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Remarks at Global City Teams Challenge (GCTC) Tech Jam

As prepared.

Good morning. Welcome to the NIST. We're delighted you could join us today.

You're lucky to be in town during the peak of our cherry blossom season. And you've arrived at the perfect time for Maryland weather, after the snow and before the humidity. But I hope the spring blossoms don't distract you too much, because we'll have lots of exciting activities right here indoors for the next two days.

We've got a lot of brainpower in this room. We've got a group of experts and leaders with diverse backgrounds from industry, academia and government. I hope this meeting will inspire you to imagine a future where technology creates cleaner, safer, healthier, more cost-effective cities.

And more important, I hope you will leave with a picture in mind for your specific role to play in helping us all realize that future.

But first I'd like to acknowledge some of our partners. In case you are just joining us, this is our second event in this round of the Global City Teams Challenge.

  • U.S. Ignite continues its leadership role as a key nonprofit partner.
  • Within the Department of Commerce, the International Trade Administration, Census Bureau and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration are all working closely with NIST.
  • Elsewhere in the U.S. Government, we work with the National Science Foundation, the Department of Transportation, the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Program, the General Services Administration and the Department of State.
  • We also collaborate with international government partners in the Netherlands, Italy, South Korea and Japan.
  • Our corporate partners—IBM, Intel, AT&T and GE—are providing tools and expertise to the "action clusters," groups of participants in common application areas.
  • Last, but not least, I want to thank FIWARE, MetroLab Network, R20 Regions of Climate Action, the World e-Governments Organization of Cities and Local Governments, the Industrial Internet Consortium and the International City and County Management Association.

A big thank you from NIST to all of these groups, and to the many others who are helping to make this public-private collaboration a success.

Sokwoo tells me that more than 50 cities from four different continents are represented by the teams here today. Hence the "global" in Global City Teams Challenge.

We have many different places, professions and projects represented here today. But we all have a common goal. We want to use Internet of Things technologies—or "cyber-physical systems" as we call them here at NIST—within a smart city environment to solve important problems and improve the quality of life for residents of our communities.

That common goal fits well with our mission here at NIST. At NIST, we promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness. We do this by advancing measurements, standards and technology. To pursue our mission, NIST works with a wide range of interested parties and stakeholders—industry leaders, academic researchers, government officials and trade group representatives.

By working together, we make sure that standards are both broadly acceptable and effective. When we work together, we can help lay the foundation for progress, economic growth and improved quality of life for all. We like to think we are continually helping to shape a better future.

In the next few days here at this meeting, and in the next few months when you return to your communities, we hope you, too, will be helping shape a better future. From transportation, energy and emergency response to air quality, water and health care the opportunities for smarter, more connected city systems are everywhere.

But before you get completely immersed in the future, I'd like to take just a few minutes to talk about the past.

Here at NIST, we've been working on some of these very same issues since we were established in 1901. Take transportation for example.Today, a number of Global City action clusters are working with transportation issues. Your smart city projects involve self-driving vehicles, smarter public transit and improved traffic management and parking. If your projects are successful (or maybe I should say "when" your projects are successful), the cities of the future might look very different.

Ninety years ago, when you drove your car from city to city, you encountered a major problem whenever you approached an intersection with a traffic light. Different cities used different colors in their traffic lights—purple, orange, green, blue, yellow and red. In some cities, "green" meant "go;" in others it meant "stop." In New York City in 1920, for example, "green" meant "stop," and "white" meant "go." And you think you have problems today with your city's traffic?

In 1927, NIST helped establish a national code for colors in traffic lights. Our partners were the American Association of State Highway Officials and the National Safety Council. Ever since then, "green" means "go"—for everyone, everywhere.

NIST has played similar roles in many other fields. Consider electricity. A century ago, electricity was being introduced into our factories, offices and homes. NIST worked with the rapidly growing electricity industry and published the nation's first model electrical safety code in 1915, making our cities safer.

Fast forward a hundred years. Congress turned to NIST once again for help with electricity issues—this time with the emerging "smart grid." 

Less than a decade ago, in response to major new legislation—the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007—NIST started working with stakeholders across the electricity sector. We coordinated development of a framework for protocols and model standards that achieve interoperability of smart grid devices and systems. Today, that framework is informing smart grid efforts across the U.S. and around the world.

One final historical example I'll offer is an area of special concern to all of us here—cybersecurity.

Forty years ago, NIST responded to the needs of the private sector, especially banking and financial services, by issuing the first publicly available data encryption standard (or DES). This was a landmark event in an era when most cryptographic equipment was either proprietary or classified. While the DES algorithm was developed by IBM, NIST popularized the technology by making it a standard for federal agencies.

Then just four years ago, we established the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence. The center tackles the private sector's most pressing cybersecurity problems with practical, standards-based solutions using commercially available and open source technologies. With 22 committed industry partners from leading cybersecurity companies, the NCCoE is a key resource for meeting IoT and other industrial cybersecurity needs.

The take away message here is that standards for emerging technologies can have a profound impact on our quality of life. And it takes a diverse groups of experts and leaders working together to get the job done.

Today, we're applying that same lesson in our Global City Teams Challenge. With your help, we've launched a global effort to work together to create interoperable, Internet of Things concepts. Concepts that make our cities safer, more dynamic and vibrant, and more livable.

So the work you do here during this meeting is very important. This is a time to open your mind to new possibilities and learn from your colleagues. It's a time to imagine the tools we'll need for smarter, more efficient and effective city technologies. And it's a time to look for solutions that are interoperable, scalable and repeatable.

And finally, it's time for me to let you get to it!

So thank you for your participation this week and for your commitment to the Global City Teams Challenge. On behalf of NIST, I wish you a very successful meeting.

Created March 22, 2016, Updated October 1, 2016