IBM began the Smarter Planet conversation back in 2008. Recognising that the world is becoming smaller and more connected, the company reflected on the fact that it is also becoming smarter as digital and physical systems come together.
Technology and networking capabilities are steadily improving and expanding, enabling efficiencies in the way we do things and helping to solve many of the challenges faced in companies and cities across the world. This is an important step as all too often systems that used to be adequate for particular purposes are fast becoming obsolete and unsustainable in our rapidly changing world. Their capacity to do such things as achieve reductions in energy usage, improve traffic flow or enhance supply chain management is limited.
On the back of these early observations, IBM has formalised its Smarter Planet initiatives to encourage and support the increased collaboration that is needed for continued advancement. Smarter Planet is underpinned by core IBM capabilities – analytics, business agility, cloud computing, commerce, computing, products & services, security & resilience and social business – and supports organisations across industries such as banking, energy, food, government, healthcare and transportation systems. It is applied to a diverse range of systems and processes, including cars, appliances, roadways, power grids, clothes and even natural systems such as agriculture and waterways.
Reflecting the vital role played by cities in our global future, the Smarter Cities component of Smarter Planet has been prioritised. IBM considers that: “Progress lies in an accurate view across urban infrastructure, the right level of intelligence to optimize resources; and the ability to integrate information from all departments to anticipate and respond to events. Best of all, the insights from today’s pioneers can now be adapted to the next several thousand smarter cities – providing good lessons for all of us to learn”.1
The key Smarter Cities systems being focused on are: government, public safety, healthcare, energy, traffic, education, water, rail and buildings. To help cities take a holistic approach to managing these systems, IBM launched the IBM Intelligent Operations Centre for Smarter Cities in 2011. IBM states that this tool will enable cities to “better anticipate problems, respond to crises and manage resources”.2 In addition to the Intelligent Operations Centre, the company also provides a range of other Smarter Cities tools and resources including an interactive Smarter Cities experience and a Smarter Cities Virtual Briefing Center.
In November 2011, IBM held the latest in its series of over 250 SmarterCities Forum in Rio de Janeiro. The Forum provided an opportunity for nearly 600 leaders from business, academia and government to discuss examples of best practice and ideas for making our cities smarter, especially in the areas of security, transportation, energy and construction.
In 2010, IBM launched the Smarter Cities Challenge, a competitive grants programme that is providing $50 million in IBM time and expertise to 100 cities over three years. The aim is for IBM employees to work closely with city leaders to help them find smart solutions to address the complex urban challenges they are facing. IBM has observed that the issues cities are struggling most with are:
- Doing more with less
- Bridging silos in information and operations
- Using civic engagement to drive better results
- Investing in infrastructure for better management.
Smarter Cities Challenge grant recipients from 2011 include:
- Johannesburg, South Africa: development of a five-year public safety strategy in line with the city’s 2040 vision of a smart city;
- Antofagasta, Chile: initial focus on water access, usage and loss, waste water and recycling, water quality and the supply infrastructure; focus broadened to include health and education, transport, energy supply and other issues;
- Chengdu, China: (1) strategic areas – e.g. cross government transformation, program management and architecture; (2) food safety, education and telecommunications in line with the city’s long-term goal of achieving Garden City status.
As part of its focus on Smarter Cities, IBM has also created a global online community called City Forward. This website is designed as a platform for sharing ideas and data, as well as engaging people in conversations to help create smarter cities.
- Building a Smarter Planet: 9 in a Series - Smarter lessons from smarter cities, IBM, 2011
- IBM Applies Analytics to City Operations; Helps Build Smarter Cities, news release, 6 June 2011
© Article 13 - January 2012
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