Smart city standards in local practice

Smart city standards in local practice

An evaluation of the implementation of smart city standards in a variety of UK municipal contexts.

This project, which is run in collaboration with the British Standards Institution (BSI), seeks to analyse what contribution smart city standards – a new type of policy instrument used in a growing number of countries – make to urban planning and development relating to big data. A key element is a doctoral project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), which entails both a survey of UK cities and a series of in-depth case studies. Through this empirical research, the project seeks to inform policy-making and practice development concerning big data governance processes.

Aims and Objectives

Over the last decade, the ‘smart city’ has become a dominant paradigm of urban policy, espousing (digital) technological innovation to meet various urbanisation challenges. Responding to the need for definitional and practice guidance, the British Standards Institution (BSI) was among the first national agencies to issue a smart city standard in 2014 and has since published six in total. Similar developments have taken place across other countries, and at the International Standardization Organization. Hence, in a short time span, consensus standards have emerged as a novel type of policy tool, expected to guide and accelerate smart city innovation on the ground. However, little is known about how these standards actually intervene in local planning and development processes and, therefore, what their wider significance is.

Against this background, the aim of this project is to deliver a systematic evaluation of the implementation of the BSI smart city standards across a range of UK cities. It seeks to contribute new knowledge since no detailed analysis of local practice use of smart city standards has been undertaken to date. Particularly, the project addresses to which extent the BSI smart city standards currently experience an implementation gap, a known phenomenon in the policy analysis literature. The research thus probes into the possible misalignment of the standards’ function as envisaged by BSI and municipal practice realities where standards may not easily fit into established planning and development processes.


As a collaborative project, the research is designed to contribute actively to, and benefit, professional practice. It includes an integrated stakeholder engagement process, through which the empirical findings can inform the design of smart city standards as well as the development of practice guidance concerning the application of standards in diverse local contexts.


Lead: Professor Simon Joss
Team: Professor Annette Hastings


Jointly funded by