London, Shanghai, Buenos Aires, Dubai and Toronto are among the founding cities of a new platform, the World Council on City Data (WCCD) which aims to improve standards on open data and interoperability in the drive to use smart technology to improve citizens' lives.

The Global Cities Summit opened with an Ojibway blessing - A nice gesture from our First Nations according to Robert OuelletteIt is built around a newly published ISO standard for city data, ISO 37120, and both the council and the standard were launched yesterday at a Global Cities Summit hosted by the University of Toronto's Global City Indicators Facility. The Summit opened with an Ojibway blessing - "A nice gesture from our First Nations," according to Robert Ouellette who took the picture, right. 

The Council intends to be "a global hub for cities, international organizations, corporates and academia to share creative ideas that could help build better, more 'liveable' cities", verifying their success and enabling it to be compared with others using the standard.

The Foundation Cities of the Council are: Amman, Barcelona, Bogota, Buenos Aires, Chicago, Dubai, Haiphong, Helsinki, Johannesburg, London, Makati, Makkah, Minna, Rotterdam, Shanghai and Toronto.

Manel Sanromà, CIO of Barcelona, says his city is "very interested in this initiative, having been nominated European Capital of Innovation by the European Commission. Barcelona believes deeply in the value of collaboration and standardization.”

A new standard to measure city performance

ISO 37120 is a milestone for cities," says Professor Patricia McCarney, Director of the Global Cities Indicators Facility (GCIF) at the University of Toronto. "The Creation of the World Council on City Data is a pivotal next step in building a reliable foundation of globally standardized data that will assist cities in building core knowledge for city decision-making, and enable comparative insight and global benchmarking. In a world where city data is exploding and big data is escalating, we are now moving forward in building the WCCD as an open data platform on global city metrics.”

ISO 37120 Sustainable Development in Communities: Indicators for City Services and Quality of Life is the first ISO standard on city metrics, and the Foundation Cities will be the first to pilot it.

The Standard marks a critical turning point in the development of city data by providing cities and stakeholders with an opportunity for a standardized approach to city metrics, and a global framework for third party verification of data. It is said to be applicable to any city, municipality or local government that undertakes to measure its performance in a comparable and verifiable manner, irrespective of size and location.

It defines and establishes methodologies for a set of indicators to steer and measure the performance of city services and quality of life. It follows the principles set out and can be used in conjunction with ISO 37101: Sustainable development in communities, Management systems, General principles and requirements (when it is published).

Senator Art Eggleton, Chair of the GCIF hosting the Summit, said: "For the first time, we are bringing together a database for cities so that we can develop a standard methodology for city performance metrics, which will be a very valuable tool in planning our cities' futures."

The WCCD is to become a global hub for creative learning partnerships across cities, international organizations, corporate partners, and academia to further innovation, envision alternative futures, and build better and more livable cities. The WCCD will coordinate efforts on city data to ensure a consistent and comprehensive platform for standardized urban performance metrics.

Industry partners

Collaboration with industry is a feature of the Council as cities need partners to roll out the technology. Amongst the corporate partners is Philips, which operates at the forefront of smart city development, leading on a collaborative programme called Energy Efficiency Accelerators.

Harry Verhaar, Senior Director Energy & Climate Change at Philips Lighting, explained the project: "Along with The Climate Group and the United Nations, Philips will work with the World Cities Institute on the Energy Efficiency Accelerators, which aims to tackle global climate change by accelerating energy efficiency in buildings, lighting and appliances, and other sectors - with cities as the platform that delivers these energy savings by innovating their infrastructure. We will share our progress at the September 23 UN Climate Summit in NYC."

 getting on track program for global cities SummitThe Global Cities Summit is sponsored by Microsoft, which is responsible for CityNext, its proprietary suite of data analytics, social network and communication technology targeted at city connectivity initiatives. Siemens and Stikeman Elliott LLP are the other private sector partners.

The theme of the Global Cities Summit theme is Getting on Track: Sustainable & Inclusive Prosperity for Cities.

Andrew Collinge, Assistant Director of Intelligence for the Greater London Authority, said the challenge for London was to manage the boom in the number of people living in the city as the population is expected to reach 10 million by 2030. “There has never been a time where it’s more important to understand how we as a global city compare with other cities so we can learn from them and actually use data to address challenges that are facing all of our cities,” he said.

The next stop for smart and sustainable city developing globetrotters is Basel, next week at the annual Global Infrastructure Basel Summit on 21-22 May 2014. The city is co-chair of the C40 Sustainable Infrastructure Finance Network and will simultaneously host a gathering of C40 cities.

Both the Summit and the C40 meeting will provide opportunities for cities to discuss concrete solutions for financing sustainable infrastructure under the theme of ‘Mainstreaming Sustainability in Infrastructure Financing and Investment’. It's for policy-makers from municipal governments, infrastructure project developers, investors, academics as well as technology providers.