Standards are key to the evolution of smart cities

International Forum promotes cooperation of standardization organizations

Around the world, urban populations are booming. An estimated 54.5 percent of global populations lived in urban settlements in 2016 and this number is expected to increase to 60 by 2030, according to research by the United Nations.

Smart cities embed digital technology across all city functions (Photo:

Putting citizens first

If cities are to provide sustainable economies and improve citizens’ lives, many challenges lie ahead, such as tackling overstretched transport and health services, managing energy and ensuring accessibility and mobility for rapidly aging populations. This last point is particularly important given figures from the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs World Population Prospects – 2017 Revision: Ageing population, showed that one billion people were aged over 60 in 2017, a number expected to rise to 2.1 billion by 2050.

Creating synergies

International standards provide cities with guidance, and offer solutions to specific technical, environmental, social and security issues, which affect services, infrastructure and the well-being of urban citizens.

There are many challenges and no single standards organization can develop all smart city standards alone. IEC, ISO and ITU established the World Smart City partnership, which holds an annual World Smart City Forum (WSCF) each year.

The Forum aims to understand and meet the identified needs of stakeholders, develop consensus-based Standards of good practice that address urban challenges, and create common markets. It is also designed to intensify cooperation and reduce duplicative standardization work for smart cities.

Organized under the leadership of ISO, the WSCF 2017 theme was Future cities – Solutions for common challenges: How International Standards support the development of smart and sustainable cities. City representatives, standards development organizations, industry groups and investors gathered to discuss their evolving needs with standardization organizations, and to understand how the latter can help achieve smart, efficient cities.

Building on synergies, the Forum took place at the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, which attracted over 18,000 visitors, 675 exhibitors, 420 speakers, more than 700 cities and over 120 countries.

Talking Standards

In an interview for Cities Today magazine, in the lead-up to the event, IEC General Secretary and CEO, Frans Vreeswijk commented on the role of IEC in the development of smart cities around the world:

“Cities are giant systems with countless subsystems. All of them depend on electric power and hardware to move people and things, collect data and exchange information…In total IEC has identified over 1,800 Standards and we offer a globally standardized approach to testing and certification services to ensure that vendor promises are kept.”

IEC work for smart cities covers many areas, including energy generation, public and private transport, water management, city services, healthcare, active assisted living and accessibility, technology found in smart buildings, homes and consumer electronics.

One of the challenges for cities is to increase the efficiency of operations and use of resources. The more connected key systems are, the easier it is to manage daily functioning and handle emergency or other situations. This is no mean feat given that many of the systems and technologies come from different providers.

“IEC provides many of the International Standards that are needed to safely connect and automate much of the city infrastructure that generates or uses electricity and contains electronics. The use of International Standards also facilitates the long-term maintenance and repair of city infrastructure. Spare parts can be bought anywhere in the world at more competitive prices.”

About WSCF

Discover more about the WSC partnership, all WSCF events, the community blog and hang outs and read how IEC Standards are making smart cities a reality.