Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent

Adam Christensen and Susanne Dirks talked with me about a question being posed by Dana Blankenhorn.

Dana asks an interesting question: are IBM’s “smarter traffic” ideas an homage to Moses or Jacobs?

He immediately answers his own question with the statement:

“Looking at IBM’s highly-advertised ideas on smarter traffic, much of it is built on the idea Robert Moses called flow.”

To answer simply, IBM’s work in this area is not “built” on Moses’ notions. Our work on helping cities build smarter transportation systems is built on three simple observations on some aspects of how society and technology are changing. Readers of this blog will know them as instrumentation, interconnection and intelligence. The people and systems of the world are becoming increasingly able to be more aware, of many more things, in many more places, much faster, and to analyse and derive timely insight and action from that. That’s it.

We use these observations to build things to help achieve people’s goals. If those goals are Moses-like, or Jacobs-like, that’s fine. The community that sets them is the judge of what they are or should be.

That isn’t to say we don’t have a strong point of view, though, because we do. Our approach is about leveraging technology for the sake of a city’s citizens. We don’t advocate tolls. Or not advocate them. We don’t advocate city centre cameras. Or not advocate them. We do advocate, say, holistic multi-modal solutions for transport, leveraging technology where and when applicable (this is where my son says, Dad, you sound like Dilbert). We want progress through making the overall systems smarter. And that approach has many facets, completely dependent on the community, city or nation in question.

In the end, Dana’s answers his own question with exactly the right answer:

The smartest city will find ways to support both. People and goods have to get around. But they also need destinations. Getting off the freeway and into the crowd is the challenge.

I believe – and many of the people I work with believe – that the Moses vs. Jacob is a false dichotomy. It isn’t about one or the other. The world has moved beyond that – our problems are too complex and interconnected.

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1 Comment
February 11, 2012
3:47 pm

what do you mean by “smart traffic”?

Posted by: kaipnumestisvorio
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