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Performance Metrics for Sustainable Cities: What Lies Ahead

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Editor’s Note: This article is originally published in the 22nd PERFORMANCE Magazine – Printed Edition. To get your own copy of the whole magazine, visit – TKI Marketplace –  to download the digital copy and – Amazon – for an additional printed copy.

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are essential in assessing the performance of smart cities, which are emerging as the main drivers of economic development in several countries today. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) defines smart cities as “cities that leverage digitalization and engage stakeholders to improve people’s well-being and build more inclusive, sustainable and resilient societies.”

According to the paper “Smart Cities Evaluation – A Survey of Performance and Sustainability Indicators,” more than 60% of the worldwide population lives in urban areas. However, the negative impact of urbanization on the environment is increasing. The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) encourage the increased use of technology to provide efficient services, high quality of life, and alternatives for strengthening environmental sustainability.

Analyzing smart city performance enables policymakers at both the national and local levels to set achievable targets, determine where cities stand on their goals, track progress, and adjust policies. The Institute for Management Development (IMD) in Lausanne, Switzerland, and the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) cooperate to generate the Smart City Index (SCI). The study rates 118 cities from all over the globe based on inhabitants’ judgments of how technology may enhance their lives, as well as economic and social data from the UN Human Development Index. In July 2021, the report polled 120 residents in each city, totaling roughly 15,000 people.

The first three top-rated cities by IMD according to the SCI 2021 are Singapore, Zurich, and Oslo. The main aspects analyzed through SCI 2021 include priority areas that are perceived by the citizens as priorities to be improved. The second importance is based on Structures and Technologies, which are key survey data collected and organized into five categories: health and safety, mobility, activities, opportunities, and governance. Each indicator under these categories displays the score for the city and a comparison with the top four.

There are five characteristics that are desirable to users based on a quality model for a smart city designed in the paper “Metrics and indicators to evaluate the degree of transformation to smart city of a city. An ad-hoc quality model:” business and energy, transport and traffic, public security, inclusion and security, education, and innovation and development. 

All these areas could be optimized through a specially developed set of metrics that can be adapted accordingly to the specific region/country. Some examples refer to: # Wi-Fi antennas, % Solar panels, # Intelligent interrelated systems, #State drones or # Intelligent garbage containers.

The Holistic Key Performance Indicators (H-KPI) Framework was developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to assist municipal managers and other stakeholders engaged in governance and social development that analyze the benefits of smart city technologies. It was created to serve as a foundation for the development of measuring methods that allow for integration, adaptation, and extension across three interconnected levels of analysis: technologies, infrastructure services, and community benefits. 

Strategic planning, system design and assurance, and operations management are all applications of the H-KPI technique. According to Smart Cities Connect, five metrics are used in the H-KPI Framework: across districts and neighborhoods, KPIs are aligned with community priorities; assets that are in line with the needs of the community; effectiveness of investment; density of information flow; and infrastructure service quality and social programs. This involves a baseline assessment, a comparative study of technology options, system design, and project sequencing for strategic planning. 

The U.S. Department of Commerce’ National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) elaborated on the data collection in the H-KPI method in a special publication. The NIST paper shows that the data collection goes through five phases: data source selection (define city data sources); data gathering (turning raw data into information); modeling (develop data sharing models for city data); characterization (listing smart city data and goals); and quantification (comprehensive analysis based of previous steps.

In conclusion, performance metrics play a key role in assessing the ability of cities and communities to deploy sophisticated technology efficiently and effectively as well as the reliability and efficacy of systems and strategies used in developing and running smart cities.

To level up your knowledge and understanding of performance metrics, The KPI Institute is continuously delivering quality content through online and face-to-face classes on Certified KPI Professional and Practitioner. Through this program’s intensive and organized approach to measuring performance, you will be provided with the required knowledge and training to advance your skills among other professionals.  Visit The KPI Institute’s website for further information.

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