Smart City Standards

DHS and OGC bring smart city standards to the public safety community with St. Louis SCIRA pilot


Cities around the world continue to implement real-world technology to enhance operational efficiencies and effectiveness and improve quality of life. Today, Internet of Things (IoT) devices monitor the air quality and trash in sewers, smart street lamps save energy by tracking pedestrian volumes, and sensors on roads and bridges monitor vibration and humidity for damage. But with this persistent innovation,how can cities more effectively plan for, implement, maintain, and reap the benefits of these technologies?

The Open Geospatial Consortium (OGS), in collaboration with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T),are working on a standards-based approach to reduce a city’s risk when implementing IoT technology because much of the work has already been done, and proven effective, by others with similar goals. OGC and DHS S&T have collaborated to create the Smart City Interoperability Reference Architecture (SCIRA) to bring smart city standards to the nation’s public safety community.

In 2019, in collaboration with the city of St. Louis, OGC and DHS S&T executed a smart city technology integration pilot, which took place at the downtown St. Louis technology innovation center T-Rex. SCIRA researched, designed, and tested an interoperable framework that integrated commercial proprietary IoT sensors for public safety applications at the community level. The goal was to develop an interoperable requirements-based architecture framework for smart cities in support of the public safety sector. The SCIRA pilot tested the ability to enhance public safety via a series of scenarios such as major flooding, flash flooding, vulnerable population outreach, and building fires.

“We wanted to enhance our city operations,” said Dr. Robert Gaskill-Clemons, the chief technology officer of the City of St. Louis, “to integrate technology available today to improve public safety operations across all city departments.”

One major project objective for the city was creating a joint operations center. This center would dispatch any necessary first responders to an incident, including human services and streets & power, allowing for greater situational awareness for multiple departments that do not fall under the public safety umbrella but need to respond to incidents in the city.

“The outcome of these scenarios resulted in more visibility into our resources and staff and situational awareness across multiple departments responding to incidents,” said Gaskill-Clemons.

In the background of this effort was the DHS S&T and OGC technology objective: “How do you manage a vast variety of sensors and combine that data in a coherent format to ultimately have operation benefits?” said Norman Speicher, DHS S&T program manager. “Fundamentally that is through standards. We managed the middle ground between industries and stakeholders to show that standards would make it easier for cities like St. Louis to implement a variety of different technologies.”

One example of the standards used is called SensorThings API, which addresses the syntactic and semantic interoperability of the Internet of Things. Vendors involved were asked to adopt this standard to streamline collection of data at a single point. Therefore, all the applications utilized by first responders and mock-up control rooms could pull data from a single source.

“If all of the emerging capabilities and data could be moved to one common place, it would mean greater situational awareness, which means operational efficiency in the city,” said Speicher. “Fundamentally, much of what we tried to do was show the value of standards and how standards could be implemented to ensure that the application of these different technologies could be made simpler.”

SCIRA demonstrated specific use cases for the different applications that will ensure operational efficiencies and effectiveness for the city. SCIRA also provided free deployment guides and reusable patterns, to provide plain-language guidance on implementing the architecture, and will address a range of smart city functional areas, such as transportation and connectivity.

“We presented them with enough of the concepts and enough of the potentials of smart city standards, data consolidation, and all the capabilities to begin the thought process and put pen to paper,” said Speicher.

Featured Image: St. Louis Skyline | Photo Credit: Smart Cities World

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