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Andrea Newell headshot

IBM Pulse2012: Smarter Cities

During the IBM Pulse2012 conference, the discussion started with smart buildings as the building blocks of smart cities - a necessary component to our ever increasing urban environments. From single smart buildings grow interconnected complexes, and from those, campuses. Smart campuses are microcosms of smart cities and face some of the same challenges.

While smart buildings and campuses show amazing results due to asset management and building improvements that impact energy use, spatial planning and inhabitant safety, smart cities go beyond structural enhancements to impacting urban planning, environment, energy and water, transportation, education, health, public safety and government and agency administration. Chris O’Connor, IBM, illustrated many ways that IBM and its partners impact municipalities.

“Smart cities drive sustainable economic growth and deliver citizen-centered services by leveraging information to make better decisions, anticipating problems to resolve them proactively and coordinating resources and processes to operate effectively to increase their value to the citizens they serve in a rapidly changing economic and urban world.”


  • Leveraging information by gaining real-time visibility of traffic and transit networks and creating awareness of significant events and problem areas.

  • Anticipating problems by predicting future incidents and identifying patterns of traffic conditions and transit schedules enabling improvement strategies.

  • Coordinating resources by applying proactive problem management strategy to traffic congestion to reduce citizen aggravation and negative commercial impact.

IBM worked with Zhenjiang to institute a new bus scheduling system to manage traffic patterns to help make the system faster and more efficient. The Singapore Land Transport Authority can forecast traffic conditions up to 60 minutes into the future to help prevent traffic congestion. The Finnish Transport Agency converted 78,000 km of roadway data into insights that helped improve roadmap management and enhance safety and operational efficiency.

Public Safety

  • Leveraging information by consolidating data from incompatible systems and forming insights to build a safer, more efficient and more accountable place to live and conduct business.

  • Anticipating problems by increasing efficiency and communicating situational awareness to first responders, uncovering hidden connections and quickly identifying suspects, patterns and relationships in a vast field of complex data.

  • Coordinating resources by identifying and sharing investigative leads to help agencies solve crimes faster.

UK police used social network analysis to break an organized crime group, resulting in over 140 arrests with a 70 percent conviction rate. Madrid reduced emergency response time by 25 percent, and data analytics helped cut crime in New York City by 35 percent. IBM helped Las Vegas police improved public safety through analyzing difficult-to-recognize patterns. Rio de Janiero can react and respond to disasters faster and more efficiently with their emergency response system, helping to save lives.


  • Leveraging information to gain a comprehensive view of data spread over disconnected systems, and mitigate wastewater issues with real-time visibility.

  • Anticipating problems and reducing costs by performing proactive maintenance and reducing leaks by identifying patterns and trends and optimizing revenue, helping to prevent disruption of water flow.

  • Coordinating resources by driving collaboration across fragmented systems and multiple stakeholders to reduce costs and improve efficiencies, and engaging citizens and businesses to conserve water and promote sustainability.

The City of Dubuque citizen portal and real-time monitoring pilot achieved a 6.6 percent decrease in water consumption over a nine-week period. Washington D.C. Water & Sewer Authority achieves an ROI of 629 percent in two months by analyzing data to perform proactive maintenance. With a better system overview, Sonoma County Water Agency was better able to utilize its current resources, reducing the need for large, expensive infrastructure projects.

Social Programs

  • Leveraging information to provide a single view of social programs to citizens and empowering call centers  and case workers with a central respository of all client data, so the same information is available to all.

  • Anticipating problems by measuring and monitoring program results to achieve objectives and deliver improved results.

  • Coordinating resources by collaborating across the system to foster innovation for improved efficiency and effectiveness.

Alameda County eliminated benefit overpayments and improved case worker productivity, resulting in 631 percent ROI. Hennepin County integrated client information and automated workflows, resulting in 61 percent ROI.

As our cities expand and more people move into urban areas, these and other services will be needed to optimize urban living for the health, welfare, safety and convenience of city residents. Smart cities are growing and growing smarter.

Andrea Newell headshotAndrea Newell

Andrea Newell has more than ten years of experience designing, developing and writing ERP e-learning materials for large corporations in several industries. She was a consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers and a contract consultant for companies like IBM, BP, Marathon Oil, Pfizer, and Steelcase, among others. She is a writer and former editor at TriplePundit and a social media blog fellow at The Story of Stuff Project. She has contributed to In Good Company (Vault's CSR blog), Evolved Employer, The Glass Hammer, EcoLocalizer and CSRwire. She is a volunteer at the West Michigan Environmental Action Council and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan. You can reach her at andrea.g.newell@gmail.com and @anewell3p on Twitter.

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