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    Smart cities, certified

    The criteria for evaluating smart cities are becoming more clear


    Where are you right now, as you read this? Our educated guess would be a city. According to current figures from World Bank, around half of the world’s population—56% to be precise—call cities their home. However, if we were to ask you the same question in 2050, those odds will have increased significantly.


    Estimates from the same report suggest that in less than 30 years, 70% of the population will live in cities. In countries like the US, this figure is set to exceed 80%. It’s clear that urbanization is growing at a rapid rate. Cities are devouring a greater proportion of rural spaces— and an increasing number of people see them as providing the best opportunity for work and quality of life.


    This growth places cities at the forefront of economic, social, and global concerns about energy and water use, traffic management, sanitation, and sustainability. To address those concerns, municipalities are increasingly turning to smart solutions that promise to improve infrastructure and governance. But how does a city know which vendors to trust? Which partners are most capable of bringing a city’s smart ambitions to fruition?


    As with every high-growth market, regulation and certification often has to play catch-up. There are hundreds of companies promising the latest smart technology, the brightest and best innovations. Only relatively recently have organizations begun to evaluate and make efforts to agree upon the criteria for what qualifies a city as smart.

    The AWS Smart City Competency partnership


    A smart city requires the proper mix of data, technology, infrastructure, and services to deliver sustainable and citizen-centric solutions. It’s important for city authorities to work with the right partners, ones that enable smart cities and help them thrive.


    Amazon—more specifically Amazon Web Services (AWS)—has emerged as a leader in smart city certification with its Smart City Competency partnership. The initiative is designed to “support public sector customers’ innovations to quickly deliver smarter and more efficient citizen services.” As a trusted presence in the digital space, AWS is well positioned to deliver world-class recommendations to customers looking to build and deploy innovative smart city solutions.


    The premise is fairly straightforward. The AWS Smart City Competency “will differentiate highly specialized AWS Partners with a demonstrated deep technical expertise and proven track record of customer success within the Smart City use cases.” The idea is that, through the AWS Smart City Competency, customers will be able to quickly and confidently identify approved partners to help them address smart city challenges.

    The benefits are clear. When working with a certified AWS partner like Interact, you can feel secure knowing that the system has met and exceeded a high competence threshold. The partnership offers a host of additional benefits, including partner opportunity acceleration funding, discounted AWS training, and ongoing support and networking opportunities.

    Opportunities from World Bank, the UN, and elsewhere


    The AWS Smart City Competency is just one example of an initiative designed to define smart city standards. World Bank, a voice of authority in the smart city space, has launched the Global Smart City Partnership Program (GSCP).


    The Global Smart City Partnership Program was established in 2018 to help World Bank Group teams and clients make the best use of data, technologies, and available resources. The program is built on the understanding that technology- and data-driven innovations can improve city planning, management, and service delivery, better engage citizens, and enhance governmental accountability. Like the AWS program, the goal of World Bank is to work closely with prominent smart city experts from all around the world and match them with certified partners they can trust.

    The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) for Smart Cities shares a similar desire for aligning smart city customers and dependable vendors. The UNDP cites a number of factors by which smart city projects fail, including organizational culture, difficulties in achieving behavior change, lack of technical expertise and leadership, and a singular focus on technology. Too often, the actual needs and realities of customers are overlooked; only by matching those customers with genuine smart city experts can a greater level of success be achieved.

    Emerging smart city standards


    For a city to truly become a smart city, it needs to integrate data-driven solutions across numerous application areas, from transportation and mobility to utility planning, waste management, and emergency response. This means it’s likely that decision makers will turn to numerous vendors to carry out individual projects.


    But cities are not silos. They’re living, breathing entities—ecosystems in which each element impacts and interacts with the next. This makes the issue of interoperability a pertinent one.


    According to Smart Cities World, “Public tenders for various smart city applications globally more and more include the requests for compliance to international standards . . . [V]endors want to make sure that their systems are future-proof and allow interoperability with other market players.”


    Not only does this highlight the benefits of being recognized and certified by the programs we’ve discussed, but it places a greater onus on providers to ensure that their products adopt an open systems approach.


    Emerging standards, best practices, and coordinated initiatives, along with a general increase in experience and expertise, has made it easier to recognize what a smart city is—and, crucially, what it is not. For cities with smart aspirations, choosing the right partner is integral to success. Certification programs like the ones mentioned here make it far easier to judge who those partners are.

    About the author

    Jonathan Weinert, IoT Lighting, Signify

    Award-winning writer Jonathan Weinert has been been researching and reporting on LED lighting, connected lighting, and the IoT since joining Signify in 2008.



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