consistent and comprehensive platform for standardized urban metrics. The WCCD is a global hub for creative learning partnerships across cities, international organizations, corporate partners, and academia to further innovation, envision alternative futures, and build better and more liveable cities.
The WCCD is implementing a new international standard, ISO 37120:2014 – Sustainable development of communities: indicators for city services and quality of life. This defines and establishes methodologies for a set of indicators to steer and measure the performance of city services and quality of life.
Indicators for City Services and Quality of Life, the first international standard on city data, was published in May 2014 by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). This new international standard was developed using the framework of the Global City Indicators Facility that has been extensively tested by more than 250 cities worldwide. This is a demand-led standard, driven and created by cities, for cities. ISO 37120 defines and establishes definitions and methodologies for a set of indicators to steer and measure the performance of city services and quality of life.
The standard includes a comprehensive set of 100 indicators — of which 46 are core — that measures a city’s social, economic, and environmental performance.
The indicators are categorized under 17 themes on city services and quality of life
ISO 37120 was developed using the Global City Indicator Facility (GCIF) framework with its network of over 250 cities globally and input form leading industry experts within the ISO Technical Committee on Sustainable Development of Communities (ISO/TC 286).
An Open Data Portal has been created, based on ISO 37120, which allows people to explore, track, monitor and compare member cities on up to 100 service performance and quality-of-life indicators.
The WCCD has successfully piloted ISO 37120 with the Foundation Cities shown below.
All Foundation Cities are now certified against ISO 37120 and included in the Global Cities Registry™ for ISO 37120. Data from the Foundation Cities can be viewed in the WCCD Open Data Portal.
Benefits of Globally Standardized Indicators for Cities
Standardized indicators enable cities to assess their performance, measure progress over time, and also to draw comparative lessons from other cities locally and globally.
Smart cities can present great opportunities to our cities, not least in the use of technology and data to increase resilience to urban challenges, through greater efficiencies, and using innovation and enterprise.
The cities best placed to capitalise on these opportunities are the ones with strong leadership, effective public–private partnership working and strong citizen engagement.
But there are barriers to cities becoming smart. Perhaps the greatest challenge is that there’s no clear definition of what a smart city is. The concept is quite amorphous, which makes it difficult to measure. And will the name be replaced in the future as city terms often are, as they fall out of fashion? The name may change but digital technologies and data are already ubiquitous in our lives, and the practice of using them to address city and citizen challenges will endure.
Smart Cities Opportunities and barriers
These are some of the most pressing issues facing smart city development that one should think off:
- partnership working
- citizen engagement
- data ownership
- trust and ethics
- privacy and security
- integration and interoperability
- value proposition and business models
- finance and procurement.
As we can see, many of these are wider than the smart technology itself. These are the areas where greater focus is needed if our smart cities are to fulfil their visions and become more sustainable.
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