IBM has plenty of company when it comes to deep concern and deep thinking about the future of cities. Today, at the Intelligent Cities Forum in Washington, D.C., hundreds of urban planners, city leaders and data mavens are gathering to share insights on ways to make cities more successful and sustainable using data, analytics, collaboration and foresight. The A Smarter Planet blog will feature live blogging from the event, so please return here frequently to see updates.
Anne Altman, general manager, Global Public Sector, IBM, talks about why cities are so important to having a sustainable planet.
5:51 p.m. Closing Remarks
Chase W. Rynd, president and executive director, National Building Museum, announces that Data Materialized wins the prize for the best of The 24-Hour City Project experiments.
Also, an Intelligent Cities exhibition is coming.
Also a book.
5:15 p.m. Town Hall Meeting
A panel of municipal leaders discuss how we can collectively build intelligent cities.
One of the key points is the recognition that many American cities were built after the introduction of the automobile, and their design (or lack thereof) is based on the availability of cheap gasoline. So how do cities designed for the automobile proceed when that approach is no longer sustainable?
One example is Raleigh, North Carolina, which got the nickname “Spraleigh” because of its sprawl pattern. The city has very little available land for development and an aging population that won’t be driving in the not-too-distant future.
Mitchell Silver, director of planning for Raleigh, says the city leaders began their long-term planning process with a series of discussions, which included a heavy dose of citizen input, about what it means to be a 21st century city. “A city has to understand its purpose. The public has to understand its purpose. The elected officials need to understand its purpose. Then you can understand what it is as a system,” he says.
In the end, they came up with a plan to develop 8 growth centers that will accommodate most of the community’s growth. They were able to get 96% support from the public. One crucial factor: They showed that the community would save hundreds of millions of dollars over the next 30 years by pursuing this plan.
5:00 p.m. Designing a Collaborative Built Environment
“I never let the data trump my intuition about what my community values.”
–Maurice Cox, past mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia and former director of design at the National Endowment for the Arts.
4:16 p.m. Designing a Collaborative Built Environment
Nicholas de Monchaux, architect, urbanist, writer, and assistant professor of Architecture & Urban Design at University of California, Berkeley: “Recently, I was asked who is the Jane Jacobs of social media? Well, Jane Jacobs was the Jane Jacobs of social media. She was the first to identify the layers of urban social relationships that are the essence of social media just like they are the essence of healthy cities.”
3:55 pm – Thought Vignette: Community and Social Interaction in the Wireless City
Keith Hampton, assistant professor, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania, is exploring the social benefits of using new technology in cities. He is presenting the results of his studies seeking to address three questions:
- Do new communication technologies reduce the use of traditional settings such as public spaces?
- Do new communication technologies reduce in-person interaction with others?
- Do new communication technologies make communication possible where it wasn’t before?
Hampton’s data shows that people who use a variety of new media are more likely to visit public spaces – for example, bloggers spend a lot of time going to parks and cafes, and interacting socially. As a result of this kind of socialization, people have more diverse networks, and are physically and mentally healthier, creating higher levels of trust and tolerance.
There is a perception, he says, that people have less serendipity and pay less attention to the world around them due to social media. But his study shows that while that is true to a degree, many of the things people do online tend to be socially active, for example, increasing political participation.
In one of his studies, 25 percent of those interviewed had not visited the public space before wireless Internet was available at that location. Seventy percent of those who previously visited said they visited more often due to availability of wireless internet. And they almost always came alone, yet they are interacting with a lot of people online while they were in those public spaces– mostly interacting on social networking Web sites. Ten percent observed in an extended interaction with a stranger; 12 percent participated in a more modest social exchange; and 1 in 6 maintained contact over time, forming a relationship.
In answering the question: Can social media make communication possible where it wasn’t before, Hampton tested lower-income neighborhoods with a low likelihood of access to technology. The study found that in low-income neighborhoods, new communication technologies can help produce local cohesion and collective action in new and exciting ways.
The bottom line? The built environment hasn’t declined in importance and new technology doesn’t detract from the built environment.
2:40 p.m. Imagining a Healthier City
A question to members of the panel: Look out 50 years. What do we need to anticipate now?
Climate change, says Patrick L. Kinney, professor of environmental health sciences, Columbia University. “The scientific community is essentially unanimous in the conclusion that we have seen climate change over the past 30 years, and no matter what we do we won’t be able to change things in the next 30 years,” he says.
Larger hurricanes are coming, like Katrina, because of the warming of the oceans. At the same time, cities along the seacoast will have to deal with rising sea levels.
If you’re interested in exploring some ideas about how cities can reach to rising and increasingly angry seas, check out this design project, Rising Currents, sponsored by New York’s Museum of Modern Art–the output of which was put on display in the museum’s galleries last year.
The project brought together five interdisciplinary teams to re-envision the coastlines of New York and New Jersey around New York Harbor at a time in the future when the sea level will be much higher. Their visions of the city of the future give new meaning to the concept of “open space.”
2:20 p.m. Imagining a Healthier City
Don’t leave home. That’s the advice of William Lucy, professor of Urban and Environmental Planning, University of Virginia. He says the mortal threats to humans in metropolitan areas area traffic accidents and murders. Most murders happen at home, but most traffic accidents, of course, don’t. Since there are many more traffic fatalities in metros than there are murders, the more time you spend at home, the less likely you are to die an early death.
That also means that the dangerous areas in a metropolitan area are the ones that are considered to be safest—the outer areas. That’s where you get the traffic fatalities.
12:36 p.m. During the lunch break
In one of the National Business Museum’s galleries, they’re presenting some experiments that have come out of The 24-Hour City Project, launched in D.C., which project organizers call “a wild experiment to hack the city.”
The purpose of the project is to explore the intersection of the built environment, data, the arts and information technology. In a beta conducted in recent weeks, teams competed to develop physical and digital interventions at the museum, which were opened to the public over the weekend.
One cool one: Data Materialized. A group gathered data about the education levels of people in D.C., arranged by location, and represented it in a three-dimensional graphic—which they displayed in physical form in one of the National Building Museum galleries. Notice in the video the huge spike of education in D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood.
In November, the 24-Hour City Project competition will launch citywide in D.C. and, the organizers hope there will be parallel events in Boston, New York, Chicago and elsewhere around the world.
To see what’s going on, visit the Intelligent Cities Tumblr blog.
12:25 p.m. Regionally Thinking: Transportation, Affordability, and Equity
Robert Puentes, senior fellow, Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, says one of the problems is that suburban towns think about their relationships to the cities and not how they relate to one another. We have hub-and-spoke transit systems. “If you’re trying to get between suburbs you have tremendous challenges,” he says.
He says we have to fundamentally rethink and remake our transport corridors so it makes it easier to live work shop and play: “We have to remake the suburbs for the 21st century.”
12:00 p.m. Regionally Thinking: Transportation, Affordability and Equity
Robert Puentes, senior fellow, Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, recently concluded a study of accessibility to work in metropolitan areas in the United States. The good news is that 70% of metro residents had some sort of transit. The bad news is that the transit isn’t convenient enough. On average, people can only get to 30% of the jobs in their metropolitan area within 90 minutes.
The conclusion I draw from this info is that you can’t solve the problem by brute force–building a lot more rail or other transit infrastructure. You’ll be able to move quicker and cheaper if you concentrate in the near-term on better coordination of what exists, which requires collaboration between different regional and municipal transit organizations. The transit systems have to not only intersect but their schedules need to sync up.
Scott Bernstein, president and founder, Center for Neighborhood Technology, says, “We need a jobs-to-people strategy, not just a people-to-jobs strategy.” He urges government leaders to provide incentives to companies to move the jobs to where the people are. That’s much less expensive than making massive new investments in mass transit systems.
11:15 a.m. Thought Vignette: Democracy and Inclusion in the Intelligent Cities
Ceasar McDowell, professor of the Practice of Community Development, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, explores ways of democratizing data and city development.
He argues that in the social networking world, people, not corporations, should have should have control over their data. He proposes what he calls a “personal digital commons.” Individuals should be able to place digital information about them on the Web in four buckets: free use, limited use, collective community use and no use. Once people have decided how their information can be used, the way is clear to start using it in potentially powerful ways.
He has the concept of “collective framing.” Rather than organizations or city governments setting agendas and announcing them to the public, why not engage the public in setting the agenda from the get-go?
He says even if you ask people to provide input via an online survey, the way you ask the questions is limiting. He encourages open-ended questions.
10:10 a.m. The City as a Lab.
Government is in ill-repute in some quarters these days, but good government leadership is absolutely vital to leading and coordinating the development of more successful cities.
Dustin Haisler, director of government innovation, Spigit, and former CIO, Manor, Texas, says government leadership is vital, even at a time when municipal governments are pressed financially. “Don’t accept the constraints you’re given,” he says, adding later: “The city is a lab now. They’re experimenting and solving problems.”
Mark Cleverley, director of strategy, Global Government Industry, IBM, says, “I challenge the notion that government isn’t innovative. You have to find a way to let those people free and work together across city agencies. The message has to be that it’s okay for that to happen.”
9:55 a.m. The City as a Lab.
Mark Cleverley, director of strategy, Global Government Industry, IBM, says, “We can think of creating solutions in many more places than we could just a few years ago.”
We’re engaged in smarter cities projects all over the world.
One example is IBM has been working with the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to help city leaders transform the management of their operations.
The impetus for the overhaul was a series of floods and mudslides that claimed the lives of 100 people back in April 2010 combined with preparations for the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016. The city and IBM are collaborating to create what Rio leaders call their City Operations Center, where they’re integrating information from more than 20 city departments for for real-time visualization, monitoring and analysis of incidents across the city. It will help meteorologists, geological surveyors, field operations people and security managers work together to dramatically speed emergency responsiveness—no matter what happens.
As part of the agreement, IBM Research scientists have developed a high-resolution weather forecasting and hydrological modeling system, which can predict heavy rains up to 48 hours in advance. Essentially, they’ve created a giant mathematical model of how the city’s weather interacts with its water management systems.
The center is the first in the world to integrate all the stages of a crisis management situation: from the prediction, mitigation and preparedness, to the immediate response to events, and finally to capture feedback from the system to be used in future incidents.
Rio Operations Center
9:35 a.m. Keynote Conversation: What Makes an Intelligent City?
Susan Piedmont-Palladino, curator, National Building Museum: “I look forward to the day when a city isn’t considered beautiful unless it’s sustainable. You won’t get an architectural award unless you pay attention to how the building is oriented toward the sun.”
9:17 a.m. Keynote Conversation: What Makes an Intelligent City?
One of the keys to making cities manageable and data really useful is developing technology systems that allow city leaders to see data, make sense of it, and make better decisions based on their new knowledge.
IBM has has been working with cities for decades, and, three years ago, when it launched its Smarter Planet strategy, it began bringing new thinking and new technologies to bear on cities’ problems and opportunities—combining the availability sensors for collecting data, the ubiquity of networks and new analytical software tools. Initially, most of the software had to be written from scratch.
Not so any more. Today, coinciding with the Intelligent Cities Forum, the company introduced a new software product, the IBM Intelligent Operations Center for Smarter Cities, which pulls together functionality from more than a dozen IBM products and integrates it into a single package. The software gives cities of any size a holistic view of information across city departments and agencies and a central point of command and collaboration.
This package came together really fast. “We’re laying track as we cross it,” I was told by Michael Kehoe, the IBM product manager in charge of building the Intelligent Operations Center.
To me, one of the coolest aspects of the software is its awareness of the interrelationships between systems—called event correlation. Data from different city services is integrated so, for instance, if the water department records that a particular fire hydrant is out commission, the fire department will be alerted to connect to a different hydrant if they get called to a fire in the area.
IBM’s Michael Kehoe talks about the importance of event correlation in managing cities.
9 a.m. Keynote Conversation: What Makes an Intelligent City?
Dr. Xavier de Souza Briggs, associate director for General Government Programs, Office of Management and Budget, The White House, points out that the building industry has historically been slow to change. Unlike the auto industry, where there are a relative few players and they can develop and adopt new standards rapidly, the building industry is highly fragmented. His point is that there’s a role for government here in helping to set standards—which is one of the things he does at the White House.
The tech industry provides another model. It’s a healthy combination of market competition, industry standards bodies, and standards bodies such as NIST and ICANN setting standards.
8:40 a.m. Keynote Conversation: What Makes an Intelligent City?
Richard Stengel, managing editor, TIME: “In my city, New York, Robert Moses used data to create parts of cities that were inimical to the interests of the communities. What’s different now? A lot of those endeavors destroyed parts of cities.”
He asks, What’s different now?
Anne Altman, general manager, Global Public Sector, IBM, says we have a project at IBM called Cities in Motion. We capture information about where people are and how they’re moving, and when they’re moving. We use cell phones and other sensing devices. “People can see if we want to have green space we can put it in a place where people can get to it. If we’re building roads, how can we design them so people aren’t just sitting in traffic jams. Having the data means we can improve everything from transportation to leisure activities.”
Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, says one of the differences now is that a lot of data is transparent. People in communities can see it and get involved in projects. They can use the data to make a case that a major city project isn’t really in the public interest.
The Federal government and New York City, among others, are making large amounts of data available to the public.
John Tolva, the chief technology officer in Chicago, built City Forward, a city data sharing organization and Web tool, when he was at IBM previously. Visit there to see how people in dozens of cities around the world have used data to understand what’s really happening in their cities.
8:05 a.m. Keynote Conversation: What Makes an Intelligent City?
Rudith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation: “We’re seeing a tsunami of urbanization”
“Urbanization is an engine for sustainability, but it’s also a gathering place for poverty.”
“We need technology. But we need it to be inclusive. If we don’t answer ‘Intelligent for what?’ and ‘Intelligent for whom?’ then we aren’t going to build the intelligent city of the 21st century.”
This is an important reminder. Rigging a city up with sensors, wiring and data dashboards won’t make a big difference unless the parties involved first come up with a vision of what they want the city to be and how they want it to work. Another key: involving people from throughout the community in helping to shape this vision.
8:00 a.m.: Chase Rynd, president and executive director, National Building Museum, tells the crowd of 300: “We’re at the convergence of two major events in history. For the first time in human history more than 50% of the people on the planet are living in cities. But it may be a way to make a more sustainable world. People in cities have a lower carbon footprint. But cities face challenges.”
The National Building Museum has been working for six months to gather information about cities as systems. It has published infographics on its own web site and on Time Magazine’s site–also surveying people about their attitudes and reactions. So far, more than 5000 people have responded. The info can be found here.
IBM uses the term smarter cities. It’s an essential piece of the overall Smarter Planet strategy. The company believes that smarter cities drive sustainable economic growth by leveraging information to make better decisions, coordinating resources to operate more effectively and anticipating problems so they can be resolved before they get too big. If cities manage their knowledge wisely and aggressively, they’ll become better places to live and will create abundant economic opportunities for their citizens in a rapidly changing world. IBM’s Smarter Cities business has grown to nearly 2,000 engagements with cities globally in the last two years.