NIST Aims to Bring us a World With Smart Cities

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) hosts an annual Global City Teams Challenge intended to showcase forward-thinking ideas on the development of smart cities and communities.

What is a smart city?

The concept of “smart cities” is a relatively new one. A smart city is an urban area that uses information and communication technologies to increase efficiency, share information with the public and improve the quality of government services and the quality of life of citizens. Smart cities use the Internet of Things (IoT) to accomplish these goals. The IoT is the network of physical devices embedded with electronics that enable these objects to connect and exchange data. An example of an IoT device would be smart thermostats that are connected to the Internet and allow users to easily adjust the temperature from other Internet-connected devices, such as smartphones. While it may not seem like the most sophisticated technology, smart trashcans are another example of an IoT device within a smart city framework. A smart trashcan may be designed to relay messages to the city’s waste management services when it is full, to prevent trash overflow or littering.

What was discussed at this year’s conference?

This year’s conference was held from February 6 to February 8. The conference enables local governments, nonprofit organizations, academic institutions, technologists, and corporations from all over the world to form project teams also known as “action clusters” and “superclusters.” Superclusters are alliances of action clusters and relevant additional stakeholders grouped into sectors, to work on groundbreaking Internet of Things (IoT) and Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) applications within the smart city and community environment.

NIST co-hosted the 2018 event with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate. This year’s program encouraged participating teams to have an additional focus on cybersecurity and privacy, in addition to the existing GCTC goals including replicability, scalability, and sustainability.

The 2018 GCTC-SC3 included more superclusters than in its previous years. The superclusters focused on:
• Transportation
• Public Safety
• Energy/Water/Waste
• Wireless/Cybersecurity
• City Data Platforms
• Data Governance/Exchange
• Agriculture/Rural Areas

Each day was capped off with a plenary session that included every attendee and gave an overview of what the NIST calls the IoT-Enabled Smart-City (IES-City) framework, an outline of strategies for bringing the Internet of Things smart cities to fruition. Plenary sessions adjourned with a review process and feedback from the attendees. Day Two of the conference started with one of the more interesting plenary sessions that revolved around Cybersecurity and Privacy for Smart Cities and Communities.

The panel consisted of an array of professionals with different perspectives: Erin Kenneally, Program Manager for the Department of Homeland Security, Bob Bennett, Chief Innovation Officer for Kansas City, David Heyman, former Secretary of Policy for the Department of Homeland Security, and David Choffness, professor of Computer Science at Northeastern University. Data Governance and Cybersecurity was one of the major themes of 2018’s conference and was presented as one of the primary challenges to the deployment of smart city technologies today. Heyman said that the data governance challenge has two main components. Many cities have successfully implemented data management and open data solutions for public data, but there isn’t a comprehensive strategy for properly handling all of this data.

This writer attended the wireless/cybersecurity session. The session focused on the development of best practices for the deployment of wireless systems. It showcased that wireless networks can be a tool for economic development, a lever for tackling the digital gap, as core infrastructure in IoT networks, and supporting smart city applications such as public safety, energy, lighting, transportation, and more.

Tony Batalla, IT Manager & Director of the City of San Leandro, CA led the session. Speaking about the difficulty of deploying municipal Wi-Fi networks, Batalla said that the success or failure of wireless network deployments often hinges on a variety of factors and tradeoffs between public policy, physics, and economics and because of this, many municipalities have struggled to deploy and sustain these systems.

During the breakout sessions, the Wireless supercluster sought to address these issues by focusing on different marketing approaches for different sectors or industries in a city, conducting analysis aimed at uncovering the best practices for successful deployments, and producing blueprints on the analysis. Analysis of best practices in Wi-Fi deployment will be conducted in the form of interviews, workshops, and case studies.

The Wireless supercluster also focused on securing IoT networks at all levels, integrating and securing network infrastructure for cities, optimizing public Wi-Fi for IoT and reducing the cost of secure sustainable public Wi-Fi installations.

Copyright for Image: Photographer, Stock Photo, License Summary.

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