erwin Expert Blog Enterprise Architecture

How Agile Enterprise Architecture is Helping to Build Smart Cities

Having an agile enterprise architecture is essential to enabling a smart city.

One of the challenges when creating a smart city is how to represent all the moving parts. From my perspective as KnowNowCities designs new smart places the best approach is to use agile enterprise architecture techniques to describe how the technology is applied in a place.

What is a Smart City

Firstly though, let’s start by explaining what a smart city is. The elements of a smart city can be boiled down into 5 interwoven and parallel components.

These are:

  1. Apply standards – such as Privacy by Design and PAS181 – Smart City Framework
  2. Are Open Data Centric – see the Open Data Institute
  3. Are Interoperable – so data and services from one place can interact with another place
  4. Have good governance and leadership (both hard and soft)
  5. Are Outcomes Centric and put Citizens first. Citizens make cities what they are

In short these become the overriding Smart City principles. So a key role of any enterprise architecture is to demonstrate how the technology designed meets these principles.

agile enterprise architecture smart city

Smart City Enterprise Architecture

The role of an EA in a smart city is multiple. Typically when building a new place the overriding concern is maintaining the promised return on investment. The developer needs a place that will attract customers (good rental or freehold returns); be compelling and competitive so the new place has its own ‘unique selling points’; yet, not break the bank! The EA can aid the developer in what I term is a “plan for tomorrow, but build for today” approach.

What does this mean? Planning for tomorrow is about making sure where it is going to be expensive to retrofit in the future mitigate that expense by deploying sufficient capacity for the future where it makes sense.

Simply put, this is about the reservation and allocation of space and capacity where technology may well end up being deployed. But not necessarily deploying that technology.

An example would be deploying conduit underground during the civil engineering phase of a build, but not deploying the cable through the conduit. Provide the access rights and access points to deploy any technology upgrades (be it for technology refresh or for capacity gains).

Another key aspect when designing a smart city is to recognize that technology is now part of the urban design. Yet traditional architecture of buildings and the public realm does not easily address the adoption of technology. The key here is to be embedded in the architecture and construction team from day one. As I tell my clients… technology engineers for a smart city should be considered similarly to the water engineers.

With Water you have three types (blue – potable, grey – rain/surface run off & black – waste) that each require their own special attention. When you think water… now also think technology!

Integrate with the RIBA Plan of Work

Luckily from a technology perspective having a plan of work that goes through distinct phases also fits nicely with an Enterprise Architecture centric method too. The RIBA Plan of Work method can be applied to the technology aspects of a smart city as much as it can the construction of the buildings and public realm too. So at concept stage, the technology concept architecture can sit in that phase too.

Roadmaps are the icing on the cake however. Referring back to the principle of design for tomorrow but deliver for today. It is possible to show when a particular technology component is required, how it flows from previous technology deployed/enabled and how this then supports future technology growth/deployments.

Additionally, because the EA at a concept level is exactly that, a certain amount of stability can be expected. Let us not forget that technology has a lifespan often measured in months, whereas a structure’s lifespan is measured in decades. So the EA becomes a living organic entity. Constantly evolving and changing based on need and technological capability.

Yet it is the specified and physical designs that are likely to change here. Again, the EA approach allows for this transfer of different types of technology, yet still keeping a cohesive overall architecture that can still represent the principles and concept architecture the first design delivered.

How Does erwin Evolve help?

The beauty of using erwin Evolve is that the tool provides all the outputs that are required in a smart city engagement.

Firstly, it is great way of capturing the requirements and then matching those to principles, owners and then attributing this to architected components.

Secondly, the tool can manage capacity plans, and what if scenario planning.

Thirdly, using the roadmaps and Kanban views the tool can help a client prioritize and plan the work to be undertaken.

Finally, because of erwin Evolve’s collaborative features I get to share a common view with all project stakeholders.

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