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December 20th, 2013

Diego Sanchez Gallo, Scientist, IBM Research – Brazil

Diego Sanchez Gallo
Research Scientist
IBM Research – Brazil

By Diego Sanchez Gallo

Walking down the street or on a sidewalk shouldn’t be hazardous to your health. But uneven pathways, cracks in the pavement, or some other unexpected obstacle trip up pedestrians all the time; and at worst, force those with disabilities to take inconvenient detours. IBM Research wants you to take a picture of your next stumbling block with the Rota Acessível (English version: Accessible Way) app – and help others avoid the same pitfall.

Inspired by another IBM crowdsource app, CreekWatch, my team in Sao Paulo developed a way for citizens to collaborate on “watching” their urban infrastructure – acting as human sensors of the city. Accessible Way geo-localizes the photos that users take, and puts them on a map visible to others using the app. Continue Reading »

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Marie Kenerson, chief collaboration and learning officer, Colleagues In Care

Marie Kenerson, Chief Collaboration and Learning Officer, Colleagues In Care

By Richard Silberman, Writer/Researcher, IBM Communications

Out of the devastation of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, a new, cloud-based model for delivering quality, sustainable healthcare to destitute populations is rising.

Marie Kenerson, chief collaboration and learning officer at Colleagues In Care (CIC), is leading the drive to virtually connect healthcare professionals from around the globe to collaborate, share best medical practices and develop training programs for healthcare workers in Haiti. It’s a model that not only promises to transform healthcare delivery in Haiti, but it can be replicated anywhere in the world to help populations in need and enable true transformational social change. Continue Reading »

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Alfred Vanderpuije, Mayor of Accra, Ghana

Alfred Vanderpuije, Mayor of Accra, Ghana

By Alfred Vanderpuije

This week at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town, leaders will come together to discuss Africa’s future. One of the three focus themes is the importance of ‘Strategic Infrastructure’ as a foundation for the continent’s growth. As Mayor of Accra and Chief Executive of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly, I would say that there are few areas as crucial for infrastructure investment as cities.

Buoyed by an emerging oil and gas industry and a rapidly growing consumer class, Ghana’s economy is one of the fastest growing in the world. Investors are flocking to the country’s capital Accra to take advantage of new business opportunities and become part of this success story. Mastercard recently identified Accra as one of Africa’s top cities in terms of economic growth potential over the next few years. Local and foreign firms are also driving a number of urban development opportunities such as Ghana Cyber City, King City and Appolonia City which aim to set up modern, high-tech hubs within and around Accra. Continue Reading »

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Ahmed Simjee, Smarter Planet Leader, IBM South Africa

By Ahmed Simjee

When I was growing up in South Africa, my family was fortunate.  We had access to fresh drinking water. At first we lived on a small farm near Johannesburg, where we used a well. Later, when I moved closer to the city, I had good tap water. But many of my fellow South Africans weren’t so lucky, and, even today, many people in the rural areas and in informal settlements near the cities don’t have ready access to fresh drinking water. That’s why I’m extremely pleased to be spearheading an initiative in South Africa, WaterWatchers, which is aimed at using mobile phones and crowdsourcing to cut down on leaks and wasted water.

We’re launching our free WaterWatchers app today in Gauteng Province, home of Johannesburg and the capital city, Tshwane. With 12.3 million residents, the province represents 23% of South Africa’s population. We timed the launch to coincide with the United Nations’ World Water Day. If you’re in South Africa, please download the app. Continue Reading »

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Jeffrey Nichols, IBM Research Staff Member

By Richard Silberman, Writer/Researcher, IBM Communications

Jeffrey Nichols is putting a new twist on Twitter that could change the way businesses use social media to identify, engage and market to customers.

“What we actually see from Twitter is just the tip of the information iceberg,” said Nichols, who manages the social media and crowd research team at IBM Research in Almaden, Calif. “Below every tweet there’s a lot more information that people have that they’re not sharing.”

Determined to extract hidden information from social media, Nichols is developing strategies to ask questions directly of targeted strangers over Twitter. The crux of Nichols work is to move from the ubiquitous reactive approach to social media, where marketers follow and respond to what people are saying, to a proactive model where they can reach out to individuals to collect specific information. Continue Reading »

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Michael Haydock, IBM Distinguished Engineer

By Michael P. Haydock

In this era of Big Data, facts and opinions are flying fast and furiously. Unfortunately, too much of this outpouring is of little consequence. So it’s incumbent on marketers and other business leaders to figure out how to turn raw data into insights that they can act upon.

Consider the type of info that streamed out in the past couple of weeks concerning the holiday movie and shopping frenzy.

News reports told us, for instance, that The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 ranked #1 in Thanksgiving weekend domestic box office movie receipts with a whopping $227 million in ticket sales. Meanwhile, the French art film Rust and Bone took in just $30,196 in limited release in two theaters.
Continue Reading »

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Jonathan Taplin, Director, USC Annenberg Innovation Lab

By Jonathan Taplin

Before I became a university professor, I had a long career in the entertainment business–first as a concert producer for the likes of Bob Dylan and The Band, and later as producer of motion pictures, including Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets and The Last Waltz.

Both the music and movie industries have been utterly transformed by the Internet, in positive and negative ways. But I sense that we’re still at the beginning stages of this big shift, and that some of the most interesting developments are yet to come. For example, social sentiment analysis is going to change the game for Hollywood marketing.

Evidence of the changes and challenges to come is abundant in the Film Forecaster analysis that USC Annenberg Innovation Lab and IBM conducted over the past few weeks at the front end of the holiday movie viewing season. It also surfaced in an LA event we hosted on Wednesday night, A Night Behind the Movies, where the panel included Robert Friedman, co-chairman of Lionsgate Motion Picture Group.

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September 11th, 2012

By Danny Lu, business analyst, Los Angeles Unified School Districts

Heading into the second week of September, the hallways of the Los Angeles School District (LAUSD) are already buzzing with the sounds of students and teachers settling in for another school year.

Similar to many other schools around the nation, LAUSD is also facing another year of budget cuts to several of its education programs and extracurricular activities. In fact, a survey from the American Association of School Administrators cites that more than 8 in 10 school districts in the U.S. are inadequately funded for the coming year. Clearly, we all must do more with less.

We chose to tackle this problem head on and find innovative ways where we could help reduce costs and keep the focus on our number one priority: the students.

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by Sreeram Ananthasayanam, Associate Partner, Government & Education, IBM Global Business Services, India

Smarter Cities are defined as cities that provide sustainable economic growth and enhanced quality of life by leveraging information to make better decisions, anticipating problems to resolve them proactively, and, coordinating resources and processes to operate effectively.

How can cities become Smart by leveraging what they have? What kind of investments do we need to build a transformed city? Often, the thrust is on the kind of investment that needs to be pumped in to start the journey. 1 Trillion USD? You guessed it wrong.

There is a common misconception that “Smart Cities” would need tons of IT investment. While this is a truth to reach the nirvana stage, our city leaders can take small actionable steps in the right direction to imbibe smartness. What is required is a systemic thinking and a governance mechanism to engage citizens and the available infrastructure with common-sense tools to start on the journey of smart. Typically, cities have the highest mobile density and broadband penetration, and it is very easy to put these technologies to use to make cities smarter.

A strong collective will to use our resources optimally, and create infinite value out of it, can begin the journey towards a transformed planet, And, all this can be achieved by the innovative applications of the existing technologies, and available resources. How do we attain that? This needs better synergy between the ecosystem of city planners, municipalities, public and private entities.

Driving our cities as engines of economic growth would require an integrated approach, coupled with instrumentation, interconnectedness and intelligence. The above may seem to suggest that there is a need for strong infrastructure and instrumentation on top of it, so that cities can be viewed as a system of systems and can be managed accordingly.

Consider this. What do we get when social business can be put to use for citizen government interactions? The low hanging fruits on the journey to become a smarter city.

Some of the following examples cite some interesting innovations and how social business can be harnessed in the journey to smart. Imagine a scenario where there is mobile app that allows people to take photo of energy meter readings and upload to the utilities company’s website. On one hand, the citizens get a monetary discount and on the other the utility company gets accurate readings without investing in foot soldiers.

Think of a scenario where there is an app that allows people to take photos of violations (of any kind – traffic, unauthorized power tapping, water leakages and so on), geo tag it and upload to a website. Apart from allowing for faster resolution, this allows to create a pressure point on the local administration based on the number of complaints that come from any specific area (e.g. ward).

Another scenario could be where the traffic police can seek feedback on proposed one way rules (which is aplenty in many cities) or seek feedback on how to decongest certain stretches.

Well, the possibilities are enormous, and endless are the opportunities – all it takes is thought leadership and some jugaad innovation. Few steps in the right direction will ignite citizen participation in governance and that can be a self-propelling machine that takes a city to smarter level. Are we ready?

Check out other ideas for progress at India Onward, an IBM India initiative.

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