Smart performance


Smart cities make sense: they waste less, offer better quality of life and ensure a brighter future for the next generation. But as more and more communities strive to optimize services and become more sustainable, how can they tell if their actions are making a difference? A new International Organization for Standardization (ISO) technical specification can help them out.

The ISO/TS 37151 outlines 14 categories of basic community needs (from the perspective of residents, city managers and the environment) to measure the performance of smart community infrastructures. These are typical community infrastructures like energy, water, transportation, waste and information and communication technology systems, which have been optimised with sustainable development and resilience in mind.

Not only will the metrics in ISO/TS 37151 support city and community managers in planning and measuring performance, they will help compare and select procurement proposals for products and services geared at improving community infrastructures.

Dr Yoshiaki Ichikawa, Chair of the sub-committee that developed the standard (ISO/TC 268/SC 1), says: “Prior to starting this project, the sub-committee spent quite a bit of time evaluating the already existing processes and metrics for smart community infrastructures. We found that some of the methodologies were not publicly available, and that though helpful, their complexity, redundancy and lack of transparency made it difficult for public and private managers (such as governments, city planners, operators of community infrastructure) to evaluate and implement proposals, plans and performance consistently and fairly. It was clear that globally harmonized metrics were needed. That is when we started to work on ISO/TS 37151.”

Who should use the standard? The document is geared towards community managers including mayors, city officials and elected, infrastructure owners and operators, and development agencies and investors.

The Secretariat of ISO/TC 268/SC 1 is managed by the ISO member for Japan.

Service was afforded the opportunity to speak directly to some of the team members involved in the creation of the new standard, Dr Yoshi Ichikawa, Chairperson of ISO/TC 268/SC 1 (from Hitachi) and Isao Endou, Secretary of ISO/TC 268/SC 1 (from the Mizuho Financial Group).

Talking about how readily South Africa is in embracing Smart City strategies and how we compare to other countries on the continent, Ichikawa believes that South Africa is in a leading position in the field of Smart City on the continent. Currently, South Africa is the only African participating member in International Standardization in the field of smart cities/smart community infrastructures. He says experts from South Africa have been providing valuable contributions to the standardization process.

“More specifically, we are working with experts from Durban and Johannesburg for the standardization. Working with those experts, we are under the impression that at least the two cities are further ahead,” Ichikawa says.

According to Endou, should we have to measure their performance, we would discover priority areas to be improved in existing community infrastructures among the different types of community infrastructures (such as to point out where to reach the highest effectiveness for investments in the community infrastructure by taking multiple perspectives into account).

Asked how the smart city approach assists in dealing with urbanisation and the resulting overpopulation it poses—and how can measuring assist in projecting the city’s future needs, Endou says ‘smartness’ is regarded as contribution to sustainable development of communities. In case of ISO/TS 37151, community managers can utilise it:

  • to prioritise infrastructure projects (which area first? which infrastructure first?);
  • to check how well users’ demands are met;
  • as one of the criteria to assess the abilities and qualifications of city planners and consultants.

Infrastructure owners/operators can utilize this TS:

  • to clarify the specifications of procurement of their infrastructure products and services;
  • to compare proposals from providers using standardized criteria; development agencies and investors can utilise this TS; and
  • to assess multiple proposals/plans for infrastructure development.

“Citizens or residents are one of the three fundamental stakeholders to consider. The ISO/TS 37151 takes into account three perspectives at the minimum: residents, community managers, and environmental perspectives. Residents’ perspective represents interests of users, consumers, or beneficiaries of community infrastructure services, such as people, citizens, visitors, industries, or enterprises,” he says.

With regard to the role of technology in assisting the measuring of smart cities, Ichikawa says recent trends in exploring IoT and Industry 4.0 can help comprehensive measurements of numerous kinds of diversified data relevant to smart cities as well as the big-data analysis technology.

One important aspect of smart city measuring is that it can assist with the much needed service delivery issues in South Africa and in this regard technology is key. Ichikawa says ISO/TS 37151 does not require any specific technology, but whenever possible, ISO requirements shall be expressed in terms of performance rather than design or descriptive characteristics. This approach leaves maximum freedom to technical development. Primarily those characteristics shall be included that are suitable for worldwide (universal) acceptance.

Regarding the new ISO/TS 37151 guidelines set in place to monitor smart city performance, Endou says ISO/TS 37151 provides a globally standardised approach to select performance metrics to assess the smartness of community infrastructure as a whole. The 14 categories of basic community needs are defined covering a well-balanced mixture of perspectives specifically those of residents, city managers and the environment.

“As for the relevant stakeholders that should be involved in measuring smart city performance we recommend considering the following non-exhaustive indicative set of stakeholders; citizens, industry or enterprises, municipalities, infrastructure operators, solution providers, financial institutions and investors,” Endou concludes.

Maria Lazarte

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