Questions and Answers - IEEE Smart Cities Chair

IEEE Smart Cities Questions and Answers

Patrick Graves, Manager of Smart Grid Programs at ComEd

What committee do you chair and what is its role in IEEE Smart Cities?

I chair the IEEE Smart Cities Steering Committee. This committee sets the strategic direction for the initiative, and calls for the efforts of our volunteer base to drive progress within the smart cities discipline. We set forth the structure needed to organize the individual and collaborative works of our members societies. We also set the priorities of initiative in order to focus resources were needed most.

What prompted you to get involved in the IEEE Smart Cities initiative?

At a high level, I got involved because I want to work on important issues that have the potential to address real challenges like the environment, transportation, and health, and I believe smart city solutions will play a role in all of these areas.   More specifically, I got involved with IEEE Smart Cities because I find that while there is much activity, investment, and excitement in and around “Smart Cities”, two things stand out as barriers to progress in the evolution toward smarter cities and communities, and IEEE is the obvious entity to help overcome these barriers.

  1. First, while “Smart Cities” is a broad field, there isn’t a cohesive framework that puts everything into context so that capability gaps can be identified and addressed, and credible technical content can be indexed and highlighted so that it’s accessible to those who need it.  Technology providers and communities looking to become smarter struggle to find a single, unbiased, technically credible voice that provides the tools needed to plan for and execute an enduring smartcities program.
  2. Second, those cities that are deploying smart city applications today are often doing so with vendor-specific point solutions, rather than with standards based technologies.  

Recognizing this, I wanted to get involved to help develop such a framework, drive for standardization, and share my experiences and observations as a practitioner in this space. 

What are the goals of your committee in the near term and long term? How will pursuing and reaching these goals contribute to the development of Smart Cities?

The long term goal of the IEEE Smart City steering committee is to ensure we fulfill the mission and vision of the consortium, as outlined in our strategic plan which we developed and approved in 2017.  As we’ve written it there, “The IEEE Smart Cities Initiative will bring together IEEE’s broad array of technical societies and organizations to advance the state of the art for smart city technologies for the benefit of society and to set the global standard in this regard by serving as a neutral broker of information amongst industry, academic, and government stakeholders.”  In the near term, we’re ramping up by building out and supporting our Operational Committees, organizing existing content and refreshing our website, and mobilizing our volunteer base.

Which of the functional domains do you see the biggest opportunities and/or challenges for? Where does technical research need to be focused?

It’s difficult to pick just one given that a smart city needs to function well across all these domains in order to be effective.  In that way, if I had to pick one I would choose Systems Integration.  Without strong integration, individual technology applications, or use cases, will have limited value.   Cities are complex systems of systems. By sharing information across use cases, a deeper understanding of what’s happening in the city is possible, more global optimization occurs, and deeper benefits are realized.  This is a complex topic given the issue of privacy and the vast and unique (heterogenous) nature of stakeholders.  

What makes a city smarter (top attributes)?

Information makes a city smarter. By collecting, analyzing, and sharing data, cities and communities can make better decisions, improve operations, and facilitate a better experience overall for the residents and visitors of that city.

What role will standards play in Smart Cities?

Standards play significant role in smart cities. Given the pace at which technology is being developed and deployed, there is a significant risk of divergence and lack of interoperability of systems.  Standardization will maximize interoperability allowing information gathered through disparate use cases to be shared and integrated most effectively.