IBM Launches CityOne, a New Game to Promote Smarter Cities

When it comes to Smarter Cities, IBM is not playing games. However, the systems giant has created what it calls a "serious game" to help individuals recognize the importance of solving problems with the environment, as well as city infrastructure and logistics.

LAS VEGAS-When it comes to Smarter Cities, IBM is not playing games. However, the systems giant has created what it calls a "serious game" to help individuals recognize the importance of solving problems with the environment, as well as city infrastructure and logistics.

IBM will release details of its new game, CityOne, on May 4 at the IBM Impact 2010 conference here. Impact is IBM's annual event geared toward service-oriented architecture (SOA) based solutions. Based on decades of experience in solving business challenges in creative ways, IBM "serious" games are designed to train the workforce of tomorrow. At the Impact 2009 conference, IBM introduced Innov8, a game that was essentially a business process management (BPM) simulator.

With an estimated 1 million people around the world moving into cities each week, experts predict the population in the world's cities will double by 2050. Today, cities consume an estimated 75 percent of the world's energy, emit more than 80 percent of greenhouse gases and lose as much as 20 percent of their water supply due to infrastructure leaks. As these urban populations continue to grow and these metrics increase, civic leaders will face an unprecedented series of challenges.

For these reasons, IBM projects that cities must grow smarter, and Big Blue has a plan to help them as part of IBM's overall Smarter Planet Initiative. City infrastructures that deliver vital services such as transportation, energy and water must rely on a wealth of new information and technologies that will allow them to sense and respond intelligently to the needs of their growing populations, IBM officials said. With CityOne, IBM is providing a virtual environment that will help tomorrow's leaders learn how to apply advances in technology and better understand how these systems work.

IBM's CityOne game will be a no charge, "Sim-style" game in which players are tasked with guiding the city through a series of missions involving the energy, water, banking and retail industries. For example, one mission involves a city where water usage has increased at twice the rate of the population growth; supplies are becoming strained (and possibly polluted); the municipality is losing as much as 40 percent of its water supply through leaky infrastructure; and energy costs are steadily increasing. To complete this mission, the player would be challenged to institute a water management system that would include accurate real-time data to make decisions on delivering the highest water quality in the most economical way, IBM said.

Players who promote a more customer-centric business model to the banks represented in their city will discover how mobile payments, dynamic invoicing and micro-lending can impact business goals. In all of the missions represented in the game, the player will need to determine the best way to invest to meet the financial, environmental and sociological goals of the city's industries while balancing their budgets and the needs of the citizenry. In parallel, players will learn how the components of service reuse, process management, cloud and collaborative technologies make business models more agile, IBM said.

"Serious games allow professionals to inherently comprehend system interactions, and accurately model the potential business outcomes that can result, in a way that no other medium can do," said Nancy Pearson, IBM vice president of SOA, BPM and WebSphere, in a statement. "CityOne will simulate the challenges faced in a variety of industries so that businesses can explore a variety of solutions and explore the business impact before committing resources."

"Enterprises are increasingly adopting Web 2.0 collaboration tools to appeal to a new generation entering the workforce that grew up immersed in social media technologies," said Lisa Rowan, director of HR, Learning and Talent Strategies at IDC, also in a statement. "Training will need to follow suit by incorporating interactivity and gaming to be relevant to this new workforce."

In addition to CityOne and Innov8, IBM has over the years released a number of games, including RoboCode and PowerUp, that are used by schools, businesses, museums and conferences. Additionally, IBM has conducted an extensive study of massive multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs), and the results have underscored how a rotating leadership model is likely to affect an enterprise. Indeed, IBM's Innov8 series of games, which teach the fundamentals of BPM using a 3D environment, is now being used by more than 1,000 universities worldwide and is offered for free to schools via IBM's Academic Initiative.

Mark McGibbon, a professor of IT and business at a leading university, has used Innov8 in three of his classes: Process Improvement, Software Acquisition, and Analytics and Simulation.

"Using serious games like Innov8 to teach something as slippery as business process management has really helped my students visualize directly the impact of these systems on a business," said McGibbon, in a statement. "We are greatly looking forward to the next IBM game."