IBM Goes Global with Smarter Cities Strategy

IBM continues to deliver on its Smarter Cities strategy with new smart solution implementations around the world.

IBM continues to deliver on its Smarter Cities strategy by implementing smart solutions -- strategies for collecting, sharing, analyzing and acting on data -- in cities around the world.

Most recently, IBM announced a Smarter Cities partnership with Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, but the company has also delivered smart solutions to cities such as Corpus Christi, Texas, and Chesapeake, Va., among others.

In a Dec. 27 press release, the company announced that the municipal government of Rio de Janeiro and IBM signed an agreement to build a public information management center for the city. The Rio Operations Center, which will be located in Cidade Nova, will integrate and interconnect information from multiple government departments and public agencies in the municipality to improve city safety and responsiveness to various types of incidents, such as flash floods and landslides, IBM officials said.

In addition, as part of the agreement, IBM Research scientists will develop for the city a high-resolution weather forecasting and hydrological modeling system, called PMAR, that can predict heavy rains up to 48 hours in advance. A major project for IBM's ninth Research Lab -- recently opened in Brazil -- the effort will build on and advance technologies created by IBM Research labs around the world.

The mission of the Rio Operations Center, which is slated to open Dec. 31, is to consolidate data from various urban systems for real-time visualization, monitoring and analysis. The system was designed initially for forecasting floods and related emergencies, but it is extensible to any event occurring in the city. The center will enable city leaders to make decisions in emergency situations based on real-time information, IBM officials said.

This initiative is part of IBM's global strategy to develop technology-based solutions to help cities become smarter. Similar IBM projects have already been implemented in New York and Gauteng, South Africa, but this is the first center that will integrate all the stages of a crisis management situation: from prediction, mitigation and preparedness, to the immediate response to events, and finally to capture feedback from the system for use in future incidents. Other partners engaged in the construction of the center are Cisco Systems, Cyrela Facilities, Malwee, Oi and Samsung.

"We are creating a foundational IT platform that will soon be able to gather data on all incidents and events occurring in the city," said Pedro Almeida, Smarter Cities director for IBM Brazil, in a statement.

PMAR will begin operation in the first half of 2011. The system will be based on a unified mathematical model of Rio, involving the gathering of data from the river basin, topographic surveys, the municipality's historical rainfall logs and radar feeds. Moreover, IBM officials said the system will be able to predict rain and possible flash floods and, over time, will also be able to evaluate the effects on city traffic.

On Nov. 9-10, 2011, IBM CEO Sam Palmisano and Mayor Eduardo Paes will convene leaders in Rio at the fourth regional Smarter Cities Forum. With a special focus on Latin America and the world's growth markets, IBM will continue the discussions started in Berlin, New York and Shanghai to examine real-world approaches on how cities can tackle serious urban issues and improve their citizens' quality of life.

Earlier in December, IBM announced it is working with the city of Corpus Christi to improve efficiency and sustainability for the city's more than 280,000 residents.

Corpus Christi is applying IBM software to measure, monitor and improve the way it manages its water, roads, airport, parks and utilities. With greater intelligence across its departments, the city can more quickly evaluate and respond to issues, anticipate and prevent problems, and improve quality of life.

During a conference call with leaders and IT officials in other cities assessing the IBM solutions, Corpus Christi officials explained that prior to working with IBM, each city department had its own process for handling incoming work requests and ongoing maintenance, typically operating on a reactive basis using paper to track issues. Because there was no central system for tracking existing issues, budgeting and managing city resources was sometimes difficult, the officials said.

IBM software now helps Corpus Christi municipal departments and managers know in real time what is happening across the city, who is handling it and how much the work costs.

"Corpus Christi is evolving into a more sustainable city -- one that has intelligence, foresight and accountability built into the way we manage the services we provide our citizens," said Steve Klepper, an administrative superintendent for the city. "Working with IBM, we have the real-time status of city services, automated work orders and an overview of the city's infrastructure to better manage our resources, as well as better maintain the city's mission-critical assets."

As one of Texas's largest cities on the Gulf of Mexico, Corpus Christi relies significantly on port industries, tourism and higher education to drive its economy, city officials said. The city strives to improve its citizens' quality of life while keeping operating costs low and maintaining high levels of service.

"Corpus Christi is setting the bar for how municipalities can use technology to gain intelligence into their departments and systems to operate more efficiently and provide residents with a better place to live," said Guru Banavar, IBM CTO for Smarter Cities, in a statement. "Working with IBM, Corpus Christi city managers are operating smarter and managing their work and crews better."

The city manages and analyzes the status of tens of thousands of physical assets such as its water mains, traffic lights, bridges, park lawns, fire hydrants, garbage trucks and storm water ditches with IBM Maximo Asset Management software, IBM officials said.

A critical component of the Corpus Christi service strategy is the citywide One Call Center. Using IBM software, the call center can speed responses to issues more efficiently and better optimize city resources. For fiscal year 2009, the call center generated more than 45,000 electronic work-order requests from across the city, Corpus Christi officials said.

When residents call with complaints or service requests, the city creates a work order connected to the address. IBM software provides the city with a bird's-eye view of existing maintenance requests using mapping software from IBM Business Partner Esri, IBM officials said. This allows the call center manager to see all existing problems -- coded in color by urgency -- and determine scenarios such as the entire service area being affected or the location of assigned field workers in order to make management decisions.

Previously, citizen calls were routed to the appropriate department and recorded on index cards before being entered into a spreadsheet, city officials said. Given the manual nature of this process, staff could not accurately track how long it took to respond to and fix problems. The staff had no way to view the work history for each site, making it difficult to identify recurring problems. Although the city had already established a GIS (geographic information system), work orders were not interfaced with this system. As a result, departments could not spatially analyze work requests to determine whether a customer request represented a site-specific problem or an areawide issue that would require more extensive support.