2 Cities in US France Join IBM Smarter Cities Initiative

Two more cities are capitalizing on advanced analytics and big data technology to manage their transportation, water and emergency services. IBM announced today that Minneapolis, Minn. and Montpellier, France have both signed up for its Smarter Cities program.

The initiatives include cloud-based management centers that bring together IBM’s portfolio of Intelligent Operations software and IBM Global Business Services expertise.

New Models of Urban Development

IBM's goal is to change the model for urban development. Through a combination of hardware, software, services and analytics, it is attempting to build repeatable models for best practices in city management. Rather than having to build complex, customized projects, cities can start tapping insight from their data in about a week.

IBM has been involved in city management for quite some time. What is new and interesting here are the variety of projects and the range of technologies the company is using to help cities manage their resources.  

In Minneapolis, it's using its Intelligent Operations software to discover patterns in the way resources are used and metrics to guide possible improvement.

In Montpellier in the south of France, IBM is using that same software to improve mobility and emergency management. It's also aggregating data sources from all over the city to provide insights about the ways city facilities are used.

In fact, IBM boasts, it is actually creating a living laboratory in Montpellier. It's collaborating with local universities to develop new technologies for urban management, as well as supporting new start-up businesses for the exploration and development of economic models based on analytics the Smarter Cities initiative is generating.

Although IBM only officially announced the Montpellier's participation in its program today, the company has been working there for some time. IBM noted that the application of "smart" technologies has already generated significant improvement and could reduce such things as flooding, for instance, by as much as 20 percent in coming years.

The cloud-based management centers announced today will analyze open data in addition to the data generated by the cities involved. Open data is defined as data that is freely available to everyone in both the public and private sector to use and republish, without restrictions from copyright or patents.

Think Mega-Data

Earlier this year we talked to Katherine Frase, Chief Technology Officer with IBM’s Public Sector business, to find out how Smarter Cities compares to the Internet of Things (IoT).

In both cases, the emphasis is on data and the use of the data to provide actionable insights into human actions. However, according to Frase, this where the two part company. The IoT takes information from processors located in all kinds of consumer goods to develop actionable insights. The Smarter Cities initiative takes the same information and combines it with traditional information sources.

On a related note, IBM also announced a new digital platform for citizen engagement, People for Smarter Cities, to provide people worldwide with a place to share ideas and engage in public discussions. The idea is to provide a platform people can use to share ideas on ways to improve life in their cities.