When looking back at IBM’s 100 years, there are a number of examples across road, rail, air and sea where new technologies and new approaches are changing how people and things move from here…to there.
Stockholm, Sweden, the subject of today’s Icon of Progress, is a city of islands. There are 14 small town-sized islands, where citizens can stroll across short car and pedestrian bridges and boats slowly navigate through the archipelago.
Traffic congestion had been a growing aggravation there for years, with over half a million cars traveling into the city every weekday. Simply building more roads was’t the answer. Road building could not keep pace with the increased demand, and the environment wouldn’t be able to sustain the impact. Authorities encouraged people to make greater use of public transport. But still, the bottlenecks got worse.
But then we learn how Stockholm and other urban centers around the world have discovered that traffic isn’t just a line of cars: it’s a web of connections. With IBM’s help, these cities are infusing intelligence into their entire transportation systems — streets, bridges, intersections, signs, signals and tolls. And now they’re seeing significant drops in congestion and pollution.
An innovative, high-tech computing system was able to cure traffic gridlock in Stockholm by directly identifying and charging vehicles depending on the time of day — higher during peak times, lower during off peak hours.
And there are many more examples in other cities, including transportation systems instrumented with sensors, meters, cameras, smart phones, and biometric devices that give us the ability to measure, sense and see the exact condition of everything — from the temperature of a train wheel bearing, to metal fatigue on a bridge.
There’s also clever software that can “learn” traveler patterns and behaviors, identify possible dangerous intersections and stretches of road, and make recommendations for people’s commutes.
But as IBM has discovered throughout its long history, when you take on a complex systems like transportation and traffic you need more than just cutting-edge technology to be successful. You need to analyze how things flow, how people interact, how different processes can be more productive and human, and then bring together the abundance of technologies, skills, and approaches that send us down a smarter route and make true innovation possible.
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