One smart city standard to rule them all?


By Jesse Berst

By now (I hope!) we don’t have to repeat the benefits and importance of smart city standards. But there are two roadblocks to success. First, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), many cities are not using them. Instead, they are using custom systems that aren't interoperable or scalable, that aren’t cost effective and that can't be reproduced by other departments or other cities.

In addition, the several efforts to develop standards are different in many ways, and those differences are causing confusion. The story below outlines an effort to compare and distill those different sets of standards into a unified, coherent framework that will help local officials deliver the benefits of livable, CCdevelopment process and/or following its progress (which you should), we'll tell you how to do that, too.

The Internet of Things–Enabled Smart Cities Framework (IES-City) was launched earlier this year by NIST and others as an international working group tasked  with evaluating different approaches to smart city standards and distilling them into a framework cities will actually be able to follow to ensure their projects contribute to livable, economically vibrant and sustainable smart cities.

The IES-City working group is led by NIST and includes several government agencies and organizations, including Council Advisors the American National Standards Institute and the U.S. Green Building Council, and other city stakeholders.

The end result will be a white paper that "...defines common architecture principles and a vocabulary for smart cities."

Why do we need standards?
Standards development for smart cities is taking place all over the world by a variety of standards organizations and consortia. As Chris Greer, director for NIST's Smart Grid and Cyber-Physical Systems Program, described the situation: "The growth of the smart cities market is currently hindered by ICT deployments that are customized and not fully interoperable or scalable, as well as by the lack of convergence around architectural design principles and a common language or taxonomy. We want to avoid potentially divergent outputs from emerging standards activities and, instead, come up with a framework that will enable smart city solutions that meet the needs of modern communities."

A first draft of the white paper is expected by September with a final document available by June 2017.


Jesse Berst is the chairman of the Smart Cities Council, which helps cities use technology to become more livable, workable and sustainable. Learn about the Council’s second-annual Smart Cities Week, September 27-29 in Washington, D.C., at



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