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Smart cities reference architecture

A successful smart cities solution is enabled by not only technology, but also by non-technology elements, including policy, strategy and leadership model. This research brought technology and non-technology components together to explore how a smart cities initiative fits into the wider city context, and what actions need to be taken to realise the initiative.  Cities need to understand what they want to achieve at an early stage to ensure their smart city agenda aligns with overarching goals. They need to know how effectively an initiative could contribute to goals when considering whether to implement smart city initiatives and where potential synergies could be generated.

The project developed a reference architecture for smart cities, based on the concept of enterprise architecture, to demonstrate how to deliver smart cities in practice. A reference architecture, in information technology terms, is a method to demonstrate the abstract set of mechanisms, key elements and relationships addressing requirements in a specific domain.

The reference architecture will help cities identify gaps, develop a smart cities delivery approach, and explore appropriate smart cities projects that could help cities to tackle their challenges. It allows us to model and visualise the complex city components, and map out the relationships between them.  Our smart cities reference architecture can help us to visualise the complex city components, existing activities, and functions and map out the relationships among different stakeholders. It will provide a more tangible way to help with identifying opportunities and gaps, facilitating stakeholder engagement and recommending smart cities solutions for clients.

The aim of the project was to deliver a framework that could be used by Arup to bridge the gap between strategy and implementation of smart city initiatives.

We developed a coherent approach using three key analysis elements (i) motivation analysis, (ii) preliminary value estimation, and (iii) component analysis based on enterprise architecture concepts to help organisations answer the following questions:
- How to align smart city investment with overarching organisational goals?
- How to prioritise potential smart city initiatives?
- How to maximise the value of investment by recognising potential synergies?

We tested and refined the developed approach by applying it to two real Arup smart city projects in Australia. The output was a guide to applying the methodologies with a case study for each area and series of models developed using the modelling language ArchiMate.

Each of the three analysis elements used in the project have specific applications:

The motivation analysis can be used by consultants to assist with the development of requirements, and to engage with clients to help understand their goals and identify other important stakeholders.

The preliminary value estimation can be used to describe initiatives and links to particular goals. It can assist in bringing emphasis and focus to help clients use an evidence based approach to prioritise smart city initiatives and provide actionable recommendations with the support of quantitative evidence to inform project next steps.

The component analysis can be used by consultants to analyse how functional components of technology or application relate to each other. This helps to assess long term benefits of synergy, and with the design of future projects for clients.

The research outcomes have been used to support smart cities projects in Sydney and Canberra and have provided additional insights. We have developed a common language to describe project findings in smart city projects. This is increasingly being used by practitioners, thereby enabling more clear and efficient communication with clients and stakeholders. Arup is well positioned to respond to clients' questions about how to connect high-level strategy with implementation.