Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent

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Picture Story: How Smarter Healthcare Works

Credit here goes to our colleague Chris Luongo, the storyteller behind the “The Tale of…” videos, among many other creations.

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IBM Transportation

Earlier today at the Intelligent Transportation Society of America’s annual meeting in Houston, IBM’s CEO, Sam Palmisano shared the stage with the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, and delivered the day’s keynote speech. We’ll have more insights and feedback from the speech in the coming days, but I want to call out a few of the key points as they underscore some of the thinking here around a path forward for transportation in America by applying a level of systems thinking.

From the speech:

Over the past year and a half, IBM has been working with cities and nations around the world to improve many kinds of systems and make them smarter – with particular success in transportation.

In doing so, we have learned that our transportation system isn’t, in fact, a system. It’s a collection of related industries, operating in close proximity to one another.

The opportunity is that as we think about transportation as a true system, we have the opportunity to reinvent transportation for the needs of the 21st century. But what exactly is a systems approach? From Sam’s speech:

    • First, there must be clarity on the system’s purpose or goal – a vision of its end-state.
    • Second, its elements must actually be connected – which is another way of saying, interfaces matter.
    • Third, we must be able to know, continually and with confidence, the status of the system and its critical components.
    • Finally, the system must be able to adapt as conditions change, often in real time.

Now, translating that for the transportation industry, here are some implications, in my own paraphrasing:

  1. A vision of its purpose. In short, a traveler-centric system that is oriented around people. Sam cited airline passenger rights and the livable streets movement as examples of this.
  2. Connected elements. The components of a transportation system – vehicles (in the broad definition), pathways and terminals – must be connected to the governmental agencies and regulations, manufacturers, and service providers to share data and information across the system. And ultimately, the human in the system must be able to connect with each other.
  3. Status is known. This is well-worn territory on this blog. As we instrument the system at all access points, collecting and analyzing the data, we begin to understand with confidence the status of the system – its health, its opportunity, its weaknesses, its strengths. All of this leads to better, more informed decisions by all parties.
  4. Adaptability. This is about scale. As demand and population grows, the system can’t just grow linearly. We need to find ways to do things differently. And we understand what to do differently through data. Data matters.

Sam closed with a clear call to action for all the participants in the ITSA forum. Actually, four calls to action. We’ll probe further on each of these in the coming weeks.

First, standards: We must establish agreed-upon data standards for transportation. This is long overdue, but I am hopeful that it will soon be accomplished. As we do, however, it is essential that those standards be open. That’s the only way to interconnect processes and data sets across the whole system. On this, you need to be an active voice.

Second, smart systems by design: In anything as complex, interdependent and fluid as the transportation ecosystem, the qualities we seek cannot be “bolted on” after the fact. We need to build in the key criteria of interconnectivity, system knowingness, analytics and security from the beginning, by design.

Third, moving to a true transportation system will enable – and require – far more collaboration: I’m not just talking about the familiar idea of “private sector-public sector cooperation.” A diverse, multi-stakeholder world requires all the parties actually working together, shoulder-to-shoulder on a daily basis. Yes, we all have particular responsibilities – to customers, to partners, to regulators, to citizens. But in today’s world, fulfilling those responsibilities requires that we also fulfill our responsibilities to the system as a whole. That will be transformative. But it will also require change.

And by the way, speaking of collaboration… let’s come together and use the next nine months to educate members of Congress on incorporating smart technology into the nation’s transportation infrastructure – in preparation for passing the full, six-year surface transportation authorization bill.

Finally, policy and ethics: From new models of technology… to the changing form of the corporation… to the changing role of the individual in modern life… to new expectations for sustainable living… we are entering a very different world. We must come together around clear guidelines on how to operate and manage our organizations and industry, from an ethical and societal point of view.

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February 19th, 2010

“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

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.

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Today I am beginning the installation of a solar energy system for my house. The aspect that is different in this system is how I will pay for it. I have thought about solar energy for a long time, however I have never had the appetite to invest the huge up-front cost of the system. When my electricity bill reached a new all-time high this past July here in Los Angeles, I decided to do a little research. With one search of Google using the search terms “solar lease California”, I simply called the first two companies that showed in the search results. I thought that leasing would provide a more attractive financial proposition than purchasing.

After a couple of phone calls to these two companies, I discovered an even more enticing program. I could simply have one of these companies install the system on my house and pay them for the power it generates. I wouldn’t pay for, lease, maintain, nor own the system. They would effectively become another electricity supplier that just happened to reside on my roof. The cash outlay was $1000 to pay for the permits and installation basics. Beyond that I will only pay for the electricity it generates. The cost per unit will be half of what the traditional electric company charges, the price is locked in for eighteen years with them maintaining the equipment, and any extra energy that the system generates that I don’t use, goes back into the grid and I get a refund on my traditional bill. This is a completely turn-key program that I didn’t need to do a thing to participate, including securing the permits, etc. This program sounds pretty good! 

So, today the crew began the installation. It will take a few days to get done and then I will be part of a greener community of people around the world! Be sure to talk to the solar energy provider in your area to see if they will offer a similar program.

Now, I need to to convert my cars to hydrogen and them I will truly be the Smarter Consumer!

Please let us know what you’re doing to be a smarter consumer!

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January 12th, 2010


Sam Palmisano at Chatham HouseAs you may have noticed from the last post, IBM’s Sam Palmisano visited the Chatham House stage in London today having delivered a speech titled ‘Welcome to the Decade of Smart.’ Throughout tonight (and over the coming days) we will be posting content and links to images and video from the event here, as they become available.

From the post-event materials being distributed:

On January 12, 2010, Samuel J. Palmisano, IBM Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officers, addressed business and civic leaders at Chatham House in London. In his remarks, he described how forward-thinking leaders in business, government and civil society around the world are capturing the potential of smarter systems to achieve economic growth, near-term efficiency, sustainable development and societal progress.


Launch a video of the speech: Sam Palmisano at Chatham House

Launch a video of the Q&A from Chatham House: Q&A from Chatham House

Today, Steve Lohr of the New York Times published a brief article about the speech that takes a look at the past year of Smarter Planet work from IBM.

Paul Glader of the Wall Street Journal published an article today as well that examines aspects of IBM’s Smarter Planet initiative.

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October 1st, 2009

Day 1 of the Smarter Cities Summit is underway right now in New York City. Below is the live conversation. Join in by tagging your tweets with #smartercity, and check back later for an in-depth analysis of Day 1.

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July 17th, 2009

Innovation is on the agenda again. No, I am not saying innovation had ever disappeared from the agenda of important things, but the term seemed to have somewhat disappeared from the agenda of public debate for the last couple of months, replaced by intensive and – of course important – discussions on the economic crisis, recession, credit crunch, climate change, as if all these negative terms and cirumstances should not be mentioned in connection with something positive like innovation.

And yet this comes as a surprise given how important innovation is, especially in times like this, for growth, productivity and job creation: Not only, as well known, at a national level, but also at a company level as evidenced and confirmed by more than 1,100 CEOs we interviewed in our CEO Study 2008.

But it is innovation for cities that I want to talk about today.

Of course, the need for innovation in cities is nothing new and the important role of innovation for cities has already been highlighted in the work by Richard Florida and CEOs for Cities in their ‘City Vitals’ report. Indeed, it is interesting to see that Richard Florida has just picked up the discussion on innovation again in this week’s blog where he discusses the role and status of innovation in the US today.

Measuring innovation is notoriously difficult – whether it is at a company or national level – and good reports on innovation at country level are published each year by, for example, the INSEAD Business School and the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Measuring innovation at city level is a more recent endeavour, driven by the increased recognition of the key roles cities play in the world economy and somewhat hampered by the difficulty of getting high quality and relevant city data that help to measure city performance. The Innovation Cities Index is a relatively new initiative in this space, introduced in 2007 covering only 21 cities, and expected to cover 256 cities when its 2009 version gets published later this month. I am very excited to see the new report, which as a preview of the report indicates, will have increased focus on measuring cities’  innovation by looking at indicators related to a city’s infrastructure and its ability to deal with environmental challenges, thus aligning well with some of the objectives driving IBM’s Smart City approach.

Do you agree with the results of the above innovation index for 2008 ? How did your city do in the ranking ? Which, in your view, is the most innovative city in the world, and why ?

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I almost missed this article from Sunday’s Washington Post about that the Obama administration plan to create a national urban policy agenda. This will be the first main initiative of the new White House Office of Urban Affairs. The apparent first step along this path is to convene mayors, governors and others for a day-long session Monday. From the article:

The conference is the first indication that the White House could back its urban policy office with the kind of muscle that Obama suggested during his campaign, before the economic collapse. He called for a new kind of urban policy to address cities and also their suburbs, and urban advocates hoped that this could be a focus of his administration’s economic development approach.

From the article, it sounds like administration is intent on first gathering best practices from municipalities, states and various federal agencies:

Those gathered Monday will consider local initiatives that could become best practices to emulate, with the goals of increasing the competitiveness, sustainable development and opportunity of metropolitan regions.

The conference is to present an interdisciplinary approach to urban issues and include the heads of the Departments of Labor, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Small Business Administration.

We’ll be anxiously awaiting the outcomes of the sessions and the Administration’s vision for a national urban policy. Perhaps most interesting will be to compare some of the findings and ideas with the conversations we heard at the Berlin Smarter Cities summit and the recently published report from IBM’s Institute of Business Value, “A vision of smarter cities.”

Thanks to CEOs for Cities for the heads up on this article.

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June 16th, 2009

Let me begin by introducing myself. I am a certified IT Solution Architect in the IBM Business Consulting group. Before joining IBM I was a hospital management systems consultant for the New York State Hospital Association, a Senior Manager at Mercy Hospital, a 500 bed acute care facility in Miami, FL and the Vice President of the South Florida Hospital Association, representing 43 of the largest hospitals in Florida. I believe that this resume qualifies me to critique the current state of our health care system.

Put yourself in a patient’s place. It’s not hard. Most likely you have been there one or more times. Now think, what is important to you as a patient? Continue Reading »

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Earlier this week, U.S. President Barack Obama spoke at a town hall meeting in Green Bay, Wisconsin about his agenda for health reform. The purpose of this post is not to wade into political waters. But I thought this comment by President Obama was interesting in making the case for reform (emphasis added):

We have to ask why places like Geisinger Health systems in rural Pennsylvania, or Intermountain Health in Salt Lake City, or communities like Green Bay can offer high-quality care at costs well below average, but other places in America can’t. We need to identify the best practices across the country, learn from the successes, and then duplicate those successes everywhere else.

Geisinger Health Systems has been a client of IBM’s for a few years now and they offer a clear example of what a Smarter Healthcare system could be. Here’s a short synopsis of the Geisinger story from an essay we recently wrote on the subject: Continue Reading »

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