I attend my fair share of Smart City, Smart Grid, and Smart Metering conferences. My priority at such events is to develop and maintain relationships with industry peers. I tend to treat the presentations themselves as a secondary reason for attending. Whilst often interesting the presentations rarely grab my full attention. I have one eye on the presenter and the other on my phone, reading tweets, checking email, etc.

Once in a while a presentation really triggers my interest. I put my phone down and the presenter has my undivided attention. One such presentation happened to me a few weeks ago at Future Cities Asia and has been playing in my mind ever since. The simplicity of the idea has had me kicking myself for having not already thought of it. The value it could deliver to any number of Smart City initiatives is enormous.

The presentation was by Andy Wilson of Ordnance Survey International. The title was “The Best Policy Decisions Come From Spatially Connected Government”.

The history of how the Ordnance Survey came about is fascinating. Starting in the 1700’s when the English had concerns about a possible French invasion. The English government ordered its defence ministry to survey the southern coastline.

What grabbed my attention was when Andy introduced the UPRN. In Great Britain every addressable location has a unique property reference number, or UPRN.

Andy explained the UPRN provides a consistent point to join information from different organisations. He gave examples that included land ownership, critical infrastructure services, emergency services, etc. All using this same unique identifier to have certainty of a property’s location.

Following Andy’s presentation I started looking into this further. I found that the UK energy industry is working with the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) in relation to the country’s smart metering project. They are working together to create a consistent premise identifier. It will be based upon the Unique Property Reference Number (UPRN).

There are a wide range of benefits such as:

  • Adopting a single, accurate customer view across systems
  • Share accurate location data between different internal and external parties
  • Remove address matching costs
  • Identify an optimal smart meter roll-out strategy

Convinced of the value I started thinking how this may work in Hong Kong, where I live. So I checked to see if Hong Kong had a similar identifier as Great Britain’s UPRN. It turns out they have a Property Reference Number (PRN).

I realise many will think me strange, but this discovery has me excited. A unique property identifier would have enormous benefits when planning a Smart Meter roll-out.

Looking beyond smart metering to a smart city and the benefits are even greater. So my next step is getting a conversation started with the right stakeholders. Representatives from critical infrastructure, telecommunications, property developers, government, etc. All collaborating to deliver a unique property identifier. One that is open for all to use.

It does not matter where you are in the world, and what smart city initiative you are working on. A successful smart city needs accurate location data, consistent across all systems.