Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent
June 11th, 2009

Today IBM opened a worldwide rail innovation center in Beijing, China.  We’re excited because it’s the first time rail companies, universities, government leaders and a wide range of rail experts are gathering to figure out what it will take to bring the best rail systems to every country in the world. Below is a short video describing some of the efforts:

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There is widespread acknowledgment that the U.S. healthcare system is in need of transformation. Our healthcare system is struggling to address increasing costs (healthcare spend is projected to rise from $2.5 trillion in 2009 to $4.4 trillion by 2018), poor or inconsistent quality and inaccessibility to timely care (45.7 million uninsured, or 15.3% of total population). As President Barack Obama stated, “…the cost of our healthcare has weighed down our economy and the conscience of our nation long enough. So let there be no doubt: healthcare reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year.” Continue Reading »

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May 22nd, 2009

As we continue to ramp up the focus on making our cities smarter, I wanted to call attention to this post from IBM’s CEO in the Huffington Post today. My simple take is, if we want to fix our planet, we’ve got to start with our cities.

This unprecedented urbanization is both an emblem of our economic and societal progress — especially for the world’s emerging nations — and a huge strain on the planet’s infrastructure. It’s a challenge felt urgently by mayors, heads of economic development, school administrators, police chiefs and other civic leaders. The challenges these leaders face — educating their young, keeping citizens safe and healthy, attracting and facilitating commerce and enabling the smooth flow of planes, trains, cars and pedestrians — are only being compounded by the global downturn.

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May 6th, 2009

At an acceptance speech at  The Atlantic Council on Thursday, Sam Palmisano, IBM’s CEO, kicked off the next dimension and focus for the Smarter Planet work: Smarter Cities. Below is a full video of the speech, followed by some of my own perspective below.

I think it’s important to note some of the other recipients of the “Distinguished Leader” award handed out by The Atlantic Council that evening: General David Patraeus, former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, and former U.S. President George H. W. Bush. Nice company to be in.

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Following is from Richard Steen, a Healthcare industry consultant from IBM.

The Obama administration’s stimulus program, with $19B in incentives for EMR and HIE adoption, has the potential to provide a real “shot in the arm” to our country’s healthcare IT infrastructure.  As barriers to EMR adoption lower, the nation’s health information topography could evolve organically as a virtual “neuro-net” connecting overlapping communities of interest. 

Less obvious is the developmental path for governance models that will surely be required to regulate data owners, gatekeepers, custodians, and permitted uses of protected health information.

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March 5th, 2009

The following guest blog is from Peter Van Deventer, CEO SynapSense Corporation

Core to the current administration’s stimulus package are appropriations to enable energy efficiency in buildings and what is widely known as the “smart grid.” As this need for a smarter infrastructure grows, that need carries over into the data center.  For most enterprises, the data center consumes up to one-third of the operation’s total power consumption, and on a national scale represents up to 2 percent of United States power consumption.  The criticality of power in the data center is not just consumption, but also functional limits on capacity and optimally efficient usage to defer the need for expensive infrastructure build out of new data center space. 

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Posted by
Guest in

In the Financial Times op-ed today, IBM chairman Sam Palmisano suggests we focus stimulus development on projects
that build competitive advantage in the different world that is taking
shape.  He lists a few examples of these
type of efforts underway, where
is helping governments to
build a smarter infrastructure.

  • The island of Malta is creating one of the world’s
    most advanced smart grids and it is also building smarter water and waste
    management systems, using instrumentation with advanced sensor technology to
    gain a better understanding of demand, supply, routing and sourcing. 

  • Stockholm has developed a dynamic new traffic
    management system to understand and predict vehicle patterns and encourage new
    behavior.  Traffic congestion is down by
    20 percent and pollution by 12 percent. 


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February 3rd, 2009

With the increased attention around smart grids, we asked Jeffrey Katz, the chief technology officer of IBM’s Energy & Utilities industry to share some of his thoughts on the opportunities for building a smarter energy infrastructure. He is currently representing IBM at the DistribuTech Conference in San Diego, and sent us the following:

Smart Utilities
Building a smart grid is a complex undertaking. It requires new technologies that affect an infrastructure system with massive, wide-reaching influence. The benefits, however, are clear and worth the investment.

With a smart grid, improvements to the underlying power utilities infrastructure are much easier, less costly and more efficient. Smart grids provide tremendous amounts of data that can be analyzed in real time to help predict maintenance problems and equipment failures, and can be used to better forecast capital equipment expenditures. For consumers, smart grids will open an array of new services that better match their unique needs and habits. Consumers will have more control and be able to “communicate” with the grid, making decisions based on their personal usage patterns, such as planning for better use of renewable energy when available.

With such an important undertaking, however, it becomes important for people to understand what is meant by “smart grids” in the first place. Based on work we’ve done with electric power utilities across the world, we’ve noticed a number of common characteristics one would associate with a smart grid.

First, a smart grid requires the deep integration of Information Technology and Operational Technology – two parts of a utility company that have traditional not shared much common ground. Much of the “smartness” of the new grid results from the symbiotic nature of these two areas, with IT precepts being adopted into the realm of the relays and reclosers, and the non-stop reliability requirements of the transformers and trucks being adopted into the automation and IT processes.

Next, security is essential in the smart grid. Just as bank robberies have largely moved from physical banks to cyberspace, smart grid vulnerabilities are likely to be digital in nature. Security must be built into the grid at the outset to prevent to any kind of malicious attacks or disruptions. Based on experience across many industries, we’ve developed a number of methodologies at IBM to mitigate these risks.

Another important characteristic of smart grids are the ability of far-flung electric power systems to communicate across the network. Just as the brain can sense and respond to damaged nerves throughout the body, so too can a smart grid’s central nervous system react to situations throughout the power network. A smart grid’s communication links are vital to sensing grid activity and emanating control signals for grid optimization work, including demand response.

With such complexity, a smart grid needs to be implemented in phases. It is physically impossible to add the integrated sensing, communication, and analytics required all at once. Even beyond the pilot stage, rolling upgrades will occur with service territories, and utilities will have different criteria for evaluating what parts get smart, and in which order. When the telephone system got smarter consumers didn't have to replace their phone; the transformation happened invisibly in the central offices. Similarly, upgrading the electrical grid needs to proceed without disruptions to consumers. The electric grid is more pervasive, bulkier, more obvious, and more distributed than the telecommunications network, and as such, will take longer to automate.

Making that jump to a twenty-first century electrical system signifies major changes for the electric power industry, but companies need not go it alone. Benchmarks, models and training are available to help companies make the transition. For example, we worked with the American Productivity and Quality Center to produce the Smart Grid Maturity Model, assessing where a company is and where it may want to go in the smart grid circuit. Also, resources from the Grid Wise Alliance Architectural Council and the EPRI IntelliGrid initiative can help power companies transition to a smarter grid.

An intelligent utility network is a major part of the future electric power industry. I would be interested in hearing your views as well. Please feel free to share in the comments below.

Jeffrey S. Katz is the Chief Technology Officer in the Energy and Utilities industry at IBM. Previously he was with ALSTOM Power Plant Labs and before that at ABB Corporate Research. He can be reached at

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*** Update: Some further remarks about the visit on with this quote from President Obama:

And it will invest in broadband and emerging technologies, like the
ones imagined and introduced to the world by people like Sam and so
many of the CEOs here today, because that's how America will retain and
regain its competitive edge in the 21st century.


Earlier today, IBM CEO, Sam Palmisano, participated in a roundtable discussion of business leaders with President Obama to discuss the economy. Sam was also asked to give a brief speech. For readers of this blog, note the connection between building a smarter infrastructure and smarter planet with the opportunity to climb our way out of the current economic crisis. (I've added italics for emphasis).

You can watch the video here on CNBC.
Sam on CNBC

Or, you can read the full transcript below:


Samuel J. Palmisano, IBM CEO Statement, White House, January 28, 2009

Mr. President – Thank you for the opportunity to be here today. I think we’ll agree that across America… and around the world – from board rooms, to cabinet rooms, to kitchen tables – people are fixated on what’s necessary to address the present economic emergency. There’s a gathering global consensus that bold and aggressive steps are needed, on both business and government working together to address what’s required to help the worldwide economies.

In the past several days, I have been in contact with many leaders in the corporate world.  But I think there is a unanimous commitment to support the President.

•    We all agree we need to re-ignite economic growth in the country,
•    we know we must create not just jobs for 21st century jobs,
•    and therefore we need to invest and to build a more modern and more competitive infrastructure for the future.

There is clearly no reason we believe to undertake projects just for the sake of activity. We need to undertake projects that actually create jobs that will make infrastructure, make our country much more competitive for the long term. It is a balancing act between the short term crisis and what we need to do for the long term.

We really believe all this possible is possible today for many reasons because a convergence of factors. One because of the technology itself as well as the economic need we find our selves in and the current situation.

As a country we have to compete in the world. Yes is flatter, yes it is smaller. But we would argue it is also smarter. And today you’ll see technology embedded in processes and systemic systems from everything from environmental – between water to energy conservation –  to basic supply chains for global business.

So, the world does have a much smarter infrastructure, and therefore the base to build for the future. It’s there. We are excited. I can’t tell you how excited we are about the president’s commitment to lead us to the future. And the support for Health IT, and support in the area of smart grids, support in the area of education and broadband. All those things are essential. They are essential in the short term. And because of the research we’ve done in working with the transition team, we know that $30 billion could create a million jobs in the next 12 months. But it’s also every bit as important that we touch so factors of the ecosystem that it will create jobs for decades to come.

We are honored to be here. I’m honored to be speaking on behalf of the business community. It’s imperative that business and government come together to help the President get the package through and we get to work. We have a lot of work ahead of us.

Thank you for your time.


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At the risk of being redundant, I want to share a few recent items that reinforce the points that Chris Caine brought up here on this blog last week.

First, over the weekend CNN aired an interview of IBM's CEO, Sam Palmisano talking about the economy, the recession and the opportunity to build a smarter infrastructure system.

And earlier today, The Wall Street Journal published an opinion article from Sam, "Let's Spend on Broadband and the Power Grid" that makes the case for investment in three areas: broadband, smart grids and electronic health records. I think the subtitle of the article captures the premise best: "Not all stimulus is created equal." Only the right stimulus investments will drive future economic growth. Consider this anecdote from the article:

We can learn a lot from the network effect of the stimulus
investments in the Interstate highway system of the 1950s. Back then,
our economic system was analog. Building a new highway system sped the
movement of physical assets, creating a new high-speed transportation
system that enabled businesses to expand much more quickly, helping
drive economic growth for decades.

Today, we live in a digital world. Many of our most valuable assets
are online, traded virtually. As a result, communities with broadband
access grow employment at a significantly higher rate. And yet today,
the United States, the country that developed the Internet, ranks 12th
in broadband penetration and 15th in average broadband speed. This is
unacceptable if we want our nation to compete in the 21st century.

Economic growth, then can best be achieved by aligning investments with the realities of our current and future economic structure.

Now, I want to be clear. IBM has a lot to gain from these investment areas. We don't hide that fact. But that doesn't mean these aren't the right areas to invest, nor does it mean IBM is the only beneficiary. From the chart in Chris' post, you can see that the majority of jobs created by this investment will come from the small business sector, which by definition enhances local economic vitality.

But enough from us; what are your ideas? Are we in sync with where you think investments should (or shouldn't) be made? And what are your recommendations for the Obama administration?

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