Smart cities and communities are at a critical juncture, as data generation is growing exponentially, applications are rapidly becoming reliant on more real-time streaming data, and the need to share data outside of city operational boundaries is becoming more evident. While cities could continue to develop cross-partner solutions, the scale of data and the number of potential partners will almost certainly overwhelm city planners as we enter the next decade, and interoperability will be a critical requirement to realizing the value of cities as a data generation platform.

In October, US Ignite announced a joint initiative with the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) to create a blueprint for smart city open data exchange. As we continue to develop that effort, our goal is now to start deriving a common denominator from existing city data portals in order to create a framework that can be applied seamlessly across borders to maximize the benefits of open data. The guidelines we compile will explain the process of taking data from source systems, creating a pipeline for data transformation into a common open schema, merging data from across multiple communities, and serving that data through APIs, discovery systems, and through visualization tools.


To take a step back, there are some very tangible benefits to syncing data processes across communities. For instance, a number of US cities have implemented the Vision Zero initiative, a campaign that aims to eliminate traffic fatalities through education, enforcement, and engineering. When cities are better able to pool together the data they collect in this spectrum, they’ll be able to use it to detect more patterns, learn in more detail how behaviors and conditions impact safety, and regulate roadways more effectively.

As another example, the ability to exchange data more easily between cities should aid in disaster response efforts, helping communities understand where to deploy emergency vehicles and how best to combine resources when collaboration is required.

We do recognize that different data constituents – from local governments to trusted commercial partners, citizens, and more – will have different requirements for data management in terms of security, privacy, transparency, reliability, etc. Therefore, a common framework that contains foundation-level requirements is important, but so is the ability to allow for innovation and customization based on the unique needs of each city and its partners.

We should also emphasize that our work is focused on the exchange point between data entities, leaving cities free to develop their own internal data management infrastructure. We will produce a proposed architecture for a data exchange, a detailed set of data exchange requirements, and the exchange format required at a data interconnect. We then expect cities will use these specifications across many of their own processes including data system design, procurement, planning, and testing.

US Ignite and ATIS will have more to announce in the coming months about contributing partners in the data exchange initiative across the public, private, and academic sectors. In the meantime, to learn more about the smart cities data exchange project, visit