Smarter Cities

21 Nov 2011

Nothing is as it seems at IBM...

This week, I met with some very smart guys from IBM. However, due to the huge success of the IBM brand over the years, they were insisting that we used Smarter Cities as the umbrella tag for one of the most innovative and forward thinking programmes on the planet.

It was still reassuring that in the room next door, visible through a glazed wall sat the biggest ‘computer’ I had ever seen. I did ask what it did but most of the terms used in the answer were outside of my current vocabulary.

We all use the time-honoured terms such as blue sky thinking, lateral thinking, out of the box, but after an hour with Frank Beck and Rashik Parmar, I was beginning to understand that some people do really exist in a lateral universe, clearly a prerequisite for coming up with holistic solutions. By the way, Frank and Rashik never used these terms.

After a lot of discussion about the objectives and philosophy of the programme, my new smart friends started to outline some of the 2,000 projects they are already rolling out. The first thing that struck me was the sheer diversity of the projects, from a city-wide traffic management system, to a point of sale monitor, to intelligent management for buildings, there is no limit to where technology can make a difference.

It starts with acquiring an accurate understanding of the effectiveness (or otherwise) of the system under review. That data is then used to create a solution that works better.

Where things started getting really interesting was through effective, real-time data collecting, links across a city could be proved, opening up previous un-thought of funding possibilities. One example highlighted this process; a recently introduced traffic management system dramatically reduced accidents. This could accurately be measured in the city hospital where huge cost savings were being made. So far so good. However in another city in another part of the world, IBM is now approaching the health authority for funding towards that city’s new traffic management system.

Now that’s smart.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, nearly all the projects in the scheme have an interesting by product. More effective use of existing resources = less waste = highly sustainable solutions.

Now that’s smarter.

View the full interview below.

Michael Hammond
Editor in Chief at WAN

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