Smarter Cities by IBM: The Road to Sustainable Societies

Corey HarnishInnovation

ibm smart ideas

For most of a decade, IBM has been using intelligent and innovative technology to pursue their dreams of a better, smarter world. As a leading technology and consulting firm, IBM aims to channel ‘computation power’ to provide the technological building blocks for a new, sustainable planet. The Smarter Cities campaign is a stand-out example of their many initiatives to bring about social, economic and environmental change to cities across the globe. These Smarter Cities will have advanced economic and social technology, efficient energy consumption, improved public healthcare, and better transportation systems – to name just a few!

What is the IBM vision of a Smart City?

In 2009, IBM began their mission to create Smarter Cities. This was their “comprehensive approach to helping cities run more efficiently, save money and resources, and improve the quality of life for citizens”. They launched an initial ‘Smarter Cities Campaign’ that same year, which saw 800 experts being deployed to 130 cities around the world to help them address their most pressing issues. During a three-week period, they offered expert suggestions on how to make the cities smarter.

Since then, the success of the wider Smarter Cities mission is due to their solid belief that we should “think revolution, not evolution”. They do not wish to merely adapt to each new generation’s needs, but to completely transform how we live now and in the future. A Smart City uses technology to achieve the highest level of efficiency in terms of their systems and infrastructure, in a way that best suits their unique set of demands. The basic points of focus for Smart Cities are Profit, People, and Planet.

IBM believes they can help create these Smart Cities by providing innovative technological advances to combat the problems that our cities currently face. They do this by delivering highly efficient software for a range of uses, and through effective business consulting.

Watch the video below for a quick introduction to the Smarter Cities campaign and what it involves:

What problems are we facing?

As the population of our cities continues to grow at an alarming rate, so does the demand for them to provide and maintain the highest possible quality of life for citizens. Currently, just under 80% of a country’s population lives in cities and
the steady increase each year has no intention of slowing down. According to IBM, in city population forecastdeveloped countries, it seems that every 30 years there is likely to be an 1% decrease on top of the previous increase. In developing countries, the figure is swelling at a more rapid pace as infrastructure improves and technology advances each year. Between
1990 and 2050, the amount of people that will be living in these cities is forecast to almost double! See the graph for more details.

This puts an incredible amount of pressure on cities to be able to accommodate their growing population in the best way possible. A vast range of obstacles can prevent governments and businesses from being able to deliver efficient systems that provide some of the most basic human needs such as food, water, energy, healthcare, safety and transportation. This is often due to outdated infrastructure, limited budgets, rapidly depleting resources and an increase in demand for environmental responsibility. As previously mentioned, businesses and individuals are seeking a more sustainable way of living and operating; we want to know that the energy and water we use, the food we eat, the transport we take, is not harming the planet more than it has to. We all want solutions that are long-term and efficient.

Indeed, there’s a global and national need for sustainability! Everything on our planet is connected. Humans, plants and animals depend on each other and there is an urgent need to change our behaviour to preserve these vital links. This interdependency is crucial for the long-term survival of the human race. Even on a national scale – in our own cities – there is a need for sustainability. As well as providing the above-mentioned basic needs, there must be sustainable infrastructure, businesses, jobs and social and economic policy in place so that our societies can endure and progress. See below what IBM believes this involves:

smarter cities

Image via IBM.com

How exactly is IBM helping to create Smart Cities?

IBM have come up with many impressive technological creations. As much as I’d love to talk you through them all, I’ll just give some brief examples of solutions to problems from each of IBM’s three main areas of focus: Planning and Management, Infrastructure and People.

planning and management

Image via IBM.com

1. Planning and Management: Smarter Buildings

Problem:

Buildings consume an incredibly high percentage of a city’s energy supply. Globally, buildings absorb 40% of total energy used. Data predicts that by 2025 they will be the number one energy consumers and the biggest culprits of greenhouse gas emissions. There’s also huge costs involved in consuming this amount of energy and a very urgent economic need to reduce this.

IBM Solution:

IBM have created intelligent software called the IBM® TRIRIGA® Energy Optimization. It’s capable of providing vital information on energy usage including monthly peaks of electrical demand, as well as date filters that can help visualize energy consumptions in easy to understand graphs. It collects and analyzes real-time data that will help managers to make informed decisions to cut energy consumption.

How this helps:

Information about energy usage will help reduce energy consumption, cut costs and increase the productivity and effectiveness of buildings.

infrastructure

Image via IBM.com

2. Infrastructure: IBM Intelligent Water

Problem:

We’re all well aware that worldwide demand for a steady supply of clean water is fierce. Many different things prevent this from happening, including climate change, outdated and inefficient water usage systems and regulatory pressures. If this issue is not addressed quickly, there will be serious health and economic consequences.

IBM Solution:

IBM Intelligent Water software boasts the ability to create a water management system that will enhance infrastructure and optimize water operations. It can deliver integrated insight into the current infrastructure and transform data received from different sources into understandable information. This can be used to make informed decisions by those in charge.

How this helps:

Aside from the benefits already mentioned, the software has the potential to create better irrigation for parks and improve pressure and leak management. This would result in more efficient water production and higher levels of sanitation.

people

Image via IBM.com

3. People: Healthcare

Problem:

Most cities face an extremely high demand for the best quality of healthcare. There are many, many issues surrounding healthcare systems around the world. IBM recognizes the need for change in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of healthcare systems in Smarter Cities. It’s necessary to focus on all social, clinical and psychological health issues and to run our health care systems in the most effective, economical way.

need for change

Image via IBM.com

IBM Solution:

The IBM Care Management is a highly efficient packaged software application that has the ability to transform the way cities combat the high demand for excellent healthcare. It can identify people’s need for care, assess their needs and then create the best plans to support them. It can also collaborate with cross-organizational care teams to manage this care plan and to monitor results. It combines everything into one easily accessible platform that will ensure the highest level of efficiency and care.

How this helps:

There have already been some great results from this software. See below some of IBM’s current success stories:

healthcare

Image via IBM.com

Overall, it’s great to see a super power company like IBM using their technological prowess to make the world a better place. With continued support and development, soon every city could be a Smart City! We can look forward to a more sustainable future in which technological advancement is a friend to the environment and can provide us with a higher quality of life.

Find out here how your city can join the Smarter Cities movement and take steps towards a better world!

Corey Harnish

Corey is the CEO of Better Word International, leading the development of The Good Cards which is an innovative online-gaming platform and app that engages people worldwide in doing good deeds for happiness and global sustainability. As an active life coach and aspiring social justice activist, Corey empowers individuals and communities and helps them to flourish through personal development coaching and community service involvement.