Measuring the Smart City

Measuring the Smart City

Building infraestructure

 

The SC concept has been adding new areas to its definition, given its fuzzy, emergent and dynamic nature. Most approaches focus on measuring production goals, and only a few of them take the impact on citizens into consideration.

William Pepperell Montague, an American philosopher (1873-1953) of the New Realist School, used to say: “according to the new physics, what cannot be measured does not exist”. The sentence was given a new meaning and a broader scope by William Reddington Hewlett (1913-2001) -one of the founders of the Hewlett-Packard

Company (HP)- who said: “what cannot be measured cannot be managed”. Considering that a new management model (based on the application of innovative technological solutions) is introduced in Smart Cities, we may see how relevant it becomes to measure it so that a successful application is guaranteed. By measuring what we do, and how we do it, we may establish how efficient our management is, identify our strengths and weaknesses and define the results obtained and the impact of our actions.

The technology involved in a Smart City is extremely useful, as it makes it possible to introduce sensors in the city life and gather all kinds of information (traffic, waste collection, energy consumption…). Information is gathered not only in terms of location (simple cartography) but also regarding the relationship between agent-citizens and territory (dynamic cartography). Nevertheless, even if technology makes it quite simple to obtain such information, it is not that easy to manage it and to establish what to measure, as several aspects are involved. This is why establishing standardized metrics and criteria is such a relevant issue when trying to gather knowledge to manage such projects. Besides, this is a relevant issue for all decision-making from the political point of view, as both politicians and citizens demand more transparency in the communication of the results obtained and the social and economic impact achieved by smart city initiatives.

The smart city concept is a broad one; as a fuzzy, emergent and dynamic concept, it has been adding new areas to its definition, and that makes it difficult to define the dimensions to be analyzed. The smart city concept has been around for about 25 years, and the concept has evolved over time according to the amount of areas and fields that have been included in it. At the very beginning, energy was the essential component of smart cities (cities that use Information and Communication Technologies, ICT, to offer energy-sustainable services to citizens), but it has evolved towards a broader definition. Several authors, such as Komninos (2002) and Shapiro (2003) lay emphasis on knowledge management and innovation capacity. On the other hand, other authors such as Odeandaal (2003) stress the relevance of the technological component, and define a smart city as the area, region or city that makes the most of ICT-related opportunities to foster progress. Finighan, R. and Webb, M (2011) highlight the economic attraction and the creation of new industries in such areas, and so define a smart city as a city that achieves all the following: use data and ICT strategically in order to be efficient in the provision of services to citizens; follow-up of government management according to results and achievement of goals; manage and optimize current infrastructure while the new infrastructure is being efficiently planned; reduce inter-organizational conflicts by improving communication between agencies and make it possible for innovative business models to be introduced, both in the public and the private sectors.

Inputs are starting points derived from the required supplies or resources to perform processes. Outputs and outcomes are two different process: the former involve the production of products (outputs) by means of established initiatives and activities, which governments and administration may somewhat control; the latter involve the generation of results and impacts on citizens, which cannot be controlled to the same extent because the effects of the undertaken intervention may only be evaluated in the medium and long term (as measuring them is a much more complex matter).

Measuring inputs is the set-up phase of a smart project or initiative, which takes place even before planning. It involves making strategic planning of actions possible according to the available economic and personal resources (among other factors) and it is done prior to the execution of any activities. Indicators should focus on measuring revenue and other material and human resources in order to reach conclusions and make decisions in the short-term. Indicators that monitor outputs are needed to establish the results obtained by the undertaken actions, efficiency in terms of resource usage… They measure activities and products in order to draw up short- and medium-term conclusions and decisions. Thus, they make it possible to follow intermediate goals in the introduction of initiatives. Outcome-related indicators enable identification of changes or transformations produced as a consequence of the actions performed, and their medium- and long-term results in the political and social arenas. They are related to measuring the final goal of the intervention.

Still in the Smart Mobility dimension, a table is shown below where several possible indicators for inputs, outputs and outcomes are suggested. They could be defined to measure transport management projects and traffic control in a smart city.

Dimensions to define an SC

In conclusion, once the reference sources and authors in the subject have been analyzed, along with several successful projects in the smart city area, a set of dimensions or axes have been identified, around which smart cities are defined. Such dimensions were encountered over and over again, and they are not exclusively used in academics; they are also taken into account by most consulting and provider companies, which base their service portfolio on them with a view to adapting to sector needs. They are listed below:

  • Smart Environment: Smart buildings, resource management, sustainable urban planning…
  • Smart Mobility: Efficient transport, Multimodal access…
  • Smart Governance: e-Administration and e-Government, Open Governance…
  • Smart Economy: Entrepreneurship and innovation, Productivity, Global and local connection…
  • Smart People: Integration, Education, Resilience…
  • Smart Living: Culture and personal welfare, Security, Healthcare…

Once the dimensions included in the smart city concept have been determined, it is time to define what is to be measured. Picasso once said “computers are useless, they can only provide answers” and the real issue is asking the right questions: “Better questions, better thinking”. The sources we analyzed show that, even if the dimensions to be measured are the same (Environment, Governance, Economy…), different criteria and indicators are established, which means that results differ according to the source being used.
Besides, most reference sources do not set up indicators that may tell apart the difference between the introduction of initiatives and their results and impacts.

Most approaches focus on measuring activities-outputs (production goal): broadband, mobile internet usage… all of these aspects are included in the technology and energy areas. Only a few approaches do measure user impact (a goal belonging to the political and/or social arenas). Let’s use an example to dive deeper into this issue: measuring the Smart Mobility dimension. Indicators are usually the following: number of sensors to regulate traffic, extension of transport network, using clean means of public transport… However, impact-related indicators are not always measured: male or female users depending on the means of transport considered, either public or private; average time spent moving around; degree of satisfaction with the currently existing transport system… As well as other issues that lay at the base of current problems, such as the distance between work places and homes; reasons why citizens use private means of transport instead of the public ones available; traffic accidents due to the transport systems…Other issues are also set aside, such as economic impact on several areas or districts in the city, groups of citizens that benefit from the transport system, mobility for disabled people or people with mobility impairments, sedentary lifestyle and obesity among citizens…

 

 City street

 

Proposal for a methodology

Several authors developed models to measure intervention and results of public policies from resources involved, processes deployed and effects achieved. By taking this approach to the smart city area, several points of interest may be established for its analysis.

Projects to transform a city into a smart city require public-private cooperation. The relationship between the public sector and society (including both the business sector and the social sector) gives rise to a cross-cutting scenario that involves service provision, service production and organization (collaboration and cooperation relationships) and management and value chain in the public sector (costs, capacities, activities to be performed…). Measuring the management model requires systems to control efficacy (the degree to which the goals are achieved) and efficiency (the cost of obtaining the results). This makes it relevant to distinguish between resources (inputs), activities (outputs) and impact (outcomes).

Inputs are starting points derived from the required supplies or resources to perform processes. Outputs and outcomes are two different process: the former involve the production of products (outputs) by means of established initiatives and activities, which governments and administration may somewhat control; the latter involve the generation of results and impacts on citizens, which cannot be controlled to the same extent because the effects of the undertaken intervention may only be evaluated in the medium and long term (as measuring them is a much more complex matter).

Measuring inputs is the set-up phase of a smart project or initiative, which takes place even before planning. It involves making strategic planning of actions possible according to the available economic and personal resources (among other factors) and it is done prior to the execution of any activities. Indicators should focus on measuring revenue and other material and human resources in order to reach conclusions and make decisions in the short-term. Indicators that monitor outputs are needed to establish the results obtained by the undertaken actions, efficiency in terms of resource usage… They measure activities and products in order to draw up short- and medium-term conclusions and decisions. Thus, they make it possible to follow intermediate goals in the introduction of initiatives. Outcome-related indicators enable identification of changes or transformations produced as a consequence of the actions performed, and their medium- and long-term results in the political and social arenas. They are related to measuring the final goal of the intervention.

The aforementioned proposal for a methodology includes questions involving the execution of smart projects, results and the impact of the intervention in citizen’s quality of life.

Most of the reference sources do not establish indicators that differentiate the introduction of initiatives from their results and impacts. This highlights the importance of establishing metrics and criteria in which several starting points and results are taken into account for the analysis, comparison, knowledge and learning involved in initiatives. This is the only way to make smart cities measurement tangible.

By Conchi Rodríguez Illana, consultant at Altran España.

Measuring the Smart City

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