IBM about Smart Cities

Smart Cities. Although this sounds a bit futuristic, there are some companies that are already working hard to make this happen. They are developing and using sensors and software to make cities run more efficient and smooth and to improve the life of the citizens. Chris O’Connor, Vice President of engineering and smart city products at IBM talked about the smart city services. He gives a glimpse of how the first Smart Cities will look like.

Cities have always used the newest technologies to improve their infrastructure. And although the new technologies always seem smart, when we talk about smart technologies now, we mean working with sensors and software to improve the city. Smart cities place sensors on their infrastructure to gather as much data as possible. They will be able to know who is using water and how much, how busy the city centre is or where traffic is flowing. And the software can then analyze the data and use it to suggest actions, provide useful information or offer solutions to problems like traffic jams. So it’s up to the sensors and the software to make a city run better.

O’Connor said that it’s not needed for cities to invest a lot of money in the sensors since there already are a lot of sensors in cities that can be used. Examples are water meters, monitors for elevators, stop lights, toll booths, buses, taxis and parking tickets. Social media can also be used to gather useful information from residents. Cities can analyze the already public available tweets and status updates.

Some of the projects that IBM already set up are for example a water monitoring system in South Bend, Ind. And they also used sensors to link emergency response and transportation departments of Davao in the Philippines so the departments can better work together in emergencies. IBM uses a cloud service to run their systems so cities don’t need to install the software. They already set up about 2,000 similar projects over the last few years.

So the Smart City concept is on the right way, but there still is plenty of work to do. The systems should for example cooperate better. Now systems can easily communicate with sensors in the same category, like water sensors or transportation sensors. But in the future, even the transportation sensors and the water sensors have to be able to communicate. So companies need to develop a computing language that makes these systems work even better together.