By Dr. Michael J. Dixon, General Manager, Smarter Cities, IBM
There is no doubt that IBM’s focus on the emerging Cognitive Era will have an impact in cities and state, local, and regional governments around the world in 2016. After leading a broad variety of initiatives in Smarter Cities for nearly a decade, we can clearly see the opportunity to apply the latest advancements in technology to provide cities with leading edge services and cost efficiency, contributing to an improved quality of life for people and improved economic vitality for the cities themselves.
Over time, we expect that cities will increasingly become a “system of systems” — independent systems (in areas such as transportation, energy, education, and healthcare) will increasingly work together. Leveraging the Internet of Things, a myriad of devices will communicate with each other to deliver benefits, but without human intervention.
A great example stems from our recent purchase of The Weather Company. For instance, data from The Weather Company might predict a significant amount of rain. Because of the forecasting and historical information, a city could alert its citizens who might be affected by the storm, engage emergency services in preparation to provide the ideal amount of support where and when it would be needed, and notify people of events such as floodings, power outages, and street closures. It’s easy to suggest similar scenarios in traffic management, energy optimization, water use and a whole host of other things that affect our day-to-day lives.
However, most promising is our understanding that, through experiencing such events, the systems increasingly learn what works best and then integrate that information to deliver improved benefits in future — a cognitive system in action. The mobile app revolution, when coupled with emerging cognitive technologies, is increasingly providing opportunity for cities by providing an unprecedented level of communication with its citizens.
For example, in many of our smart water engagements, citizens are able to monitor their own water use directly, which promotes conservation. In addition, in Madrid, using mobile devices and social media, citizens are able to instantly communicate with the city and alert them to issues such as a leaking fire hydrant, traffic problems, a public safety concern, or damaged equipment in a playground. Just as importantly, citizens are now communicating with government about doing business and related workflow and having a significant impact on policy options and formation.
IBM has led the Smarter Cities revolution for the best part of a decade. We’ve always been clear that cities are engaged in a long-term evolution that will dramatically redefine what we mean by living, working and enjoying a city. Cognitive systems, now available in earnest, are taking that redefinition to a completely new level.
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Dr. Michael J. Dixon is the General Manager for IBM's global Smarter Cities business. With 27 years of experience at IBM, he leads the company's vision, strategy and operations for teams active in cities around the world, which are focused on a core element of IBM's long-term strategy. The integration of transport, health, public safety, energy, utilities, social services, education and urban management are at the heart of numerous initiatives for Smarter Cities in the Cognitive Era.