IBM Smarter Cities

” On a smarter planet, we want to change the paradigm from react to anticipate” is the slogan of the IBM Smarter Planet global initiative which was started five years ago. IBM Smarter Cities is part of the smarter planet programme. The video Smarter Planet – a UK Introduction gives an idea of how it may impact on our lives.

With the arrival of Big Data, through the use of analytics, mobile technology, social business and the cloud it is now becoming possible to transform how enterprises and institutions operate. The embedding of sensors in cars, roads, cameras, roads, pipelines, appliances is happening and systems are beginning to ‘speak’ to each other which results in the capture of masses of data in backend systems. This data can be mined and analysed and if the queries are structured intelligently should produce information on better ways of doing or organising things.

The IBM Research – Ireland lab is IBM Smarter Cities Technology Centre and conducts research in water, energy, transportation, city fabric, risk, exascale computing, and marine environments in collaboration with top universities, cities, and industry partners. The leading academic institutions involved are Cambridge University, the Australian National University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and Trinity College Dublin.

Researchers at NUI Maynooth have received €2.3m of funding for a major five-year project which will analyse how software and technology can influence life in a city. The focus will be on two cities: Dublin and Boston in the US. Boston is ranked number one on a global index of ‘smart’ cities while Dublin is a key technology hub in Europe. The research is  funded by a five-year ERC (European Reaserch Council) grant.

Some Findings on Dublin as a Smart City

  • A 2007 study of traffic congestion revealed that even though small if taken as a percentage of gross domestic product then Dublin was the world leader in this sphere over cities such as Manila, Dakar and Mexico City. The challenge was and still is to maintain the historic fabric of the city and  improve the transport network without any major re-development. Dublin City Council has been collecting and analysing data, in partnership with IBM and journey time information is now released and updated every minute.

    Residents can go online and find the quickest route to their destination. This is just the beginning and eventually people will be updated on problems via their mobiles while on route to their destinations and advice on alternative means of completing their journeys will be given which may be bicycle, tram, taxi or even on foot.

  • IBM’s vision for water is stated as

    Our vision is an intelligent, integrated, and instrumented water system for our cities of the future, where both the quantity and quality of our water resources is constantly being monitored, predicted, and optimized, from rain to drain and back again.

    The citizens of Dublin could vouch for the fact that even when there is a strong bond between rain and drain, over a prolonged period of time, that they still have water shortages. A Dublin City report states that 29 percent of the water produced never reaches the consumer due to water leaking from the city’s distribution system. This is due to the age of the network and many of the pipes are in such poor condition that they are prone to bursts, leaks and low water pressure. Replacing the infrastructure is a costly, time-consuming and disruptive especially when streets need to be dug up.

    To reduce the amount of water lost Dublin City Council in collaboration with IBM is combining analytics, sensor data, and optimization models to find the best places in the network to install pressure reducing valves. Once installed, the models recommend the best settings to minimize leakage while meeting the requirements of the city. Dublin’s Chapelizod area showed potential to reduce leakage up to 44 percent, allowing water providers to serve 15 percent more households without investment in more production capacity or adversely affecting consumers.

‘Garbage in garbage out’ still holds true so human intelligence is a requirement for digital smartness. There are and will be no shortage of jobs for big data scientists, big data analysts and others but there will be a shortage of suitably qualified people to fill the posts.

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