IBM lead the way with 2000 Smart Cities.

Chris O’Connor, vice president of engineering and smart city products at IBM, recently talked about the smart city services they offer and a glimpse into the first generation of smart cities.

When “smart cities” are talked about today, they usually mean adding sensors to city infrastructure to gather information. Software analyses the data received and suggests actions to officials on how they can make the city run better. The software might have solutions to help residents conserve water, for example, or reduce traffic congestion.

Many sensors already exist for cities to use. There are monitors for water meters, elevators, stop lights, toll booths, buses, taxis and parking tickets, O’Connor said. Cities may also gather publicly available social media information from their residents, such as tweets and status updates.

IBM has used data from these sensors to better link the emergency response and transportation departments of Davao in the Philippines, so the two departments can work together in emergencies, O’Connor said. A system has also been set up by IBM for South Bend, Indiana, that monitors the water systems in the city and helps the city reroute storm runoff. The entire system runs in an IBM-run cloud service, so South Bend doesn’t have to install the software itself. 2,000 similar projects over the last few years, all set up by IBM.

The next generation of smart city systems should be able to cooperate better than they do now. O’Connor mentioned that at the moment, sensors in the same category usually can communicate with each other easily. A transportation device can’t talk with a water device as easily, so companies like IBM, are working to develop standards for the future that will run their systems using the same computing languages.