By Paul Chang
In a 2010 study conducted for the European Food Safety Authority, 58 percent of a sample of 27,000 consumers across the European Union said they were confident that farmers would convey information on food risks. Their confidence rate for food manufacturers (35 percent) and retailers (36 percent) was much lower.
That’s good news for farmers. But what about the other players in the food supply chain? How can they start improving their confidence rankings? One way, is to start providing more information about their products. Consumers around the globe are growing increasingly savvy and increasingly hungry for information. So why not give it to them?
Traceability has become a hot topic as global companies try to stay ahead of real-time consumer reaction that spreads like wildfire on social media. From fruits and vegetables to pharmaceuticals, traceability systems are being used to track product ingredients, movements and ownership throughout the supply chain to improve products and services.
This was a major topic in February at the first meeting of the Innovations for Environmental Sustainability Council, which the IBM formed with the World Environment Center and companies including Boeing, CH2M Hill, Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical, F. Hoffman-La Roche, General Motors, Ingersoll Rand, Johnson & Johnson and Walt Disney.
We agreed that as advances in technology have made it easier to acquire and analyze information about product development, distribution and use, the issue of traceability has moved front-and-center for business and competitive strategy.
Rio De Janeiro is a bustling metropolis in a booming country–and, increasingly, an example of how government and business leaders can cooperate to make cities work better. Join the live blog today for a second day of coverage of speeches, panels and hallway discussions.
Here’s Ginni Rometty, IBM’s senior vice president for Sales, Marketing and Strategy (and IBM’s next CEO) talking about how to build a smarter city.
By Robert Atkinson
Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.
Robert Atkinson, president of the non-partisan public policy think-tank ITIF, today moderated a panel of experts on emerging technologies in the fields of health care, transportation and energy at IBM’s Frontiers of IT Capitol Hill briefing.
Here’s the Washington Post’s Post Tech blog curtain-raiser on the event.
Recently considerable attention has been drawn to the emergence of “Big Data”—large scale data sets that businesses are using to unlock new value using today’s computing and communications power. As a McKinsey Global Institute study recently showed, Big Data offers a wide range of commercial opportunities in virtually every sector of the economy for the United States. To take one example, the authors estimate that better use of big data in health care could generate an additional $300 billion in long-term value, with approximately two-thirds of that coming from a direct reduction in national health care expenditures.
The use of Big Data should not be confined to just the private sector; data offers incredible new opportunities to the public sector as well. Policymakers have the opportunity to use Big Data to improve government in areas such as public safety, public health, public utilities and public transportation. ITIF has discussed many of these opportunities before.
Consider the following:
- Electric power utilities can use data analytics and smart meters to better manage resources and avoid blackouts,
- Food inspectors can use data to better track meat and produce safety from farm to fork ,
- Public health officials can use health data to detect infectious disease outbreaks,
- Regulators can track pharmaceutical and medical device safety and effectiveness through better data analytics,
- Police departments can use data analytics to target crime hotspots and prevent crime waves,
- Public utilities can use sensors to collect data on water and sewer usage to detect leaks and reduce water consumption,
- First responders can use sensors, GPS, cameras and better communication systems to let police and fire fighters better protect citizens when responding to emergencies, and
- State departments of transportation can use data to reduce traffic, more efficiently deploy resources, and implement congestion pricing systems
If you have any familiarity with Milwaukee, Wisconsin, you know that it’s on the shores of Lake Michigan, one of the largest fresh-water lakes in the world, and it’s located in the American Midwest, one of the world’s most fertile and productive farming regions.
So why does Milwaukee aim to become a model for smart water management and urban food production? And why is it experimenting with aquaponics–systems that combine soil-less vegetable growing with fish farming?
Milwaukee is concerned about water because its traditional industries, including meatpacking, tanning, shoe making, beer brewing and heavy manufacturing, are all major water users. In addition, the city experienced the largest waterborne disease outbreak in US history in 1993 when the protozoan parasite cryptosporidium appeared in the municipal water supply and made more than 1.6 million people sick. Two years ago, the city formed the Milwaukee Water Council, made up of representatives of government, academia and industry, with the goal of making the city a recognized global leader in water-related technologies.
The city is interested in urban farming because some of its neighborhoods are so-called food deserts. Large grocery stores don’t locate outlets there, so people rely on small stores, which often charge high prices for processed food. There’s a shortage of healthy food such as fresh vegetables and fish. So city leaders are promoting community gardening, large-scale composting and the nascent aquaponics industry. “The urban agriculture movement in Milwaukee is bringing local food production to the block level,” says Rocky Marcoux, commissioner, Milwaukee department of city development. “We can feed our population more economically and sustainably. We can put our neighborhoods in charge of their own destiny.”
In June, a team of five IBMers spent three weeks in Milwaukee as part of the company’s Smarter City Challenge grant program with the goal of helping city leaders explore the feasibility of their urban farming initiative.
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.
IBM has plenty of company when it comes to deep concern and deep thinking about the future of cities. Monday, at the Intelligent Cities Forum in Washington, D.C., hundreds of urban planners, city leaders and data mavens will gather 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.
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.
There’s no shortage of contests for tech startups in this world, but IBM’s SmartCamp is different. The focus is on companies that aim to make the world work better, and is aligned with our Smarter Planet agenda. We launched the program last year in Dublin and conducted regional contests this spring and summer in Stockholm, Boston, Tel Aviv, London, and Silicon Valley. (This video tells the Silicon Valley story.) There are still two contests left, in Paris on Sept. 24 and Copenhagen on Oct. 7, before the finals in Dublin on Nov. 16. So there’s time for entrepreneurs to get involved. Check it out at www.ibm.com/ie/smarterplanet/smartcamp.
Intel’s purchase yesterday of security software maker McAfee, detailed in this News.com story, signals a shift in the tech industry’s view of how to better secure computers, networks, and software programs: Security has to be built in, rather than added on later. It’s the concept of “secure by design.”
At IBM, the secure-by-design concept extends to encompass our Smarter Planet agenda. These days, its not enough to secure the traditional computing infrastructure. You’ve got to protect all of the devices and networks that are now being used to monitor, manage, and analyze everything from smart electrical grids to health care systems. “All of the physical assets of the world are becoming digitized, instrumented, interconnected and intelligent,” says Kristin Lovejoy, head of IBM security strategy. “But the sad reality is that as people develop and design these new technologies they’re not thinking enough about the issue of security. These devices are so critical that if they’re unavailable or if they’re tampered with, it could have a significant negative impact on an individual or a large population.”
When security is an afterthought, it tends to be expensive and not that effective. Plus, organizations typically find out about a vulnerability after it has already been exploited by malicious software programs.
We believe that only by designing products to be secure can organizations gain the protection they need at a reasonable price. With that principle in mind, IBM has established what we call a secure engineering framework. It’s a set of specifications that we are beginning to use in all of our design processes, for hardware and software alike.
Now that the world’s critical infrastructure is being wired and networked, security is becoming more important than ever before. Business-as-usual in the tech industry isn’t good enough any more.
California fruit grower Sun World International isn’t among the giants of agribusiness, but it punches above its weight class in global markets thanks in part to its use of business intelligence software. In fact, the Bakersfield, California-based company is one of the most pervasive users of data analytics that we’re aware of–in everything from farm operations and finance to sales and marketing. It’s also got an executive dashboard for tracking key performance metrics. “The notion of pervasive performance management is held up as an ideal, but there are few companies that actually do it. This is one of them,” says Tony Levy, a product marketing director in IBM’s Cognos business unit. Sun World International’s main suppliers of business intelligence software are IBM and Applied Analytix.
The company’s heavy reliance on data began five years ago after it was purchased by a private equity firm that brought in new management and insisted on improved performance. “These days, we ask questions, understand the numbers, and, most importantly, do something,” says Gordon Robertson, vice-president of sales and marketing.
From its 12,000 acres of land in California, Sun World International sells table grapes, stone fruit, peppers, and water melons worldwide. It also breeds its own varieties of plants and licenses its genetic intellectual property to other growers. Its brands including Superior Seedless grapes, Black Diamond plums, and Honeycot apricots. It employs about 7,000 people in the fields.