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Investment in Smarter Cities Begins to Pay Dividends

Pete Swabey tells the tale of the development of smart city technology by IBM and Cisco, which has now reached a point of maturation in which significant lessons, economic opportunities, and future applications can be discerned.
March 5, 2012, 8am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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In only seven years since its initial seed investment, by the Clinton Foundation, smart city technology – "the use of networks, sensors and analytics to make cities more efficient, productive and habitable" - has begun to affect the ways in which cities operate, evidenced by a profile piece by Natasha Singer, in the The New York Times, on Rio's citywide system (developed by IBM) integrating data from some 30 agencies.

While Swabey recounts the larger strategies guiding the tech giants in their quest to corner the expected $57 billion global market to supply cities with "smart" systems by 2014, Singer focuses narrowly on the Rio initiative, IBM's pioneer project and world's most fully integrated smart city application.

Rio's challenges (poverty, sprawl, crime) and opportunities (host to the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics), provides a unique crucible in which to develop and test such technology. Singer describes the system's foundation in IBM's incorporation of hardware, software, analytics and research, and the development of a virtual operations interface. Singer also looks at the system's performance in responding to recent crises such as a 20-story office building collapse.

The Integrated Operations Centre software that IBM developed for the Rio project is now a commercially available product and Zhenjiang, a city of about three million people in eastern China, has already bought the new system to manage public transportation, reports Singer.

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Published on Thursday, February 23, 2012 in Information Age
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