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BSI raises standard for smart city data sharing



Details of data curation take centre stage in draft PAS document aimed at building capacity

A fresh light has been thrown on the issue of data sharing in the development of smart places, with the publication of a draft document on the issue by national standards body the BSI.

Under the functional label of PAS 183:20176, it provides a guide to setting up a decision-making framework for sharing data and information services, and moves beyond the BSI standard that appeared in 2014 focused on the model for data in a smart city concept.

According Professor Jacqui Taylor (pictured), technical author of the report, it is aimed at providing insights to help readers understand the possibilities in data sharing.

“This PAS could be a key to unlocking the business models for smart cities,” she told UKAuthority. “We’ve been working with cities on it – they helped to develop the case studies in the document – and it’s something real to go on.”

She added: “We delivered it with input from 90 local authorities, and it’s about building the capacity. This PAS takes them towards building their capability. The work we did to to get people looking at data was an enlightening experience, and it should provide a way of getting a first step on the ladder.

“Data is generally being viewed as an asset, something you can use to improve things, but these are the sort of changes you need to think about as you approach using the internet of things.”

Open and closed

She highlighted two key points in the new document. One is the need to pay close attention to the potential not just of open data, but closed data for which the use has to be authorised.

“All of this is involved in the lessons you have in making the data work for citizens,” she said. “It goes beyond open data so we are now looking at shared data. It’s about how the cities act as curators of data.”

The second element is compliance with the new EU General Data Protection Regulation which, despite Brexit, will still underpin the UK’s data regime. The PAS provides guidance on how to approach dealing with the regulation in establishing the data sharing arrangements for a smart city.

The document itself is not heavily prescriptive – it recognises that cities all have their own priorities – but highlights the issues that city leaders need to think carefully about in data sharing. Among these is the importance of considering the data state: whether it is best to use the snapshot of static data, temporal data that varies over time, or versioned data that represents an update in a cycle.

It also points to the largely untapped role of derived data, which comes from one or more measures used by a city to create new data attributes. This can be used in exploring data and will appear in any resulting analysis.

There is also an emphasis on the “shared data estate”, rather than allowing the data needed to sit in closed silos or a single data repository, as this makes it easier to obtain the full value and provides advantages in security and resilience.  

Value chain

Another important element is the data value chain through which cities can view the flow of the data throughout its lifecycle. This depends on a blended technology system, reflecting the document’s advice that the tech used should be loosely coupled and interoperable.

Taylor was careful to make clear that while the document provides guidance it will not make things easy, but also emphasised that it is an effort worth making.

“Any of us in the smart cities world understand that the transition is not an easy one. It’s not a natural progression but a change in emphasis.

“Underpinning is a move to using the internet of things, which provides the opportunity to add something of value to everybody’s lives, such as in health and wellbeing.”

The draft of the new document is out for consultation until 21 October, following which the input will be examined by a steering group that will go on to produce the final draft.

The earlier PAS is now being pushed as the basis for an ISO standard. Taylor said there is no guarantee that the new one will follow the same route, but that she has been encouraged by the International Standards Organisation’s willingness to accept the importance of the BSI’s work in the field.

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