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As part of the launch of the New York-based IBM Business Analytics Center last week, we announced a new social media project — the Smarter Cities Scan.  Our goal is to build a Smarter Cities Open Model or public blueprint for a smarter city. Think of it is a kind of kernel of a Smarter City’s operating system, or a first draft of its constitution.

The way we hope to develop this asset is new and different: through multimedia posts from people around the world.

This experiment is now open for creative and strategic thinkers everywhere  — young urban digital natives, IBMers, researchers, educators, experts, entrepreneurs, city officials,  grassroot groups  — to share their ideas and insights on the smarter city they want to live in and help build.

smarterscities scan

We’ve partnered with New York-based Tumblr on this crowd-sourced research and open knowledge exchange. We first started working with Tumblr for the microblogging site that complements and extends this blog. Smarter Planet | Tumblr  now also feeds all the topics on the Smarter Planet site on

The Main Ingredient: You. And You. You Too.

For this exercise in collaborative innovation and hive intelligence to succeed,  we need significant numbers of people to contribute their diverse thinking over the next few months. That will generate the very large, complex data set that can then be  analyzed and processed into a useful model.

Since participants  can post a variety of content — video, images, links, text, quotes and any combination of these — the information will be inherently complex. But its up to every participant to share their views and up to all of us to  leverage the social web to encourage the volume of participation and data necessary.

Here’s what the screen to submit a post looks like:


How the Scan works

From the homepage – – simply click on Post Your Ideas to start contributing images, video, links, quotes, text or any combination of all of these.  You can even  submit a post by email, or via a mobile phone, by sending your thoughts and ideas to

You don’t need to have a Tumblr account to submit a post, but please include your city and country and any descriptive tags at the bottom of your post so that your ideas can be tagged for others to find. You can also easily create a free Tumblr account if you like this easy-to-use, multimedia microblogging tool.

You ‘re always free to scan all posts, search on topics and tags, soak up some of Smarter Cities background and inspiration material in the about section, or find answers in our Help & FAQ section.  You can also send any suggestions, questions or problems to

Why are we calling this a Scan?

IBM has a successful track record with our online Jams, intensive global brainstorming events, but we opted to  call this new style of social media collaboration a Scan to distinguish it in a few ways .  First, “Scan” reflects the visual and informative nature of the collaboration: participants and viewers can scan the horizon of smartercities thinking to learn about this vital frontier.  What’s more, “scan” underscore the analytical aspect of it — the data mining and pattern recognition that will be applied to all the content to help create an open model.

IBM’s Jams have tended to be of shorter duration, and more centered on threaded, text-based discussion. The Scan will run longer — the next several  months — and enables people to contribute a wider range of content types.


Finally, in addition to sharing your two cents worth by posting, each of us can provide invaluable support by sharing the link to this project with your city networks, communities and channels. Tweet, blog, bookmark, repost and broadcast as far and wide as you are able.

Yes we Scan.

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Posted by: pc repair miami
October 13, 2009
1:04 am

Thanks Adam, thanks Jack.

I’m delighted to hear you’re working with all of those folks, some of whom I myself am not aware of but the balance of whom I know and admire. I guess part of my frustration has to do with my sense that using Tumblr means you’re not fundamentally serious about dialogue – both due to the limitations of the platform itself, and because (regardless of user demographics) that simply isn’t where the conversation around these issues is happening.

I don’t doubt that you are personally sincere, but the whole way this has been framed feels like a somewhat clumsy attempt to channel discourse into a container that you own and manage. My personal preference would have been (and still would be) to see you participating as a voice in the existing spaces for dialogue, rather than trying to enlist everyone to participate on your terms.

I don’t mean to sound hostile, or foreclosed to dialogue, when I assure you that I am not. But I simply don’t believe that the strategy IBM has adopted is the best way to go about being a responsible participant in a discussion I agree very much does need to be happening. Whether or not I believe in “smarter cities” (and as it happens, I find that very framing problematic), it’s clear that the public good would be powerfully served by a broader exploration of what’s going on in this domain, technically, socially, and politically.

Posted by: AG
October 12, 2009
5:23 pm

Adam, another point on going where things are… from a social media perspective, we have begun engaging with a number of the smart people in this area of urban planning and design – from the good folks at Planetizen to Streetsblog to Infrastructurist to sustainable cities collective, etc. But there’s a lot more we can do – so thanks for the pointer to Speedbird. Looking broader than social media, we’ve been doing a lot of work with CUNY, Brookings and others to share insights and, most importantly, learn from others in this space too. Hope to keep all of that going.

Posted by: Adam Christensen
October 12, 2009
2:11 pm


Your point on bringing the conversation where its already going on is well taken. Two takes on that:

The first is that we partnered with Tumblr as the context and platform for the SmarterCities Scan — — because that is one of the places where several million digitally savvy, and urban-minded, young adults have already set up shop for a new style of content creation and sharing. To make this collaboration as open as possible, we’ve tapped into the new Submit feature that Tumblr has developed which enables anyone could share their ideas, visions and insights, no Tumblr account or previous experience required.

These factors are two of the ways to lower the bar to participation and enable the most open access for all comers, including IBMers.

Secondly, one reason for creating a new SmarterCities context for this idea sharing is so that IBM can — if we attract sufficient quantity and quality of contributed posts — analyze and process that multimedia data in order to create a public good — a Smarter Cities Open Model.

Posted by: Jack Mason
October 12, 2009
1:30 pm

It’s not that I think this is a bad idea per se, but I do have to wonder why you haven’t chosen to participate as an equal in all of the conversations around networked urbanism that are already happening.

If your sincere desire is to contribute to this discussion (as opposed to stamping a big ol’ IBM brand over the domain), believe me, I applaud you. I’m sure any number of sites and blogs dealing with the question would be thrilled to have your perspective – mine absolutely among them. I look forward to seeing your thoughts on Speedbird, and elsewhere.

Posted by: AG
1 Trackback
October 9, 2009
1:33 am

[...] IBM taking a data crunching approach to figuring out smart cities. Our goal is to build a Smarter Cities Open Model or public blueprint [...]

Posted by: “Yes we scan” - Open Source Planning Paradigm & Climate Change
2 Tweets
October 13, 2009
2:14 pm

Contribute your opinion to the IBM Smarter Cities Scan to help and create Smarter Cities Open Model

Posted by: mmd_sk (Mmd Slovakia)
October 13, 2009
1:45 pm

RT @lgzimmer: IBM/Tumblr team 4 crowd ideas for smarter cities. Add your thoughts, invite your networks. #smartercity

Posted by: ibmbizanalytics (IBM Biz Analytics)
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