Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post from Guru Banavar, Chief Technology Officer, Smarter Cities, IBM
When you think of the world’s smartest cities, London, Singapore, Stockholm, Sydney, Kitakyushu and others might come to mind for their innovative projects to reduce traffic, energy and waste.
But if you look deeper, there are hundreds of smaller cities that are getting smarter – and even outpacing big cities — by applying digital tools like analytics and location-based services to improve the way they manage city water, roads, parks, and utilities.
Take Corpus Christi, Texas, population 280,000. Corpus Christi has rolled out an intelligent city-wide system to help the city to quickly evaluate and respond to issues, anticipate and prevent problems and improve the quality of life for the citizens.
Before working with IBM, each city department had its own process for handling incoming work requests and maintenance, mostly tracking those problems on 3”5” index cards. Now with a city-wide call center, city managers can digitally see all the hotspots on a map, prioritize their responses and know who is handling problems across the city in real time. When data analytics showed that a third of the Corpus Christi’s water department’s effort was spent resolving problems at just 1 percent of customer sites, the city shored up those sites, ultimately cutting costs.
I think Steve Klepper of Corpus Christi captures this concept best when he talks about a city as a collection of data points — streets, bridges, parks, buildings, fire hydrants, water mains and storm water ditches. If you manage your data, you can measure it, and improve it continuously. And Mayor Joe Adame is pleased that city departments are coordinating and integrating around the data they all generate and share.
Today another city — Providence, Rhode Island — is taking an innovative step today to address their energy consumption. A public/private partnership called OSCAR (Ocean State Center for Advanced Resources) is aiming to make Providence become greener and more sustainable, focusing first on smarter buildings and better energy consumption. This is just the tip of the iceberg. With help from IBM, Brown University, the University of Rhode Island and more than 30 local organizations, OSCAR aims to tackle healthcare, education, environmental, and economic development across the state. See here: www.Oscarri.org
In addition to Corpus Christi and Providence, IBM is working with 300 cities around the globe to be smarter by rolling out new projects (such as City of Cambridge in Ontario, Chesapeake Va), forging greater public/private partnerships and research projects (such as Dubuque Iowa, Cape Cod)http://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/28981.wss, and even issuing philanthropic grants for cities (Smarter City Challenge).
The bottom line is that cities need to be smarter; Cities are stressing the world’s resources. They consume an estimated 75 percent of the world’s energy and emit more than 80 percent of greenhouse gases.
India, where I spent the last 5 years, presents its own issues — rapid urbanization and population growth, as well as a rapidly rising middle class with disposal income is driving growth of cities. In fact, every minute during the next 20 years, 30 Indians will leave rural India for urban areas. At this rate, India will need some 500 new cities in the next two decades.
Many of the world’s emerging countries face similar issues, and I’m currently working with countries like Brazil, Vietnam, and China, in addition to India to address these issues. Countries in the developed world have a different set of problems related to economic slowdowns and changing demographics. Urban revitalization and improved services while cutting costs can also be addressed by developing innovative solutions. In short, if there were ever a time to focus on developing solutions for sustainable cities around the world, that time is now.