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Adam Cutler, Director, IBM Design Studio

Adam Cutler, Director, IBM Design Studio

By Adam Cutler

Good design is good business.” — Thomas J. Watson, 1956

Sixteen years before Thomas Watson Jr. told this to students at the University of Pennsylvania, he hired Eliot Noyes to create IBM’s first corporate design program. Noyes and other design leaders, such as Paul Rand, Charles and Ray Eames, and Eero Saarinen, collaborated to craft IBM’s identity—from the Selectric typewriter to the Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, NY.

IBM used good design to demystify technology in a technically immature world. Today, good design helps tackle a different, but no less acute, problem caused by technology overload.

This week, we dedicated a new IBM Design Studio in Austin, a strong initial step to drive a company-wide effort to put humans at the center of our products. Human-centered design requires a high degree of interaction between people who use the solution and those who build it. Continue Reading »

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Ian Cannings, Lead Process Specialist, Danfoss Power Electronics

Ian Cannings, Lead Process Specialist, Danfoss Power Electronics

By Ian Cannings

Think you only interact with software on your computer? Consider this: a vast majority of the machines and devices you interact with every day – from your car to your coffee maker – are software based. Countless hours were poured into developing the software that makes these products run smoothly, but one single misstep in thousands, if not millions of lines of code can result in improper stopping power or a cool cup of coffee.

At Danfoss, we make products that save energy, costs and reduce the CO2 emissions of our customers. These products are used in areas such as cooling food, air conditioning, heating buildings, and controlling electric motors. As we produce smarter products, we face a new reality: with innovation comes more code. And more code means greater room for error. So, our challenge is to address this complexity within our devices – and the increasing interactions between mechanical, software and electrical components – without slowing development, raising risk, or escalating costs. Continue Reading »

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Terry F. Yosie, President and CEO of the World Environment Center

Terry F. Yosie, President and CEO of the World Environment Center

By Terry F. Yosie

Environmental issues are big, thorny problems. Scarcities in water, food and raw materials are too complex for any single company or non-governmental organization to solve on its own.  In order to make a difference, it’s necessary to collaborate with like-minded partners to achieve shared goals.

Collaboration is a normal feature of customer-supplier relationships, government-business partnerships and initiatives with universities and other partners. It’s also typical for organizations looking for new business models that can sustain profitability while addressing societal needs, natural resource management, product and service innovation, and differentiation of brand value, to name a few.  Collaboration can spur organizations to redefine their business purpose by utilizing society as another kind of R&D lab for innovation.  Continue Reading »

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Innovation and collaboration will be crucial to boosting jobs and economic competitiveness in the the coming years. A strong example of these levers at work is the just-announced IBM Center for Advanced Analytics in Columbus, Ohio. The new center, which is expected to employ 500 people within three years, will focus on research, product development, client services and skills training in the areas of Big Data, analytics, and cognitive computing. IBM is collaborating with Ohio State University to develop new business and technology curricula to help students and mid-career professionals prepare for the high-value jobs of the future. Ohio officials hope what the center will help foster entrepreneurship and new business initiatives.

Here’s U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown for Ohio talking about his belief that innovation will accelerate economic growth in his state:

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Editor’s Note: This Friday (August 24), be sure to join us for an interactive Smarter Friday conversation about Smarter Cities Challenge on Facebook throughout the business day (New York time). Please Tweet to #SmarterCities.

Nearly four years into the Smarter Planet journey, IBMers have undertaken more than 2,000 engagements with governments and businesses aimed helping them use cutting-edge technologies to make their systems for getting things done work better. These encounters are all over the map, geographically and figuratively. But important lessons are being learned. And, in particular, one interesting pattern is emerging. For organizations of all types, good outcomes depend on addressing the yin and yang of building a smarter planet: a combination of improvisation and preparedness–or long term planning.

Improvisation: In the realm of smarter planet problems and solutions, there’s so much variability that no single blueprint will fit every overtly similar situation. Organizations have to be flexible and creative to get stuff done. They can’t let the need for a master plan or budget-tightening pressures paralyze them.

Preparedness: While creative fixes can help city leaders manage their systems for the short-term, the longer-term vitality of cities, countries and organizations depends on leaders adopting a mission and a strategy for achieving it. But even that’s not enough. They have to anticipate the challenges to come–everything from next year’s big storm to the impacts of climate change to the next big financial shock–and build resilient systems capable of withstanding them.

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The 1990s was the era of reengineering the corporation. Technology helped leaders overhaul their operations–everything from sales to supply chains. Now the phenomenon has spread to cities. Across the globe, municipal leaders ares rethinking and redesigning how they do things.

One of their biggest headaches is infrastructure–their roads, bridges, sidewalks, water lines and sewer pipes. They used to fix things when they broke. These days, increasingly, the forward-thinkers among them aim to fix things before they have a chance to break. And they’re using technology to help them optimize the way they invest in infrastructure maintenance and renewal.

Cambridge, a small city in Ontario, Canada, is in the vanguard of getting this right. It has been working with IBM Research to develop a system for prioritizing the city’s investments in fixing or replacing physical infrastructure so they meet the public’s needs while making the most of their limited budget. “We look at how we can use technology and revised business practices to make the city work better,” says Mike Hausser, Cambridge’s director of asset management and support services.

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When Andrzej Klesyk became chief executive of Poland’s PZU Group in 2007, he brought with him years of experience as a consultant with McKinsey & Co. and The Boston Consulting Group. His goal: Nothing less than a top-to-bottom transformation of Poland’s No. 1 insurance company.

Klesyk has made a lot of progress. The 209-year-old company has centralized and re-organized its operational processes and claims handling, restructured the workforce, and evolved into a customer-oriented and performance-based organization. Klesyk’s goal now is to become the largest and most profitable insurance company in central and eastern Europe.

PZU and IBM Poland combined forces to complete Operation Trigger–the company’s operational overhaul. They way they worked together provides a model for how such  business transformation projects can be managed.

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By Gregory Mullen
Charleston, South Carolina, Chief of Police

This week I had the honor of announcing a new project that my department is launching with the help of IBM to reduce crime in the City of Charleston. Our department, like those in New York, London, Vancouver and many other elite cities, is utilizing advanced technology to bring the next evolution in police work to our residents and visitors. Our goal is to make Charleston one of the safest cities in which to live and visit.

At its core, the project will allow us to take a new, more holistic view into historical crime statistics and patterns to allow our 400 plus officers to add technology, based on the latest advancements in analytics, to the tools they use to prevent crime before it happens.  This initiative bridges the art and science of law enforcement together in a manner that supports both tactical and strategic decision-making.  It’s all about augmenting the officer’s and commander’ s experience and knowledge with the information they need to make appropriate decisions that allow resources to be in the right place at the right time, so potential criminals think twice about committing a crime.

In my opinion, this project represents the cutting edge for the future of public safety and a significant move toward Smarter Policing in America.

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New York City may seem an unlikely hot spot for solar energy, but think again. Consider the fact that there are 20 million square feet of usable solar farm space on top of the city’s 1,100 public school roofs alone–enough to generate 170,000 megawatts of electricity. So its no wonder that city government and business leaders are taking solar seriously.

Market forces are cooperating. Prices for solar panels are plummeting. But there remain some major impediments to solar adoption. All things considered, it’s still more expensive than traditional energy sources.

That’s where data analytics comes in. As part of the SMART NY, IBM is working with CUNY Ventures, a for-profit offshoot of the City University of New York, to create a system for gathering and analyzing information about the entire solar ecosystem within the city. The goal is to bring down the cost of installing solar.  “We’re looking to make solar competitive with other sources. We need to mainstream this technology to make it easy to adopt,” says Tria Case, CUNY’s director of sustainability and coordinator of  SMART NY.

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April 27th, 2012
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Editor’s note: To celebrate the history of math and its impact on the world, IBM has released Minds of Modern Mathematics, a free iPad app that re-imagines a classic 50-foot infographic on the history of math created by the design team of Charles and Ray Eames and displayed at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City. Janet Perna, a retired IBM executive and one-time math teacher, has strong feelings about the importance of math education–starting in elementary school. Join the conversation on Twitter: #math #Eames

By Janet Perna
former General Manager, IBM Information Management

When I was a young math teacher fresh out of college in my hometown of Middletown, New York, I tried to make math entertaining and practical  for my students. I’d have them learn basic arithmetic by doing things like making change and dividing a sheet cake into equal servings.  They learned the basics of geometry by imagining that they were tiling the classroom floor. These exercises made math seem useful especially for those children who were not destined for college, but would become the backbone of the community taking on  blue collar jobs in Middletown.

Unfortunately, then and now, most children are turned off to math by the time they enter junior high school. I have found that  many elementary school teachers with whom I have spoken are intimidated by math, and aren’t confident enough to make it interesting and useful to their students. If teachers are afraid, the students will fear math, too. That’s why I believe that we need new programs to strengthen math skills and creativity in our university teacher education programs, and, even more broadly, in liberal arts curricula.

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