How IBM’s Emerging Technologies Are Moving Us Closer to “Smart Cities”
Cities simply can’t thrive by working harder for longer periods of time or by throwing more money at a decaying system. As demands increase and budgets tighten, cities have to work smarter.
In the future, smarter cities will drive sustainable economic growth by leveraging data and optimizing all functioning components. Their leaders will use smarter technologies to anticipate problems and resolve them proactively; analyze data, leading to better decision making; and coordinate resources to operate effectively.
On Wednesday, I outlined the leading problems that cities around the world are facing today.
By IBM’s (IBM) definition, a city that’s “smarter” is one that’s highly efficient. And high efficiency can only be reached when each of the city’s moving parts effectively communicates real-time data.
To achieve real-time data communication, IBM builds a centralized hub. They call it The Intelligent Operations Center for Smarter Cities. Their “smart hub” comes fully equipped with…
- A digital dashboard that monitors citywide operations in real-time with measurable performance indicators.
- A drill-down functionality that provides insight on each underlying agency, such as emergency management, public safety, social services, transportation and water.
- A predictive algorithmic tool that identifies potential problems before they occur.
- Real-time collaboration between city agencies for more efficient communication.
- Mobile and website reporting for proactive citizens and businesses to report community issues.
Here’s a look at one of the control rooms in Rio de Janeiro:
But in order for the smart hub to work, cities need to implement new technologies throughout their entire network. Let’s take a look at what that means for transportation.
Cities – They Keep Going and Going…
Cities have many modes of transportation – cars, buses, trains, ferries, planes…
The transportation system has thousands of moving parts, and it’s extremely delicate. Whether it’s into, around, or out of the city, people and consumer goods are constantly on the go.
By making transportation systems intelligent, cities are able to drastically improve the commuter experience while also increasing efficiency and security. But in order to do so, they need to rewire the infrastructure with some of today’s most advanced technologies…
Sensors and Algorithmic Analytics
In smart cities, transportation systems have digital infrastructures built into their physical infrastructures. Think sensors, meters, applications, biometrics, RFID tagging…
It’s all part of a citywide wireless sensor network (WSN) that collects and transmits data, providing the operations managers with a better overview and understanding of the health of every system – in real-time.
After all, a smart city’s primary focus is sensing what’s happening right now.
Say there’s a car accident at 13th and I Street in the Northwest District of Washington. WSNs buried under the road send that information directly to traffic managers in the smart hub. They then use IBMs “traffic models” to communicate with emergency response units. Managers can also predict the effects of the accident on traffic for up to several hours after it occurs. Finally, operators send traffic alerts to commuters suggesting alternative routes.
Smart hubs are tapping into a wealth of underutilized data providers, such as:
Digital street meters that identify open parking spaces; toll booths that record traffic in real time; fares that count passengers on public transportation; eye witnesses, such as people calling 911 after an accident; and speed cameras that can identify traffic delays in real-time.
Additionally, smart airports and railways are converting internal Bluetooth and Wi-Fi systems into an overview of every person that’s in the building.
Combine this technology with robust algorithms that sift through the data, and you have a city where managers can effectively fix problems by predicting where and when they’re going to happen. And by switching from a scheduled approach to a method of predictive maintenance, airports and railways can improve runtime and lengthen the shelf life of their equipment.
The Results Have Been Profound…
Although major corporations like Cisco (CSCO) and General Electric (GE) have jumped into the competitive spectrum, they’re both light-years behind IBM in digital infrastructure technology. IBM already has numerous smart city projects running in Europe, and interest in the United States is steadily growing as a result
So far, the outcome of IBM’s smarter transportation technology has included:
- A 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in Stockholm’s inner city, with an 8% to 14% improvement in air quality.
- A 10% reduction in traffic that translated into a 1% growth in economic productivity. (If Charlotte, North Carolina set up a smart transportation system, 1% economic growth would equate to $22 billion.)
- China spent $176 billion to collaborate with IBM and fully integrate smart technology into their high-speed railway system. Over the span of one year, six million jobs were created and carbon emissions were reduced by 33%.
Cities are always looking to grow their population and increase their stake in the global market – especially true in times of economic downturn. And with results like those above, digital infrastructure is sure to be a lucrative tech trend. In fact, I believe digital infrastructure will be just as big as the internet was at its start.
Don’t worry: I’ll keep you posted on the companies leading the charge in digital infrastructure innovations.
Your Eyes in the Pipeline,