Collaborative Platform Aims at Improving Smart City Development

Create: 09/13/2017 - 16:29

Photo: Global City Teams Challenge/NIST, U.S. Dept. of Commerce


While most cities want to be considered a “smart city,” adding layers of new technology can be a difficult task. IoT-based connectivity and communication projects tend to be highly customized, which can lead to an increase in both frustration and risk for city managers leading the charge.  

Launched in 2014 to help better navigate some of these stumbling blocks, the Global City Teams Challenge (GCTC) program is a collaborative platform for the development of smart cities and communities, led by National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a bureau of U.S. Department of Commerce, in partnership with other U.S. federal agencies including National Science Foundation, International Trade Administration and National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Encouraging Collaboration and the Development of Standards

GCTC’s long-term goal is "to establish and demonstrate replicable, scalable and sustainable models for incubation and deployment of interoperable, standard-based solutions using advanced technologies such as IoT and CPS, and demonstrate their measurable benefits in communities and cities."

The program enables communities interested in making the transition to smart cities—or those interested in expanding or refining existing smart infrastructures—to benefit from the real-world experience of other parties who have experience with the technologies in question. All of which helps improve efficiency and lower costs by avoiding the need to reinvent the wheel with every new connected project.

Increased collaboration is at GCTC’s core, allowing disparate parties across the globe to connect and benefit from the others’ experiences. By using its platform, local governments, nonprofit organizations, academic institutions, technologists and corporations from all over the world can form project teams, or “action clusters,” and “SuperClusters,” to work on groundbreaking IoT and Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) applications within the city and community environment.

As the program has matured, new focuses have recently come to the forefront—specifically, the issue of improving security.

Smart City Partnership for Cybersecurity

At the Global City Teams Challenge Expo on August 29 of this year, NIST and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the next phase of the GCTC, the “Smart and Secure Cities and Communities Challenge,” a partnership to bring together smart city initiatives and DHS’s security expertise and resources.

“A smart city application is an integration of critical infrastructures of all types,” said Chris Greer, director of the Smart Grid and Cyber-Physical Systems Program at NIST. “And so it’s important that these critical infrastructures be not only efficient and effective, but that they be safe, secure, resilient, reliable and privacy-advancing, in other words, that they be trustworthy as well. And that’s the focus of this partnership that we’re announcing between NIST and the Department of Homeland Security’s science and technology Directorate.”

Also speaking at the expo, Doug Maughan, director of the Cyber Security Division of DHS’s Science and Technology Directorate, highlighted why the collaboration was a natural extension of the GCTC’s mission. “Today, what we’re saying is ‘look we have a whole community of cybersecurity researchers nationally and globally that you can touch and tap into. It’s time for us to start doing a marriage here between the smart cities community and the cybersecurity and data privacy community.’ What we’re hoping to do with the partnership with NIST is exactly that.”

Maughan identified four major goals the DHS’s Cyber Security Division has that align with promoting safer smart cities: protecting critical infrastructure; securing .gov IP addresses on state, local, and federal levels; securing the technology ecosystem; and aiding law enforcement. It funds a variety of research and grant programs to advance the development of homeland security-useful technologies—one of which, the Silicon Valley Innovation Program, funds startups around the country. According to Maughan, DHS has a budget of about $90 million to fund new technologies.

Photo: Global City Teams Challenge/NIST, U.S. Dept. of Commerce

“Our goal is to find guinea pigs: people who are willing to be pilot partners to test and evaluate technologies. We actually fund pilots of some of these technologies as part of our projects,” said Maughan. “The smart cities environment is a great avenue for testing and evaluating new technologies. That’s what we’re all doing here as part of Smart Cities. We just want you to think more about the security and the privacy of those smart cities and of those technologies. We’re hoping to bring technology to help you.”

The Smart and Secure Cities and Communities Challenge will hold a launch event in November, followed by a tech jam in spring 2018. In fall 2018, DHS and NIST will host another GCTC expo to celebrate the progress made by smart city initiatives.

Help Cities Get Smart

About Author

Patricia Schnaidt's picture
Patricia Schnaidt
Patricia Schnaidt is an expert business technology writer. She has held top publishing and editorial positions at InternetWeek, Network Computing, Windows Magazine and LAN Magazine. Schnaidt has written countless articles, lectured extensively, and authored "Enterprise-wide Networking" (Prentice-Hall). She holds a B.A. in Computer Science from Columbia College, Columbia University.

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