Planning a Smart City: Standards and Best Practices: A Conversation with Jim Frazer

By Larry O'Brien

Industry Trends

The following is an edited transcript of ARC Smart Cities Podcast Episode 1. It's a discussion of Smart City applications and technologies with a focus on planning your project. Details discussed include the Systems Engineering Process and its applications to Smart Cities, including consensus-based user needs, measurable functional requirements and the test plans that guide users from a project concept to fully functioning implementation.



Larry O’Brien:                  00:20                   Welcome to Smart City Viewpoints at Arc Advisory Group. I'm Larry O'Brien, Vice President of Research at ARC Advisory Group. Our guest today on our first episode is my colleague Jim Frazer, Vice President of Smart Cities, here at ARC. Good morning, Jim.

Jim Frazer:                        00:39                   Thank you, Larry.

The Nine Vertical Applications of a Smart City

Larry O’Brien:                  00:41                   Our topic today is defining and planning your smart city efforts. Jim, I'd like to start up with the first question and it's a pretty basic one. What is a smart city?

Jim Frazer:                        00:53                   Larry - thanks - that's a great introductory question. It's a public agency - cities, counties, states, provincial entities, nations that embrace IoT to drive digital transformation within their organization - and perhaps even more importantly with other impacted community members. A public agency touches a lot of private interests as well. As, you know, there are a range of definitions of smart cities. It's a somewhat of an ambiguous term. One of the definitions we like the best actually comes from the Smart Cities Council and it includes nine vertical applications that are required in a smart city - basically it covers the functions of a public agency. So let me cover some of those. The first is the built environment. That's all of a cities' buildings, parks, public spaces, schools, firehouses, police stations, hospitals, including all of the embedded electronic control systems within those facilities like HVAC, security, and lighting, they're all important parts of that domain.

Jim Frazer:                        02:07                   So the built environment, basically buildings are our number one. Then we have energy infrastructure. That's everything from the substation on down to the street-lighting, natural gas, electrical distribution assets, metering of municipally owned utilities and rural co-ops. Micro-grids and energy storage as well as photo-voltaic and wind power are also increasingly important in this domain - number two: energy infrastructure. Then of course, there's number three: telecommunications. That's critical for safety and well-being as well as for economic vitality of the community both public and private. Broadband is, as we all know, a topic of huge discussion in this domain. It's critical for just about every business activity as well as safety issues. In terms of business activities, broadband brings in businesses of call centers, retail distribution hubs, server farms, medical imaging, and a range of different high wage jobs that drive the revenue of a city.

Jim Frazer:                        03:24                   Remember, cities get their revenue from taxes, in terms of sales, taxes, income taxes, and property taxes. Number four in these verticals is transportation and mobility. In many cases, this is the largest component of a smart city. So remember that roads, streets, bike lanes, vehicles, public transport, ports are all critical parts of a smart city. And as we all undoubtedly know, there are some very dramatic paradigm shifts that are happening in this domain and mobility - from Uber and Lyft to mobility as a service. Initiatives that integrate everything from bike share and bike rental and scooters to light rail coming in the very near future. There have already been some deployments of connected vehicle technology that drives a number of safety applications. A little farther out, we've all heard about autonomous vehicles, whether it be autonomous shuttles for people or perhaps even sooner, autonomous vehicle deliveries of food for example.

Jim Frazer:                        04:43                   Then of course there's a range of more traditional, government services that you would think of in terms of a smart city, but the IoT and digital transformation can impact all of these just as dramatically. That includes health and human services, including telemedicine. Educational virtualization as we know, college education and even, public school and education is getting increasingly expensive and serving that remotely, in a virtualized manner is, certainly on the rise, including and perhaps most importantly to rural environments. Then of course, there's water and wastewater. That's the collection, distribution, metering and reclamation of water including monitoring,water purity and cleanliness. There's waste management. As you know, there's an awful lot of packaged products that are bought and used today. So the collection, distribution, reuse and recycling of that waste material is very important.

Jim Frazer:                        05:48                   Incinerators and landfills are increasingly viewed as a non optimum way of processing the waste stream. So IoT can help that in terms of even methane gas generation at a landfill, public safety. Public safety infrastructure includes police, fire and EMS first responders as well as, disaster prevention and management agencies, courts and correction facilities. It even trickles down to law enforcement body cameras as well as IoT enabled gunshot detectors. And lastly, payments and finance. Perhaps the lowest hanging fruit in the smart city domain is simply moving from paper based bills to online bill payment. It's almost, a onetime cost with very low maintenance and is probably the first thing that a smart city entity should do. Now those are all the applications. This Iot and digital transformation domain is not itself, one ubiquitous, effort.

The Seven Technologies that Impact a Smart City

Jim Frazer:                        07:07                   There's a couple of technologies, actually seven, that impact all of those nine applications. So instrumentation and controls are obvious - they are an obvious requirement. It's how a smart city monitors and controls conditions. It provides the eyes and ears - good examples include smart meters for electricity, water and gas, air quality sensors, high quality video for traffic monitoring, people, monitoring roadway sensors, as well as the more traditional switches, breakers and other electrical devices that operators can remotely control. So instrumentation and control is perhaps the most foundational piece. Then of course, number two, you need connectivity. Is it low bandwidth? Is it high bandwidth? Is it Wifi, is in a Mesh network? There's a number of questions around that domain. Do you use cellular? interoperability is a third technology issue. Interoperability, really means, having all seven layers of a connection be interoperable.

Jim Frazer:                        08:25                   In a very simple sense that ranges from your connector must match at interoperability layer one, to at layer seven, the application must match. So in a simple example, you could use the same character set, say alphanumeric characters, but if one person's speaking French and one speaking English, well, the communication is difficult. Cybersecurity and privacy are, an ecosystem of technologies, policies and practices that safeguard data privacy and assets. A city really should publish clear privacy rules and should implement a robust cybersecurity system. Both of these play a very critical role in enabling smart cities because they build trust and without trust, the city may have difficulty moving some of these initiatives forward. Then of course there's data management, computing resources and analytics that together drive the business intelligence that allow you to actualize on this information that you've created out of the raw data. Is that enough, Larry?

Larry O’Brien:                  09:43                   Yes that's a lot. I know if I was an owner operator, or an end user, it's a real challenge from that perspective about how to get started. This is an awfully big landscape of technologies and functions that you've laid out. So how do you get started? How do you ensure a successful project, when you're thinking about implementing smart city technology?

Systems Engineering and Your Smart City

Jim Frazer:                        10:09                   A good question. Larry the smart city initiatives have been around for at least a decade and the implementation philosophy has evolved. In the first wave of initiatives, Smart City 1.0, it really was suppliers that went out to the market, to the public works directors, to the city managers, to the elected officials and even to citizens groups and attempted to deploy their applications. However they met with some, with quite a bit of a push back and were not as successful as they would've liked. And what they recognized was that they really didn't embrace the needs of the community. It was more of the scenario of that, they built a hammer and then everything looked like a nail. So that evolved to a Smart City 2.0 perspective where those suppliers went to the public elected officials, the city managers, maybe directors of an agency and asked, what is it with a clean sheet of paper, what is it you want?

Jim Frazer:                        11:20                   That was quite a bit more successful, but it too struggled because even a public official or a public works director don't have a complete view of what are the needs of the community. So the Smart City 3.0 effort, really started gaining traction, two or three years ago. I believe it was coined by Dr. Boyd Cohen, a professor in Spain and it is a all-encompassing initiative of user needs from all the stakeholder communities. So while Smart City 1.0 is supplier driven and 2.0 are driven by government decisions, Smart City 3.0 is really driven by, by a comprehensive group of all of stakeholder needs. So that eliminates the problem. Say you're building a bridge. You don't want to build a bridge and then have the bicycle community later on come to you and say, hey, there's no bike lane. We think this thing's a failure or, we're not going to support the bond issue that is funding it. So that Smart City 3.0 approach is very important to actually making projects happen and after implementation being viewed as being ultimately successful.

Larry O’Brien:                  12:56                   Yes it sounds like, maybe helping some of the, end users and operators avoid some common mistakes maybe too, has a structured approach to Smart City 3.0 been formalized yet.

Jim Frazer:                        13:10                   That's a fascinating question and there are a number of initiatives in that area. I'll talk about two now. Previously I referenced the transportation domain and in North America, the US Department of Transportation faced many of these same issues in their goal of moving people and freight, through the network in a safer and more efficient manner. Early on they recognized that the costs of integration dwarfed, were orders of magnitude larger than the actual hardware and software costs. So they took a good hard look about how do we address that problem. What they came up with was an implementation of the systems engineering process. For those computer science people in our audience, you might remember the waterfall model from school, some still use it. And their adoption of that is a three step process.

Jim Frazer:                        14:20                   In step one, you comprehensively define your stakeholder communities. So that's everything from the business community, the elected officials, the taxpayers, the voting community, the bicycle community, the police, fire, EMS, public works directors, the elected officials, and any other entities that might impact the situation. There might be a local college in town or major employers. The first step is to define all those stakeholder communities and then somewhat exhaustively query them for: what is your biggest problem? What is your need? What if you had a magic wand, what would you fix today, tomorrow and perhaps years into the future. In that step, you collect all of those and then you refine your substantial list into which ones have consensus across the communities. Once you have that consensus-based needs list, that finishes step one. In step two, a systems engineer will transfer them and evolve them into measurable functional requirements.

Jim Frazer:                        15:38                   And that too is a very critical step because that then forms the basis of your RFP or your project specification. And then in step three, which is a little more elegant and fine tuned, is developing test plans so that as you move through your project life cycle, you don't deviate in your support of those originally agreed upon list of consensus based needs. You don't want to finish your project and either not support one of those or, or perhaps work in some requirements that are not supported by a need because that, that doesn't make financial sense either. So the USDOT is driving quite a bit of smart city efforts in the digital transformation domain, using that approach. More recently the IEEE has recognized that there needs to be a guide for what do you do on day one.

IEEE Smart City Planning Guidance

Jim Frazer:                        16:48                   And not surprisingly, they've developed and are adopting, essentially the same type of philosophy where it's defining your stakeholder communities, extracting those consensus based needs, turning them into measurabrequirements and, and have some oversight all along the project life so that you don't deviate from your consensus-based goals. In the next quarter or two the IEEE will be publishing, an umbrella standard for smart city planning and technology that addresses that as well. But that's only two of a number of different initiatives that, are attempting to, take out the ambiguity of what you do on day one, in week one and in month one of your smart city project.

Larry O’Brien:                  17:41                   Okay. Well, hopefully that'll give us all a better foundation actually, to get started on some of these projects. It's really hard to have an effective project without that requirements definition. I know that for sure. I think we have time for one last question. I was wondering if you could comment about sustainability within the smart city domain.

The Three Pillars of Sustainability and Your Smart City Project

Jim Frazer:                        18:03                   That's a great question. In smart city initiatives often, you know, often the community defaults to some of the most easily monetizable applications, energy conservation and reductions in maintenance. But safety, quality of life all are also very important in creating a dynamic structure both socially and economically for a city. So sustainability isn't just a green buzzword, it actually has three formal pillars. And the first is to protect or enhance the natural environment. The second is to protect and enhance human quality of life, the societal aspects, and that includes safety. Part of the smart city effort is Vision Zero, which is a worldwide attempt initiative to bring pedestrian fatalities and accidents down to a level of zero. And all of that is also in this smart city domain.

Jim Frazer:                        19:13                   That's pillar number two. Pillar number three in the world of sustainability is really the one that's most unspoken about and it's doing the first two in an economically sustainable manner. So practically speaking, it needs to get paid for in a reasonable time frame where there's relatively short payback or you're not going to achieve the first to have better quality of life and better environment and more jobs. So sustainability isn't as a fuzzy term as you may think. It's a really baked into to the smart city effort. Does that answer your question, Larry?

Larry O’Brien:                  19:54                   Makes Sense. I think it definitely should be baked into that smart city effort.

Larry O’Brien:                  19:59                   At the end of the day, I think it's all about, quality of life for citizens and, and making sure we have a sustainable environment moving forward. So it makes sense to me, and our time today is just about up for this episode. Jim, I want to thank you for your time today.

Jim Frazer:                        20:18                   Hey, thanks Larry.

Larry O’Brien:                  20:19                   And I'm sure this will, this is just the first of many podcasts that we're going to do with the Arc Smart Cities team. I'd like to invite you to please join us for future smart city viewpoints podcast. Don't forget to visit us online at . You can also follow us on Twitter at So thanks again and we'll see you next time.

Jim Frazer:                        20:53                   Thank you very much, Larry




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