Cleantech Market Intelligence
IBM Raises the Stakes in the Smart City Technology Market with its Intelligent Operations Center
Last week’s launch of the IBM Intelligent Operations Center for Smarter Cities marks a significant development in the market for smart city solutions. This is arguably the first major product to be aimed specifically at the integration of multiple service areas of a city from an operational perspective.
IBM has drawn on its experience of over 2,000 engagements with cities around the world to develop an integrated platform based on IBM software for data management, analytics, and event management amongst other components. IBM is also developing 25 ‘uses cases’ for some of the most important and difficult issues facing city authorities. These uses cases will be built into a series of pre-packaged software offerings. The focus is on critical, city-wide issues that can be better addressed through the integration and analysis of data from multiple domains. The first packages will be for public safety, transport and traffic management, and water management. These offerings communicate with the Intelligent Operations Center as the underlying platform.
IBM’s work with the city authority in Rio de Janeiro is a good example of the type of solution that the Intelligent Operations Center will support. The Rio de Janeiro Operations Center provides a citywide monitoring and response management system and was initially instigated to help the city improve its response to emergencies, such as the floods and mudslides that hit part of the city in 2010. It incorporates an advanced meteorological warning system and also helps orchestrate the logistics of emergency response in the case of floods, including ambulance scheduling and medical supply coordination. In the long term, the Rio Operations Center will expand beyond flood management into other city services such as transportation, public works, and utilities. IBM has taken its experience from projects like that in Rio de Janeiro and embedded it in the analytical capabilities and rules engine built into the Intelligent Operations Center. The platform is, however, customizable to address any operational management issues.
IBM is offering the Intelligent Operations Center as an in-house deployment, a shared service (for multiple authorities or for cross-agency applications) and as a cloud service (particularly for smaller authorities). Shared services and cloud-based applications will be the natural route for many public sector organizations in the future, particularly for dynamic, cross-domain application areas such as those the Intelligent Operations Center is addressing.
To get the best out of applications like IBM’s Intelligent Operations Center, a city will need to have clear project goals, a good business case, and buy-in at the executive level and across agencies. This is particularly important if cities are to see the benefits from the data analytics at the heart of the IBM proposition. Despite the investment in e-government systems over the last decade, government generally has lagged the private sector in the use of business intelligence and analytics. However, cities need to be able to capture, manage, and analyze the new information flows made possible by smart energy, transport, and building systems, along with other innovations in communications and embedded intelligence. As we increase the number of smart devices in the city, more benefits will accrue from the integration of these data feeds. A clear need exists for a framework that can guide the deployments of more and more sophisticated tools for monitoring, managing, and reporting on the urban environment.
In my view, any adequate model for the smart city must be multi-dimensional, encompassing different aspects of “smartness” and stressing the importance of integration and interaction across multiple domains. A city is a system of systems, and any models that attempt to define its dynamic nature must be able to represent the diversity of those elements. IBM is taking this approach with the Intelligent Operations Center for Smarter Cities. However, city authorities will need to be sure they can quickly and cheaply integrate new data sources into their operation center. IBM has adopted the CAP (Common Alert Protocol) standard for public warnings and has a general commitment to open standards but city managers will need to be sure they have the skills and the budget to make the on-going adjustments to the system to meet their evolving needs.