From smart household appliances to smart cars, regular readers of this blog know that there has been a rapid increase in the adoption of Internet connected devices. This internetworking of physical devices and the Internet of Things (IoT) has been the subject of plenty of industry talk and speculation, including how open standards can help in their development. But now, the concept of the “smart city” is also seeing increasing adoption worldwide.

The thought is that by providing smart, digital services, these cities will become more attractive places for people to live. And that could very well be the case. However, a recent article from The Open Group explored a the position that “in order for smart cities solutions to remain affordable, cities will need to adopt open standards and open platforms for their digital services so they can maintain competition and keep those services affordable.”

So, are open standards the “key” to the smart cities?

According to Kary Främling, Professor of Computer Science at Aalto University in Finland and Founder and CEO of Control Things, the answer could be yes.

In an interview with Främling, Open Group dug a little deeper. The point of smart cities is to make life easier for the citizens through these connected services and devices. However, that benefit disappears should they become too expensive due to vendor lock-in or proprietary standards. These services cover a range of issues. One, for example, is parking. As an increasing number of vehicles go electric, they need to find charging stations when they are in new or unfamiliar cities. “The challenge is that providers all tend to have their own portals, services, payment systems and so on. We want to have these services that we use in everyday life become simpler.”

How would open standards provide an advantage as cities move to become “smarter?” Främling puts it this way:

The new services are a value as such, but they need to be kept affordable. Keeping these systems open too is not even just about the money and maintaining competition in the marketplace. It’s also about once you have this data and services more open and available, that opens up completely new possibilities for innovating new services. Let’s say that even if Google is an excellent company with loads of smart people, if you extend that into more open information systems and services that you could combine on-the-fly, then even some start-up companies could come up with new services on-the-fly that use the existing ones. It could really spur innovation.

You can read the entire transcript of Främling’s interview here. Using open standards that follow the Modern Paradigm for Standards can help ensure these smart cities remain accessible and open to all.

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