IBM Buys i2, Offers Big Data Analytics to ‘Smarter Cities’
IBM’s Big Data portfolio just got bigger. Big Blue has announced that it is to buy UK-based i2, which provides intelligence and analytics for crime prevention and fraud.

If this sounds familiar, think of the recent acquisition by HP of UK-based Autonomy, which also has as one of its objectives the provision or extension of Big Data software to HP.

However, the i2 deal, which is expected to close in the last quarter of this year, fits in with IBM's well-established business strategy of providing Big Data analytics and intelligence for large cities and public organizations, a strategy better known as its "Smarter Cities" initiative.

Like many of IBM’s deals, the amount of money that is due to change hands has been kept a secret, but given that these analytics are being used to help cities, and public organizations track crime, it’s probably understandable that they don’t want to mention money.

IBM, Analytics, Acquisitions

Joking aside -- and that was a joke, just in case -- with the number of analytics companies that IBM has bought in the past three years, you have question whether there are any new technology buys in this acquisition.

At this point, there appears to be little that its portfolio of analytics doesn’t cover, including Big Data, which it covered with the acquisition of National Interest Security Company (NISC) in March 2010, and the acquisition of Netezza in September that year, followed by the first Big Data release around that acquisition early this summer.

By buying NISC, IBM strengthened its presence in the public sector and gave it a wider market for its Business Analytics and Optimization (BAO) products, which provide predictive intelligence by analyzing structured and unstructured data.

Analytics Markets?

So what is i2 all about then? Leaving the marketing-babble aside, it looks like this acquisition is about extending market reach rather than extending is technology capabilities.

i2 has a substantial portfolio of customers and a US headquarters in McLean, Virgina. However, it is a global company with more than 4,500 customers spread across 150 companies in banking, defense, law enforcement, national security and retail.

Specifically, it says it provides crime prevention analytics to 12 of the top 20 retail banks globally and eight of the top companies in the world.

According to figures released by IBM and citing FBI statistics, in 2009 there were 1.3 million violent crimes, 9.3 million property crimes and 6.3 million larceny/thefts in the United States. Consumer-facing fraud for retailers alone costs $100 billion a year.

That’s a lot of crime. But from an IT point of view, it also represents a lot of unstructured data, and to link that data and draw conclusions requires a lot of Big Data analysis -- the kind of analysis that i2 specializes in.

No more data overload, no more security threats is the thinking behind it; if you’re a serial parking-ticket offender, this is designed to catch you out.

IBM, Smarter Cities

With the i2 technology, clients -- and here IBM appears to be talking public and municipal clients -- will have access to visualization and multidimensional analytics for the delivery of intelligence that will identify connections, patterns and trends in complex data sets.

The Smarter Cities initiative by IBM, apart from a way of promoting and providing analytics and business intelligence to urban planners, offers local, state, federal and non-government authorities a way to use the intelligence derived from sensors, crime data bases, cameras and integrated communications to make smarter decisions.

IBM cites the example of its video analysis software working with the Intelligent Operations Center for Smarter Cities, which can detect and respond to physical security threats. When coupled with video systems from partners such as Cisco Systems, the IBM solution can manage and coordinate video events.

Once the deal is closed, i2 and its 350 employees will be integrated into IBM's Software Group, along with those in Ottawa, Ontario, and Canberra, Australia.