Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent
Archive for February, 2010

The following is a guest post from Eric Riddleberger, Strategy and Transformation Leader for IBM’s North American Communications Sector.

In the coming days, the FCC will deliver its National Broadband Plan to Congress — a plan of action to ensure all Americans have access to broadband. At IBM, we believe broadband access is a fundamental building block for regional economic development and agree with the FCC that it should be a national priority [see WSJ op-ed]. According to research firm IDC, 71 million U.S. households (60.9%) were able to access broadband by the end of 2009, but incredulously, 46 million U.S. households (39.1%) are still without.

For the nearly 40 percent of Americans that have no high speed Internet access today, the prospect of gaining access means not only connecting to the rest of the world, but making those things urban Americans take for granted possible: things like shopping online, working from home, and researching medical care options.

But consumers aren’t the only ones that will be impacted by proposed broadband legislation. What will universal access to broadband mean for the telecommunications industry?

IBM surveyed over 8,000 consumers and 60 senior executives from more than 40 communication service providers globally to examine how the industry should evolve in the next five years in the wake of increased competition in the service provider community.

The findings:

Fixed telephony will all but disappear in the next decade. Mobile broadband will come of age. The ways in which people communicate are shifting from point-to-point and two-way conversations, to many-to-many, collaborative communications.
This shift is fundamentally changing the way people and businesses around the world communicate, share information, and drive progress.Consumer usage of so-called “fixed voice telephony” (such as land lines still used in some homes) will decrease by 95% in the next 5-10 years; Consumer usage of mobile/wireless broadband will increase by 98% in the next 5-10 years.

The new mandate:

Pervasive broadband infrastructure will be a powerful source of new jobs and economic growth, due in large part to the telecommunications industry’s long-term investments in new services and business models that provide a constructive way to address a variety of public challenges, including healthcare, education, homeland security and workforce/economic development. For example, house-bound patients can be monitored by their physicians via Web-enabled devices that track heart or blood sugar rate.

The ways the telecommunications industry must prepare:

1. Prioritize customer experience investments. Of those service providers surveyed, 61 percent plan to invest more in customer and network analytics, enabling them to deliver more personalized customer experiences, reduce churn and better manage costs by understanding customer behavior, anticipating their needs, and analyzing usage patterns to improve operational efficiencies. Consumers stated they chose providers based on three factors: Cost (75%), Network (70%) and Service (58%).

2. Promote open platforms and ecosystems; they must provide universal access to all types of devices. Of those surveyed, understanding that ubiquity is key in the next decade, 70 percent believe an interaction model that allows access to content with any device (PC, TV, phone, etc.) from any provider will prevail.

3. Invest in, and support the development of, applications outside of the consumer space, driven by increased inter-connectivity and universal broadband access.

IBM provides products and services that create, deliver and manage new telecommunications, digital media and Internet-based services smarter, faster and at a lower cost. For example, through online electronic health records, remote monitoring of vital statistics and on-demand transmission of patient data, medical facilities and patients alike are finding that broadband can help save time, money and lives – especially when the communications infrastructure is extended to rural areas that aren’t served by a local hospital or clinic.

Realizing the potential of smarter communication technology will require the infusion of new capabilities and models into our systems to make it easier for devices to transmit and interpret data, provide more secure connections, and protect identities. The telecommunications industry is in a position to lead, by participating in the national dialogue, and taking important steps to extend the reach and application of broadband infrastructure for Americans.

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As I write this post, I’m simultaneously watching the live video stream (archive forthcoming) of the Smarter Transportation forum in Washington D.C. and following the Twitter stream coming out of the event. What’s impressing me about the forum is the focus on first-hand accounts about what has already been done in many places around the world to solve the big transportation issues facing cities, including congestion pricing, multi-modal transportation planning and high-speed rail. Stay tuned here for a full recap of the event later today.

In the meantime, I want to point readers to two related transportation announcements we made this morning. Here is a bit more background on both:

1. Road pricing trial results in the Netherlands.

Aerial View, Eindhoven

Source: Flickr

Consistent with the themes in this morning’s transportation forum, road pricing is a growing tool being used by cities and states around the world to change behaviors drivers and shift the balance of transportation from car-dependent to a more multi-modal form system. Six month ago, IBM and NXP Semiconductors began a pilot in Eindhoven to implement variable road pricing based on traffic demand, time of day and type of car (i.e., size + environmental impact of vehicle). Following are some insights from the pilot:

  • * Seventy percent of drivers improved their driving behavior by avoiding rush-hour traffic and using highways instead of local roads.
  • * On average, these drivers in the trial saw an improvement of more than 16 percent in average cost per kilometer.
  • * A clear system of incentives is critical to changing driving behavior.
  • * Instant feedback provided via an On-Board Unit display on the price of the road chosen and total charges for the trip is essential to maximizing the change in behavior.

Importantly, based on the success of the pilot, the Netherlands are looking at similar projects across other parts of the country in an attempt to meet some impressive objectives:

  • * Fifty-eight percent reduction in delays caused by traffic jams;
  • * Fifteen percent reduction in the total number of kilometers driven annually;
  • * Ten percent reduction in CO2 emissions;
  • * Six percent increase in total passenger kilometers via public transportation;
  • * More than 50 percent of Dutch households will pay less than they do currently for the motor vehicle tax and vehicle purchase tax.

2. Using math to reduce traffic.

Scientists in our labs are using mathematical models and data capture to develop advanced predictive models on traffic behaviors to give drivers better information on their daily commutes. The hope is that with better data at the hands of drivers, comes better decisions, all resulting in a net improvement in time spent in traffic, reduced fossil fuel waste and less carbon spent getting people from place to place. This effort is part of a newly formed Center for Smarter Transportation Systems, comprised of IBM Researchers, mathematicians, industry consultants and software developers.

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February 23rd, 2010

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embedded by Embedded Video reports on how IBM is using its Smarter Building technology to help clients reduce their carbon footprint and run more efficiently, including:   

  • Johnson Controls Inc. –  analyzing energy use and building performance for its customers
  • Ricoh Co. –  developing a device and printing management system to monitor print-related costs
  • Tennessee Valley Authority —  managing and maintaining information technology and physical assets across its power facilities, including nuclear and wind

And then there’s the Venetian Resort in the video above.

Along the way, this “smart” building market, where a variety of systems are embedded with efficiency intelligence, will double to $6 billion by 2015 from this year.

At the Pulse2010 conference former Vice President Al Gore compared the need for better data about environmental conditions to the mortgage credit crisis, as reported in Computerworld.  “When there are important factors that are systemically ignored, that can set us up for bad decisions,” said Gore.

“Even if you don’t buy into the evidence of the climate crisis,” Gore said, the development of green technologies, investment in wind, solar and smart grids, offers “a chance to boost our economy.”

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February 22nd, 2010

Johnson Controls graphic

Graphic courtesy of Johnson Controls, who is working with IBM on smarter buildings

Following is a guest post from Florence Hudson, an energy and environment strategy executive from IBM:

Buildings have always been much more than roofs over our heads. Over the last century, as towers of steel reached higher into the sky and homes sprawled farther and farther into the surrounding landscape, our buildings not only housed burgeoning urban populations and growing economies – they also served as symbols of modernity and progress. Unfortunately, today’s offices, factories, stores and homes are also symbols of something else – waste and pollution.

Today, at the big IBM Pulse conference, we made some announcements that highlight the focus we’ve been putting lately on one of the biggest pieces in building a smarter planet – the building sector. Why? Consider some of the following:

The HVAC system, the lights, the water, the elevators, the power and cooling for technology, the heating and cooling for people: all contribute to making buildings a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions—and a leading energy user. Lights blaze and air conditioners hum in empty offices at night, and lawn sprinklers turn on even during a rainstorm. Commercial buildings lose as much as 50% of the water that flows into them.

A vision for smarter buildings

We can think about buildings differently – seeing homes not just as living spaces, but as living systems; seeing offices not just as static environments, but as dynamic ecosystems of people and intelligence. We touched on the concept of a building operating like a living organism in a recent blog post about five innovations we see affecting cities in the next five years.

In a smarter building, systems are not managed separately – they interoperate. Thousands of sensors can monitor everything from motion and temperature to humidity, precipitation, occupancy and light. The building doesn’t just coexist with nature – it harnesses it. Smart buildings can reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions by 10% to 50% or more and save 20% to 50% in water usage.

The agenda for smarter, sustainable buildings is a transformational agenda about creating and managing a new future for energy interaction and optimization that will serve as a model for both new and retrofit construction in the commercial and public sectors.

Instrumented, Interconnected, Intelligent

Putting the vision into tangible terms, I’ve put what we see as some of the major elements of Smarter Buildings into the context of the three “I’s” we often cite:


  • * Smart Meters (electricity, water, gas)
  • * Building management systems & building sensors (lighting, fire, environment, CO2)
  • * Public safety and surveillance systems
  • * IP-enabled devices – servers, PCs, actuators, control devices


  • * Environments (fiber, wireless, public spaces, offices)
  • * Sensors, sensor platforms & concentrators
  • * Meters & building management systems
  • * Systems (cost, space-use, portfolio management, facilities management)


  • * “Enterprise-view” visibility of the building/campus/enterprise/city operations
  • * Real-time analytics of sensor & meter data
  • * Behavioral modeling of physical, natural & people systems
  • * Visualization for user awareness & action

Not a future vision

It is important to note that this isn’t a futuristic vision. This is already happening today. For example, the St. Regis Hotel in Shanghai is the only 5-star hotel which is an Intelligent Building in the Shanghai region in China. We worked together with the St. Regis to integrate 12 sub-systems to create one intelligent building, with a ratio of energy costs to revenue below 5% compared to 8% for other five-star hotels in the Shanghai region – a 40% improvement.

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February 19th, 2010

“The point of cities is multiplicity of choice,” said Jane Jacobs, the champion of cities who penned the breakthrough 1961 critique of urban renewal, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. We think it’s a good idea to give a multiplicity of people who are interested in the future of cities opportunities to learn about it and do something about it. That’s why we’re conducting a virtual Smarter Cities event on Feb. 23 (10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Eastern U.S. Time) as we mentioned here on this blog a few days ago.

This Smarter Cities phenomenon is really taking off. We’ve held major terrestrial events in Berlin and New York, and plan another in Shanghai this summer. We’ve also staged dozens of mini-events in cities throughout the world. So going online is an obvious next step. Anybody who wants to participate is welcome. Register on

The event will start off with a handful of speeches delivered by government and business leaders who are up to their elbows in making cities work better. They include Bev Perdue, governor of North Carolina, and Joseph Rigby, chairman of utility giant Pepco Holdings. Our own Bridget van Kralingen, IBM general manager, North America, will launch the event with an update on our Smarter Planet initiative. (One tidbit: A little more than a year after launching the initiative, we have 1200 partnerships with clients worldwide–a faster uptake than we expected.) Gov. Purdue will talk about a test project in Charlotte aimed at revolutionizing the way highways are built. Using a public-private partnership model,  North Carolina is teaming up with developers who will not only perform the design and construction of the new highway sections, but will invest some of their own money, as well. If this approach works in Charlotte, Perdue plans on rolling it out across the state.

After a lunch break (you’re on your own for that), there will be breakout sessions focusing on education, public safety, transportation, government, energy, and healthcare. As somebody who attended university in Pittsburgh, I’m particularly interested in hearing from Dr. Daniel Martich, the chief medical information officer at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. UPMC is reinventing itself as a laboratory for innovations in healthcare technology and new approaches to delivering care.

For participants, there will be plenty of opportunities to weigh in. There will be a question-and-answer session after  the major addresses and interactive discussions during each breakout panel. Participants will type their comments and questions on their computers.

Who knows, maybe the next Jane Jacobs will emerge out of one of these events. The pool of brainpower is certainly getting big enough to make that possible.

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February 18th, 2010

Technology is supposed to flow to where we humans suffer, so I sometimes wonder why it hasn’t been used more effectively in airports. I was reminded of this today when I read J.D. Power’s newest report on customer satisfaction (or, more properly, dissatisfaction) with airports. There have been some important technology advances in airports, such as near-ubiquitous wi-fi access and plenty of check-in kiosks, but it seems like two of the biggest headaches  could use some more technology help. Those frustrations, of course, are baggage handling and security checkpoints. This might be a good topic for discussion at our virtual Smarter Cities event coming up on Feb. 23 or our Smarter Transportation event in DC on Feb. 25. It also might be a good area for tech startups and VCs to press on.

Interestingly, Denver International ranked second behind Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County in the satisfaction index list for large airports. That must mean it got its early baggage handling system glitches worked out.

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 Smarter Traffic If Virtual events aren’t your thing, then hopefully this face to face one is more up your alley. On Thursday of next week, IBM will bring together policy makers, transportation operators, metro planners, academics and others to discuss the future of transportation and how new innovations and technology can help build smarter transportation systems to better serve society’s needs in the 21st Century.

The need for progress is clear. There are now more than 475 urban areas with more than 1 million people residing in them. That’s an increase of 573% from 1950 when there were only 83. That translates into more than half the world’s population now living in urban areas. Transportation congestion continues to grow, wasting time and money while creating more pollution. Most of the developed world’s transportation infrastructures were designed decades ago and reflect the available technology, population and requirements at that time. Simply, the infrastructure responsible for moving the world’s people and things is inadequate.

Meanwhile, transportation investment remains a hot topic in Washington due to federal stimulus funding and new surface transportation legislation that Congress is working to pass.

In light of these events, on the morning of February 25 we are hosting a Smarter Transportation forum at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington D.C. to examine society’s need for updated transportation infrastructures. Prominent leaders from government, academia and industry will discuss powerful strategies and solutions to dramatically improve our transportation systems.

Participants will include Congressman Earl Blumenaur from Oregon, Dr. Robert Bertini, Deputy Administrator, US DOT’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration. Janet Kavinocky from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Judge Quentin Kopp, former Chairman of California High Speed Rail Authority, and other distinguished guests.

  • When: Thursday, February 25, 2010
  • Time: 9:00 – 11:45 a.m.
  • Where: The Rayburn House Office Building, Room B-318,
    Washington, DC 20005

If you would like to join us, please send email to to confirm your attendance. If you can’t join us, you can follow the event live on Twitter and at the event hashtag  #ibmtransport.  You are also invited to join our Smarter Transportation Linkedin community to continue this important discussion after the event.

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sc_banner_530x200 As readers of this blog will remember, over the past year, we’ve spent a lot of time convening leaders from the public and private sectors to discuss the future of our cities. We started in Berlin in June, then, in November hosted another Smarter Cities forum in New York City. In between these major international sessions, we’ve been hosting dozens of local fora in cities around the world. We’ve had mayors, governors, CEO and a whole host of civic and federal officials participate in the conversations. In fact, we’ll be convening another large meeting in Shanghai in early June.

But, physical events are necessarily limiting in their access and participation. Thus, to address that issue, we are going to be hosting the first ever Smarter Cities Virtual Event on February 23. The event will allow anybody to participate live, online, in discussions addressing the weighty issues our cities face, including transportation, education, energy, public safety and more. This is not just a webcast of the same content. Rather, they will be interactive sessions probing deeply on these big topics.

I’ve included a sampling of the agenda below (more details can be found on the registration page on We’ll be sharing some major recaps from the event here on the blog next week. You can also follow along on Twitter @smarterplanet and the event hashtag (forthcoming). But if you are interested in participating in the conversation live, register now.

Here’s a sampling of the agenda:

Main tent:

  • Bridget Van Kralingen, IBM
  • North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue
  • Joseph Rigby, President & CEO, Pepco Holdings

As in all of our Smarter Cities conferences, the “main tent” sessions are followed by interactive breakout sessions probing much deeper into the major systems that comprise a smarter city. The Virtual Smarter Cities Forum will host the following:

  • Smarter Energy, moderated by Guido Bartels, IBM and Todd McGregor, PHI
  • Smarter Transportation, moderated by Gerry Mooney, IBM; Pat McCrory, Moore & Van Allen, (and former Mayor of Charlotte, NC); and Bob Kingston, McCarran Airport, Las Vegas
  • Smarter Government, moderated by Nicole Gardner, IBM; Barbara Ramsey, Oklahoma Employment Security Commission; and Don R. Edwards, Alameda County Social Services Agency
  • Smarter Education, moderated by Mike King, IBM; J.L. Albert, Georgia State University; and Sharon P. Pitt, George Mason University
  • Smarter Public Safety, moderated by George Cruser, IBM; Stephen Hollifield, City of Richmond Police; and Pat McCrory, McCrory & Co. (and former Mayor of Charlotte, NC)
  • Smarter Healthcare, moderated by Patrick Boyle, IBM; Daniel Martich, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center; and Asif Ahmad, of Duke University Health System

We hope to “see” you next week.

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Following is a guest post from Ajay K. Royyuru:

Today we in IBM Computational Biology Center took a very important and big step forward, in establishing the first life science research collaboratory. Located in Melbourne, in partnership with Victorian Life Sciences Computational Initiative (VLSCI) at the University of Melbourne, this collaboratory realizes an important objective of the Research Division, to perform our research in the market place, with our clients. The collaboratory enables our collaboration with about 10,000 world class life sciences and medical researchers in the Melbourne area, across a number a national and internationally reputed research institutions, such as University of Melbourne, Monash University, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Peter MacCallum Cancer Center, and Ludwig Institute. Together, we hope to make significant progress in research at the intersection of biology and high performance computing, in areas such as medical imaging, clinical genomics, drug discovery and drug design, and systems biology. The collaboratory will consist of researchers and engineers in Melbourne, who will work closely with VLSCI scientists, and also serve as conduit into other researchers and teams in IBM Research. The collaboratory will focus on computational biology research with access to the Blue Gene compute resource at Watson, and Blue Gene supercomputer at VLSCI.

The following video shares a number of other projects underway in IBM’s Computational Biology Center:

embedded by Embedded Video

Ajay K. Royyuru, PhD, is a senior manager in IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center, responsible for the Computational Biology Center.

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Magnified view of a cross section of the compound Cu2ZnSn(S,Se)4

Following is a guest post from Dr. Thomas Theis:

IBM’s launch of Power 7 systems has generated significant media attention this week. While IBM’s investments in materials research, nanotechnology, manufacturing and chip design are paying off in bringing new, innovative products to market, IBM is also applying that expertise to areas you may not be aware of.

For example, today, the scientific journal Advanced Materials published a paper detailing a breakthrough in solar research by IBM scientists. IBM researchers have created a high-efficiency solar cell that holds potential to produce more energy at a lower cost, as it is made of earth abundant materials.

solar cell chip

Solar cell in a working device

The quest to develop a solar technology that can compare on a cost per watt basis with the conventional electricity generation, and also offer the future ability to deploy at the hundreds of gigawatts or greater levels, has become a major challenge that this breakthrough moves us closer to overcoming. IBM does not plan to manufacture solar technologies, but is open to partnering with solar cell manufacturers to demonstrate the technology.

The key part of this solar cell, which is the layer that absorbs most of the light for conversion into electricity, is made entirely with abundant and readily available materials Copper (Cu), Tin (Sn), Zinc (Zn), Sulfur (S) and/or Selenium (Se) and performs at a power conversion efficiency of 9.6 percent, which is 40 percent higher than previous attempts to create a solar cell made of similar materials. Other solar cells which perform at similar efficiency levels are comprised of materials that have been either too costly to produce or contain elements that could limit production capacity, or have poor prospects for further improvements in efficiency, making commercialization and wide usage less likely.

IBM has a long history of pioneering advanced silicon technologies to help enhance performance, while reducing size and power consumption. Such advances include the development of the world’s first copper-based microprocessor; silicon-on-insulator (SOI), a technology that reduces power consumption and increases performance by helping insulate the millions of transistors on a chip; and strained silicon, a technology that “stretches”  material inside the silicon decreasing the resistance and speeding the flow of electrons through transistors.

Similarly, IBM Research is applying its chip, materials and nanotechnology expertise in other areas. Consider the following:

  • DNA sequencing – In an effort to build a nanoscale DNA sequencer, IBM scientists are drilling nano-sized holes in computer-like chips and passing DNA strands through them to read the information contained within their genetic code. IBM Research has received an “Advanced Sequencing Technology Award” from the US National Human Genome Research Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, to design a silicon-based DNA Transistor that will advance genome sequencing technology and generate progress in health care diagnosis and practice. This advanced research effort to demonstrate a silicon-based “DNA Transistor” could help pave the way to read human DNA easily and quickly, generating advancements in health condition diagnosis and treatment. The challenge in the effort is to slow and control the motion of the DNA through the hole so the reader can accurately decode what is in the DNA.  If successful, the project could improve throughput and reduce cost to achieve the vision of personalized genome analysis at a cost of $100 to $1,000. In comparison, the first sequencing ever done by the Human Genome Project (HGP) cost $3 billion.
  • Water purification – Scientists at IBM Research, together with collaborators from Central Glass, KACST and the University of Texas, Austin have created a new membrane that filters out salts as well as potentially harmful toxins in water such as arsenic while using less energy than other forms of water purification. Membrane filtration is currently one of the most energy efficient techniques for removing salt and improving water quality. But, conventional membranes used today are easily damaged by chlorine, which is commonly added to water to prevent bacterial growth that can cause health problems. Now, the collaborative research team has designed a new concept in membrane materials that combines resistance to chlorine damage and high performance separation behavior in mildly basic conditions, making it suitable for arsenic removal in addition to water desalination
  • Medical diagnostics – IBM scientists, in collaboration with the University Hospital of Basel in Switzerland, have created a one-step point-of-care-diagnostic test, based on an innovative silicon chip, that requires less sample volume, is significantly faster, portable, easy to use, and can test for many diseases, including one of world’s leading causes of death, cardiovascular disease. The results are so quick and accurate that a small sample of a patient’s serum or blood, could be tested immediately following a heart attack, to enable the doctor to quickly take a course of action to help the patient survive. The diagnostic test uses capillary forces to analyze tiny samples of serum, or blood, for the presence of disease markers, which are typically proteins that can be detected in people’s blood for diagnostic purposes.

As IBM focuses on building a smarter planet, at IBM Research we are looking at new ways to apply our expertise to help solve some of the big issues of our time. Oftentimes, this involves collaborating with other leading institutions. We are excited by the possibilities of what we can do when we look at a problem with new lenses and think of new ways to solve it. Today’s solar breakthrough is a good example.

Dr. Thomas Theis is Director of Physical Sciences at IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Lab in Yorktown Heights, N.Y.

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