Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent

In an article published today in, IBM’s John Tolva poses a fascinating question.  What if we could take all the abstractions of a modern city – the movement of goods, the education, public safety, and utilities that strengthen or weaken it – and turn them into insights?

This is becoming possible thanks new software tools – many of them free and open to the public — that enable city managers and citizens to explore and analyze a city’s data, compare it to other cities, and draw new conclusions that had previously been obscured. One example is City Forward, a new interactive tool from IBM that can be used to gather, compare, analyze, visualize, and discuss statistical trends for cities all over the world. YouTube Preview Image

For example, City Forward can help analyze data on bridge and tunnel use and compare it to public transit ridership trends, air quality measurements, employment levels and many other issues.  This allows citizens and city officials to form new judgments about how once-controversial and abstract ideas such as traffic congestion pricing might be approached anew, supported by a clearer way to measure and demonstrate the positive effects on the quality of life in their city.

The need to improve city life has never been more urgent.  Our cities face a paradox today.  Their populations are growing at the same time that their budgets are shrinking.  For the first time, more than 50 percent of the world’s population now lives in cities.  In the last decade, large metropolitan areas in the U.S. grew by a combined ten percent – nearly double the rate of the rest of the country.  Our large metro areas now house two-thirds of America’s total population and have become the dominate forces in our economy and society.  Meanwhile, declines in revenue and escalating fixed costs for things like pensions and health care are crippling our cities.  According to the National League of Cities, city financial officers are experiencing the largest spending cuts and loss of revenue in a quarter century.

Thanks to a preponderance of data and an expanding ecosystem of applications that make it more useful, insightful and actionable, cities can begin to solve this dilemma.  They can take the first steps in understanding the abstractions that have always made city life so vibrant.  And they can develop insights that will lead to better decision making and ultimately benefit the public good.

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August 5, 2011
7:46 pm

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Posted by: Enoch Barclift
April 7, 2011
3:13 pm

Your “smart cities” are a direct copy of the work of Jacque Fresco who invented the concept of the Resource Based Economy. The number one flaw in your smart city design is that you failed to eliminate the monetary system, which will ensure inequality, war, poverty, a high crime rate, poor health care and slavery to name a few. If you’re interested in joining a revolution to create a better way of life for humans, then you should go to the origin of the smart city concept here: Join the movement and help stop all the things that money makes us hate about our selves. Don’t waste your life working on something that has failed throughout history. Ensure the success of the human race by working towards a goal that makes real sense. These “smart cities” you propose are designed to keep the wealthy in power and the poor and middle class working hard for the wealthy. Shame on you.

Posted by: Andrew
March 3, 2011
8:59 am

@abhipandey1989, actually the data is free and available to all. Please check it our for yourself at As for city officials using this new tool, IBM is actively encouraging them to do so. One way we’re doing it is through a new grant program called Smarter Cities Challenge, where we send teams of IBMers into cities to work closely with city officials. Part of the program includes training on how to use City Forward.

Posted by: Lou Lazarus
March 3, 2011
7:40 am

Bold decisions are needed to improve city live and you have taken the first step. Thank you.

Posted by: Lingam
March 2, 2011
11:56 pm

Come to Camden, Nj
They can sure use the info to make better decisions!

Posted by: Mercury127
March 2, 2011
10:58 pm

wont dis data b useful only for a handful of ppl… and regarding da officials using dis data 4 use is highly hypothetical.

Posted by: abhipandey1989
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