A Certification Program To Say Which Cities Are Smart Cities

The City Protocol aims to codify exactly what makes a smart city, and say which cities are actually doing what it takes to earn the label.

A Certification Program To Say Which Cities Are Smart Cities
Construction via Shutterstock

If you wanted to construct a high-performing green building before 1998, you were pretty much on your own without any sort of guidance system to nudge to keep you on track. Then came the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, which offered a framework–albeit an imperfect one–for guiding architects and designers through the green building process. Now the smart cities movement (our own Boyd Cohen offers a lengthy “smart city” definition here) is getting its own guiding framework: the City Protocol.


Created by over 30 organizations, including Barcelona’s City Council, GDF SUEZ, Cisco, the City Protocol (CP) is purportedly the first certification system for smart cities. It will be managed by the newly-formed City Protocol Society (CPS).

The specifics of how the CP will work are still unclear; a roadmap calls for the CPS to be operational by April 2013, with the certification system presumably rolling out soon after. The CPS hopes to develop the protocol much like the Internet Protocol–with open debate among the international community. The City Protocol website explains:

The CP programme will deliver agreements developed to address issues agreed by the community. These will lead to both:

• CP endorsed city projects and policies: projects and policies tested in cities that can be used as exemplars for other cities, along with Indicators and Certifications for those same projects and policies.

• Recommendations and technological standards for industry: industry-based standards, technologies and solutions which are standardized on a CP basis.

Unlike LEED certification, CP certification doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Participating cities will be hooked up with other cities working on similar projects, and in some cases, they may even begin to work together. The CP website gives the example of a multi-modal transport system that integrates parking, traffic, and public transport data. Instead of one city taking on all the risk, CP cities could work together, each testing a different piece of the system.

So far, 32 cities around the world are part of the CPS, including Paris, Rome, Barcelona, San Francisco, New York, Moscow, Nairobi, Seoul, Taipei, and Istanbul. If the protocol ends up being worthwhile, others will undoubtedly join.

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.