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.
When IBM scientists J. Georg Bednorz and K. Alex Müller discovered the first practical high-temperature superconductor material 25 years ago, they were considered rebels–and maybe even a little crazy. That’s because they were experimenting with ceramic materials that were deemed by many scientists to be inappropriate for the task.
Their stunning breakthrough altered the landscape of physics. The two were able to demonstrate the phenomenon of superconductivity in materials at a temperature that was 50% higher than had been shown before–theoretically making it possible for the effect to be used in commercial applications. For their work, they received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1987.
But it is only now, a quarter of a century later, that the early promise of this breakthrough is beginning to pay off for humanity. Electrical utilities are now deploying superconductor materials in their distribution lines, and they’re also being used or tested in wind turbines, metal processing equipment, magnetic-resonance-imaging scanners and Maglev trains.
For scientists, there are two thrilling moments in the life cycle of innovations–the initial breakthrough and the big bang of impact. This is one of those moments, and it’s felt not just by the two scientists involved but the entire staff of IBM Research. “You don’t just work for the fun of it. You’re working to have impact,” says Christophe P. Rossel, a physicist at IBM’s Zurich lab, where the superconductor work took place. “Looking at the breakthrough of a colleague is an inspiration every day.”
City leaders are typically re-elected based on how well they fulfill basic needs such as making the buses run on time and fighting crime. So how do you get them to pay attention to long-term strategic considerations–especially at a time of economic hardship? That’s a challenge advocates of progress face as they try to convince leaders that strategic investments in the future will help their communities become or remain healthy over the long haul.
At IBM, we believe that taking advantage of advances in instrumentation, interconnectivity, and data analytics is an essential element of any city vitalization plan. One of the IBMers who is wrestling with the priority-setting issue is Rashik Parmar, an IBM distinguished engineer who heads up an initiative aimed at making Smarter Cities projects appealing to government leaders. He and some his colleagues, including distinguished engineer Colin Harrison and corporate strategist Martin Fleming, find that Mazlow’s hierarchy of needs (graphic above) is a good thinking aid.
Parmar points out that there are three drivers of action in communities that line up pretty well with the elements of Mazlov’s hierarchy. Issues: Fundamental things like crime and transportation that determine the livability of a city correspond with levels one and two. Investment: Government, non-profit, or commercial investments that build and maintain infrastructure line up with levels three and four. Inspiration: The creation of a unifying, shared vision that defines the path to a “better place” corresponds to level five–peak experiences.
The winning argument in favor of strategic investments comes when you can point to long-term improvements in livability that result in part from fulfilling aspirational needs. Academic Richard Florida in his Creative Class writings makes the argument in a general sense: The cities that are most successful are the ones that attract and retain artists, scientists, and other kinds of innovators. Can anybody point to strong data proof points in your city that back up this argument? If so, please weigh in.
I was struck today by a Thomas Friedman’s column today in the New York Times. He’s writing about the Tea Party and it’s angry demands for less government and lower taxes. I don’t want to get into the politics of the column, but one of his observations about what he sees as a necessity for the United States also applies to cities. He calls for a plan to revitalize the nation:
“To me, that is a plan that starts by asking: what is America’s core competency and strategic advantage, and how do we nurture it? Answer: It is our ability to attract, develop and unleash creative talent. That means men and women who invent, build and sell more goods and services that make people’s lives more productive, healthy, comfortable, secure and entertained than any other country.”
To me, these are the questions that city leaders ought to be asking themselves, as well. I believe that the bold and smart ones among them will make the plans and investments now that will pay off a decade from now, and pay dividends for many years into the future.
But, easy for me to say…
What do you think? How do city leaders go about asking the right questions? How do they find ways way to make the plans and investments that will result in Smarter Cities?
“The point of cities is multiplicity of choice,” said Jane Jacobs, the champion of cities who penned the breakthrough 1961 critique of urban renewal, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. We think it’s a good idea to give a multiplicity of people who are interested in the future of cities opportunities to learn about it and do something about it. That’s why we’re conducting a virtual Smarter Cities event on Feb. 23 (10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Eastern U.S. Time) as we mentioned here on this blog a few days ago.
This Smarter Cities phenomenon is really taking off. We’ve held major terrestrial events in Berlin and New York, and plan another in Shanghai this summer. We’ve also staged dozens of mini-events in cities throughout the world. So going online is an obvious next step. Anybody who wants to participate is welcome. Register on ibm.com.
The event will start off with a handful of speeches delivered by government and business leaders who are up to their elbows in making cities work better. They include Bev Perdue, governor of North Carolina, and Joseph Rigby, chairman of utility giant Pepco Holdings. Our own Bridget van Kralingen, IBM general manager, North America, will launch the event with an update on our Smarter Planet initiative. (One tidbit: A little more than a year after launching the initiative, we have 1200 partnerships with clients worldwide–a faster uptake than we expected.) Gov. Purdue will talk about a test project in Charlotte aimed at revolutionizing the way highways are built. Using a public-private partnership model, North Carolina is teaming up with developers who will not only perform the design and construction of the new highway sections, but will invest some of their own money, as well. If this approach works in Charlotte, Perdue plans on rolling it out across the state.
After a lunch break (you’re on your own for that), there will be breakout sessions focusing on education, public safety, transportation, government, energy, and healthcare. As somebody who attended university in Pittsburgh, I’m particularly interested in hearing from Dr. Daniel Martich, the chief medical information officer at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. UPMC is reinventing itself as a laboratory for innovations in healthcare technology and new approaches to delivering care.
For participants, there will be plenty of opportunities to weigh in. There will be a question-and-answer session after the major addresses and interactive discussions during each breakout panel. Participants will type their comments and questions on their computers.
Who knows, maybe the next Jane Jacobs will emerge out of one of these events. The pool of brainpower is certainly getting big enough to make that possible.
On Wednesday, June 24 IBM hosted a forum in Washington, D.C. on Capitol Hill (Video: http://bit.ly/sxJMZ ) for our clients and influencer ecosystem to examine the need for smarter and safer food systems, and to discuss the future of food safety and quality and ways to improve consumer safety and confidence. More than 70 people attended including a US Congresswoman, US Federal Food Agencies, clients, academia, business partners, grocery and food associations, White House staffers, press and analysts. Organizations represented include the FDA, Center for Food Safety, United Fresh Produce Association, USDA, Wisconsin Livestock Identification Association, Univ of Maryland, George Mason Univ, Sara Lee, and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and attendees were very complimentary of (and in some cases surprised) at the diversity of participants.
Here are a few highlights from each speaker – common themes include the need for identifiers for food products, open traceability systems, standards, and information sharing:
Congresswoman Nita Lowey, NY-18 (Westchester): we need a mandatory traceability system for all foods
David Acheson, Assoc. Commisioner for Food, FDA: major roadblocks to food safety are the lack of uniform standards, we need a global traceability system, there’s a misconception that local is safe and global is unsafe
Gay Whitney, Standards Director, EPCglobal: we need standards for food identification, information capture and information sharing
Caroline Smith DeWaal, Food Safety Director, Center for Science in the Public Interest: 46% consumers worry they’ll get sick from food, 52% have little confidence in food safety systems, retailers need to take more responsibility with recalls
Viktor Varan, Matiq: talked about the food tracking system implemented in Norway
Dr. Allan Preston, DVM and Assistant Deputy Minister, Manitoba Agriculture, Food & Rural Initiatives: humbled by how underdeveloped and developing nations are ahead of North America in food traceability
Dr. Harold Schmitz, Chief Science Officer, Mars: We need government, universities, and the industry to work together, and not fragment, to counter food supply chain threats
Margaret Saunders, Homeland Security Director, Oak Ridge National Lab: food safety is important to homeland security
The session ended with an active Q&A that could have gone longer, but we were already over our allotted time.
Below is a link to the press kit for the event that includes the final press release on the consumer survey we did about their attitudes on food safety that we released the day of the event. as well as other relevant content.
To build on the Smarter Cities event in Berlin, we wanted to share this video-on-demand section on the new IBM Global Business Services Video Studio, which includes a variety of clips and short videos related to Smarter Cities. The Studio was launched in conjunction with the new GBS consulting organization, Business Analytics & Optimization Services.
Business Decision Optimization. Evidence-Based Management. The Realtime, Predictive Enterprise.
On April 14, IBM launched Business Analytics & Optimization Services, a major expansion of its consulting organization that embraces all of these fronts. The move not only signals how the smarter planet vision is transforming into new value for IBM clients, but how that worldview will help individual organizations actually become more intelligent.
Business analytics may sound like an abstraction – (analytics simply means the science of analysis) – but it reflects a very tangible reality at the heart of Smarter Planet: because we can increasingly sense and gather information with unprecedented scale and precision, entire new spheres of knowledge and insight are within reach. We can measure and monitor just about anything, from the complex interactions in natural systems like Galway Bay to the ebb and flow of power over an intelligent electric grid.
As the new paper from IBM’s Institute of Business Value, Business Analytics & Optimization for the Intelligent Enterprise, notes:
The information explosion has permanently changed the way we experience the world: everything – and everyone – is leaving digital tracks. Intelligence is increasingly embedded in objects.
What company wouldn’t want to operate with the kind of highly instrumented, interconnected and realtime intelligence that business analytics promises? While that may seem like a rhetorical question, the study IBM conducted as part of the launch of the new analytics service found that nearly eight in ten business leaders were making decisions based on gut and instinct. Business analytics is meant to change that.