Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent
May, 6th 2009

At an acceptance speech at  The Atlantic Council on Thursday, Sam Palmisano, IBM’s CEO, kicked off the next dimension and focus for the Smarter Planet work: Smarter Cities. Below is a full video of the speech, followed by some of my own perspective below.

I think it’s important to note some of the other recipients of the “Distinguished Leader” award handed out by The Atlantic Council that evening: General David Patraeus, former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, and former U.S. President George H. W. Bush. Nice company to be in.

The latter two recipients, Kohl And Bush, are notable not just for their prominent place in modern history, but for their role in bringing about the fall of the Berlin Wall – an historical event celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

On that note, it is no coincidence that we will be kicking off of our Smarter City effort in full in Berlin in just five weeks by convening hundreds of leaders from cities across Europe to discuss the opportunities for making our cities smarter. I quote now from the speech:

Today, around the world, we see the infusion of intelligence into companies and entire industries, which is why you may have been hearing about “smart power grids,” “smart healthcare,” “smart supply chains” and the like.

And soon we will all be hearing about – and, I hope, living in – “smart cities.” Because these same capabilities are being applied to change the way our cities work.

In June, in Berlin, the same city that brought down the wall and rebuilt itself into a key European hub, IBM will convene a “smart cities” summit. We’ve invited hundreds of leaders from the world’s most innovative cities to share ideas and learn how we can make our cities smarter.

Why cities?

Well, to state the obvious – that’s where the people are. By 2050, 70 percent of people on Earth will live in cities. Which means that cities… more than states, provinces or perhaps even nations… are increasingly the central arena for success or failure.

And a city is a system – indeed, a city is a complex system of systems. All the ways in which the world works – from transportation, to energy, to healthcare, to commerce, to education, to security, to food and water and beyond – come together in our cities.

Which makes them a unique crucible for making our planet smarter. We have the potential – both technological and political – to make our cities more productive, more efficient, safer, more vibrant and more responsive. And it isn’t theoretical. We see aspects of smarter cities all around us.

Smarter traffic in Singapore, Stockholm and Brisbane… smart grids in Houston and Malta…. smart buildings in Shanghai and Boulder…. smart public safety in New York and Chicago…. a smart bay in Galway… smart healthcare in Paris… smart food tracking in Norway.

You will be hearing a lot more from us in the coming weeks and months on the challenges and opportunities for making our cities smarter. I’m personally excited for the conversations we hope to tee up on these topics – conversations leading to what would make your city smarter. And with that, I leave with with you a question, what would make your city smarter? Leave a comment below. Or let us know on Twitter. Be sure to use the #smartcity hashtag and we’ll be collecting the ideas as we continue this effort.

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Posted by: Rosie
May 24, 2009
11:28 am

I am so very impressed with IBM these days– and grateful for your mainstreaming of memes like ‘smart’ and ‘systems’ thinking.

It’s wonderful to see IBM allowing its workers to participate in the social web. This is a fantastic blog– and it’s exciting to see so much happening in rethinking infrastructure for the next century.

I would like to see more foresight oriented pieces here– wondering about some competitive notions of ‘smart’ systems– and how IBM sees the evolution of sensors and instrumented environments– whether IBM or Cisco could in essence ‘own’ data from full ecosystems? Or do you expect data to be shared– w/ back end analytics to be profit side of things?

I’d love to see some posts on market structure of an instrumented world. Yes, world needs to be ‘more collaborative and transparent’– but will companies own those sensors to gain ROI? Or is this a service model built on open hardware?

Garry Golden

The Energy Roadmap

Posted by: Garry G
May 13, 2009
5:10 am

Mark, commercial transportation is, indeed, a critical component of the entire mix. Your contributions here, actually would be extremely valued.

Ajay, you are exactly correct. There are a lot of different components into creating smarter systems. And they have common elements. Underlying it all is the ability to capture data to enable businesses, governments and, importantly, consumers to make better decisions. And on that latter point – consumer behavior – education becomes an important imperative. Education to build understanding for the need to change behavior, and education on what to do about it. But without better information (from utilities, etc.) there’s only so much consumers can do…

Posted by: Adam Christensen
May 13, 2009
12:49 am

Cities can indeed be smart when we know the state of various utilities in real time and are able to intervene to reduce (hopefully eliminate) waste, are able to tackle challenges of reducing waste generation and locality based recycling and become less energy hungry. Of course the core aspect is knowing what we are doing and that can well be achieved through smart sensors for continuously providing you the required data!

Ajay Phatak

Posted by: Ajay Phatak
May 13, 2009
12:37 am

One of the important element of sustainability is seriously looking at our consumption and the way we do business today. There is a serious need to look at the demand side first and then optimise the supply side — good example is – you can save busilding a whole new power plant if we can tweak and use technology which allows us to use less power and at the same time comsumes less power so as to be lean on “embodied energy” as well. Having said that, enabling technology for distributed infrastructure, local fulfilment of utility needs and above all conservation and judicious use of natural resources are key to sustainability. It goes without saying that technology canbe harnessed for assessment of the state of natuarl resources and then plan for approriate interventions, — so if were to talk of the sequence of say what should we do with utilities like water —
1. Identify ways to minimize use of water
2. Understand how we can locally fulfill the needs of this / such utility.
3. Plan for sustainable ways of sourcing water
4. Establish minimum of no waste in the processing
5. Minimise energy use in distribution of water
6. Optimize opertaion through real time monitoring
7. Use data for further minimize resource use

If we remain as sensitive to natural resources as sensitive we are to say money… we would certainly be better of.

Ajay Phatak

Posted by: Ajay Phatak
May 12, 2009
11:40 pm

Do we have a blog, or somewhere to talk about Smart LOGISTICS or FREIGHT. All I have ever read is about Passenger related Smart. What about Commercial Veicles, and Dynamic Road Pricing for Freight movements.What about SMart Assets, and advanced planning systems to avoid empty running vehicles, containers and other assets, wasted journies, etc

Mark Bedeman Global Freight Logistics SME

Posted by: Mark Bedeman
May 10, 2009
12:08 pm

Smarter cities, in fact, smarter everything, is one of the crucial enablers for us to create a renewable, sustainable civilisation. Reading conversation #1 in New Scientist, watching the videos on the IBM site, has left me keen to know what will be in the next conversation. Great to see IBM taking a visible lead in applying IT to solving systemic problems.

Technology is the food for the party. We need the people, the music and the atmosphere to have a party. In other words, bring in the individual and society. Without simultaneous, integrated movement in all of these, and honouring the needs of each, we will move too slowly.

For example, take installed renewable energy capacity. The difference between the global leaders and the laggards is in the way the global leaders have aligned individual interests, social interests, government policy and business interests towards a compelling objective. And by doing so the results have made business sense, social sense and individual sense.

We need now the same level of alignment globally for all the challenges facing us. Getting this global alignment fast is challenging, but achievable. We only need a small group of catalysts in the key human disciplines connected virtually for this to happen. (For example, the Renaissance was a time of crisis and change. Wikipedia lists only 182 key figures who catalysed the Renaissance.) There are already a number of non-profit organisations doing this using current web technology. For example, Robin and myself in Renaissance2 ( and, the Club of Budapest (, the TED talks, plus many more.

These web tools are still very young. (Facebook only went global two years ago.) What is IBM doing to create the next generation of tools for powerful collaboration? Imagine what we could achieve together in the next two years if we took really seriously creating cutting-edge web tools to empower meshworks of doers! Doers in business, government, science, arts, civil society, and in our homes.

Posted by: Graham Boyd
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