Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent
Smarter Traffic

by Thomas Erickson, Social Scientist, IBM Research

Parking is a pain. Searching for a spot transforms time and gasoline into stress and CO2. Studies estimate that 30 percent of the traffic in central business districts is produced by drivers cruising for parking while IBM’s 2011 Global Parking Survey noted that drivers spent an average of 20 minutes looking for a parking spot. This is the driving force (sorry) behind a new wave of urban systems that use sensors and analytics to make parking more efficient.

These new systems bring to mind an experience I had while visiting Dubuque, Iowa to attend a meeting. I’d forgotten that I’d parked at a meter, my meeting went an hour longer than expected, and I came back to see a ticket on my windshield. I was annoyed at myself. But then I looked at the ticket: it was a “courtesy ticket” for $0.” How nice, I thought, ‘Dubuque is a great city!’

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I don’t know if technology was behind it. Perhaps it was my out-of-state plates or perhaps all first offenders get a courtesy ticket. But not all cities are as forgiving. A week later, in my home city of Minneapolis, I got a $42 ticket for a 3-minute lapse—no reprieve for first offenders here. In neither case was a smart meter involved, but I started thinking about how smart parking meters ought to behave.

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This week IBM will receive the World Environment Center’s Gold Medal Award, so we asked students at the University of Michigan’s Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise to share their views on sustainability (we’ve included a video to show what IBM is doing to make the world smarter).  From John Seaver:

A recent report by the Metropolitan Infrastructure Initiative at the Brookings Institute, called Transit Access and Zero Vehicle Households, revealed several striking statistics about Detroit transit. Of the 136,000 households without cars in the Detroit metro area, 85% have access to transit, but only 26% of jobs are accessible to these households within 90 minutes via that same transit.

It seems impossible to think that there is no connection between the challenges the city faces and the poor mobility of its population. This personally interests me because I am attending graduate school in Southeast Michigan. It is also important to me because I care about creating a sustainable future. And sustainability means more than protecting the environment; it also means protecting and enhancing people’s lives. Imagine the potential to create economic value by simply connecting labor with jobs through smarter public transportation.

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By Clay Luthy, Global Distributed Energy Resource Leader, Energy & Utilities Industry, IBM

With gas prices hovering at $4.15 per gallon where I live, the talk of electric vehicles (EVs) has increased with vigor. More of my neighbors and friends are toying with the idea of making the switch – much of their reluctance though stems from the fear of inconvenience – will I find a charging station as easily as a gas pump, how will this impact my energy bill, how far can I go on a single charge? These consumer concerns are driving new innovations – uniting forward thinking players to perfect and deploy a smarter EV driving experience.

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By Jonathan Marshall, Chief, External Communications
Pacific Gas and Electric Company

Electric vehicle (EV) owners and electric utilities may soon enjoy a much closer and more fulfilling relationship than traditional car owners have with gas stations, thanks to a new pilot project announced today by IBM, Honda Motors, and Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E). This collaboration aims to demonstrate the ability to optimize the charge schedule for each customer’s EV battery so that the needs of customers and the electric grid are satisfied on an ongoing basis. That’s still a stretch for most utilities. Continue Reading »

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“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” Mark Twain

Today, IBM announced the 33 cities that will participate this year in its Smarter Cities Challenge grant program. This marks the second year in a three-year, $50 million, 100-city initiative. IBM sends five- or six-person teams of experts in a range of disciplines to help cities formulate strategies for improving the quality of life for their citizens.

By now, IBM has amassed a wealth of knowledge about how to help cities get started on transformational projects. Last year, the company engaged with 25 cities around the world, including St. Louis in the United States, Glasgow in the United Kingdom, Chiang Mai in Thailand and Johannesburg in South Africa. The previous year, they ran test programs in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Katowice, Poland; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Chengdu, China; and elsewhere. The themes of the projects ranged from education, transportation and to public safety to energy and sustainable economic development. Here’s a post on the Citizen IBM blog from Stephen Mandel, the mayor of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, about the engagement there.

After each engagement, IBM’s Corporate Citizenship team identifies lessons learned. The exercise is partly aimed at improving the program itself, but the team also gleans insights that could help any leader in any city launch an initiative aimed at fundamentally transforming an aspect of how the city works. Here are some of the most critical lessons for leaders:

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By Martin Kelly
Partner, IBM Venture Capital Group

Editor’s note: Startup entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and business leaders will gather in San Francisco for the IBM SmartCamp competition world finals next week (Jan. 31, Feb. 1 and 2.) To follow the event virtually, return to A Smarter Planet for liveblogging, view livestreaming video and follow the Twitter hashtags #IBM SmartCamp and #startups.

How do you create something from nothing? It seems like magic to take an idea and turn it into a growing enterprise.  Yet this is what entrepreneurs do every day.   And that’s also what we did when we created IBM SmartCamp. Continue Reading »

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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 and tomorrow for coverage of speeches, panels and hallway discussions.

Here’s Sam Palmisano’s speech:

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