Grid Modernization

Paper Proposes New Metrics For Evaluating Smart Cities

A new paper from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) provides a broader metric the authors say will aid city managers and others involved in planning and community development and particularly in designing and evaluating smart city plans.

The recently published paper, NIST Special Publication 1900-206 Smart Cities and Communities: A Key Performance Indicators Framework, expands the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) approach commonly used as a metric to evaluate smart cities and communities and offers a new framework that builds on KPI methods that the authors call Holistic Key Performance Indicators (H-KPI).

The KPI approach is limited by its technology- or sector-specific focus and an inability to measure benefits essential to assessing community impact and return on investment, the paper argues.

The H-KPI approach proposed in the paper counters those limitations by accounting for “unique characteristics such as varying districts and neighborhoods, differences in population and economic scale, the reuse of previously deployed technologies, and other factors relevant to a city or community,” the authors said.

“Without reliable measurement methods for ‘smart,’ there is a gap in the ability to answer questions such as ‘how smart is my smart city plan,’ or ‘how can my smart community strategy be made smarter?’” the authors wrote.

The paper defines the use of “smart” in “smart cities” as the efficient use of digital technologies to provide prioritized services and benefits to meet community goals, such as economic vitality, equity, resilience, sustainability, or quality of life.

Previous means of measuring a smart city focused on inputs, such as the amount of investment, outputs, such as the number of sensors, or outcomes, such as energy savings, according to the paper. While valid, those methods were also incomplete and limited, the authors said, because they are often retrospective and not well suited to project planning. These methods also do not typically lend themselves to strategic optimization because they do not provide a means for choosing among different technical architectures or for tailoring options to priorities, needs, and constraints of a particular city or community. In addition, traditional metrics often do not provide a means for leveraging previous investments and existing infrastructures, the authors said.

In contrast, the core metrics of the H-KPI proposed in the paper relies on five metrics:

· Alignment of KPIs with community priorities across districts and neighborhoods;

· investment alignment with community priorities;

· investment efficiency;

· information flow density; and

· quality of infrastructure services and community benefits.

The H-KPI approach will benefit future efforts in the NIST smart cities and communities program, including the NIST Global City Teams Challenge, the authors said.

The paper was an international collaboration with Martin Serrano of the National University of Ireland Galway and supported by the NGI Explorers Program under the EC Horizons 2020 framework. NIST is a part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.