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Over the past few weeks, we have been exploring how digital intelligence can help to streamline our global utility, food and traffic systems, making them more efficient and responsible. But you may be surprised to hear that global Information Technology Infrastructure is in need of an intelligence makeover as well.
It’s not a problem with the technology per se. Servers, storage, PCs, software, networking gear, the Internet — all will continue to become more powerful, affordable and available. The problem is how all this technology is currently configured into systems. The way data centers are designed and operated. The way applications are developed and deployed. The way servers and PCs are managed, upgraded and kept secure.
The fact is, the IT systems that underpin so much of how the world works must become much smarter.
In this episode of Building a Smarter Planet, we hear from four experts on the subject of IT Infrastructure – where it is today and what it is delivering, new developments in functionality, and what we need to be prepared for moving forward. Listen in as Bernie Meyerson, the CTO of IBM Systems and Technology, Donna Dillenberger of IBM Research, Frank Gens, senior vice president and chief analyst with IDC, and James Governor, co-founder of IT analyst firm Redmonk help uncover some of the facts.
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It used to be that the main factors influencing a consumer’s purchasing decisions were those directly associated with the product itself. Did the cereal have lots of juicy raisins? Was the pot pie stuffed with chicken? How well did the detergent clean my clothes?
While today’s consumer – whether they live in Guangzhou, Chicago, or Manchester – is still concerned with these attributes, they also want more information about products, much more. Today’s consumers want to know where products came from, each and every ingredient, how they were handled and processed, were harvested sustainably and also their carbon footprint. To top it off, they want control over where, when and how they receive this information – is it printed on the product, displayed on the store shelf, sent to their phone via text message, accessible via an in store kiosk… or is it information they obtain on-line from a blog or community.
With these same consumers increasingly pressed for time, concerned about their health and eating on the move, products have been developed to deliver convenience, nutrition and portability benefits. The result is foods that are increasingly packaged, processed and engineered.
Adding further complexity to the equation is the fragmentation and globalization within the supply chain for many consumer products. Commodities, ingredients and packaging are sourced through a global network of suppliers and sold via multitude of retail outlets.
While the benefits we receive from this highly evolved system are many – substantial risks and costs are also present. Out of stocks continue to cost the industry billions in lost sales, massive amounts of food are wasted unnecessarily due to a lack of visibility, and contaminations and recalls are exacting a growing toll on consumer trust, brand equity and most importantly people’s lives.
Gathering data from this web of activity and network of players and turning it into useful information is a massive challenge… but one that on a Smart Planet must and can be met. It is time for the informational supply chain to catch up with the physical one, for information about products to travel with them wherever they go, for consumers to have the information they need in order to feel good about the products they buy.
Guy Blissett is an IBM Global Business Services consultant and the consumer products lead in IBM's Institute for Business Value. His new report, co-authored with J. Chris Harreld, "Full Value Traceability," examines Chinese consumer values and confidence related to food and product safety.
Wonderwebby (aka Australian IBMer Jasmin Tragas) posted this thoughtful assessment last week:
I was just reading James Governor’s interesting post on Monkchips (Redmonk) about a Smarter Planet; an initiative IBM has been sharing recently about working together to address important global healthcare, energy, and economic problems, amongst others (full disclosure – I work for them.) IBM Chairman and CEO Sam Palmisano said about Smarter Planet:
“We need to practice a new form of leadership. Think
about these systems, no one owns the systems. Which is part of the
complexity of driving the change to make them more effective. So, to
make this happen, you need collaboration. Everyone has to come out of
their lanes, it’s true for business and for politicians and academic
organizations. People have to come together and form these partnerships
of collaboration to work together to solve these problems. And yes,
they are going to have to move out of their comfort zones.”
Read the rest here:
Seventy-five percent of the apples sold in New York City
come from the West Coast or overseas, even though the state produces far
more apples than city residents consume, according to author Bill McKibben.
When food travels, it faces more risks such
as spoilage and contamination, and creates a larger carbon footprint. And that’s
just part of the problem. In the U.S.
alone $48 billion worth of food is thrown away and we experience 76 million
cases of food borne illnesses each year.
Building a smarter system can help deliver more safe food to all. There’s much we can do if we focus on this issue. Sometimes, bringing broad awareness to a serious problem requires a little humor.
Bob’s Silver Bullets:
- We’ve got a huge IT infrastructure in place now, and the IT and physical infrastructures are starting to converge.
- There are some critical global systemic problems that need comprehensive solutions rather than band aids.
- Moving from the in-place to instrumentation, connectivity, and processing power to something that resembles real-time intelligence is our best way of solving these problems.
- Given the urgency on which the world now needs to focus on economic problems, now is exactly the right time for placing some well-considered big bets.
- Given the new political administration coming into Washington, these big bet efforts may and probably will be accomplished through public-private partnerships.
- We need to go from “Think globally, act locally” to “Think globally, act locally, regionally, nationally, and globally.”
- What’s your role? What will need to change in the way you manage your home and your life, and how will you play a part in the global transformations that are now necessary?
As we expand our social media outreach for Smarter Planet, we will begin to feature and point to other bloggers who are thinking and investigating issues related to intelligent infrastructure. (Please feel free to recommend, via comments here, blogs and sites that we should connect with.)
Here’s one example from the Healthnex blog, on wearable healthcare devices and a home monitering system developed by Intel.
IBM Global Business Services