Friday Gadget: Rotundus Robot

The GroundBot has been around a few years, but I thought I’d feature it this Friday. Groundbot is a spherical shaped robot that can roll up to 6 mph through indoor and outdoor spaces with relative ease.  In fact, outside it can roll through mud, sand, snow and even water.   Inside the ‘ball’ two gyroscopically steadied wide-angle cameras along with a bunch of sensors provides people monitoring the cameras with a real-time, 360-degree view of wherever the GroundBot happens to be.  Remote operators can use the cameras to zoom in on anything they may see.  Sensors also can detect gas leaks, radioactivity and biohazards.

To get rolling, the robot simply shifts its weight. Its center of mass is suspended from a pendulum inside the sphere, so motors just push the pendulum to the front, to the back, or to the side.   Lithium-ion batteries provide up to 16 hours of spy time.  GroundBot can be remote controlled by hand or programmed to navigate by GPS. 

GroundBot can effectively increase security and cuts costs at places such as airports, factories, warehouses, etc.   Check out this video from Popular Science and you’ll the Groundbot actually rolling through water.

For more on the GroundBot, see the website:  http://www.rotundus.se/video.html  and there are more videos at http://www.youtube.com/user/RotundusRobotics

IBM and SeeClickFix: A Social Collaboration Challenge on the Smarter Cities Scan

seeclickfix challenge

Are you aware of some non-emergency issues going on in your community that if fixed that could help improve the quality of life in your town?  Some examples might be:

  • A dangerous intersection for pedestrians
  • A bike lane that is always blocked
  • An area that always floods whenever it rains
  • A building with broken windows
  • A vacant lot that needs to be cleaned up
  • Potholes on a certain street that never get fixed
  • Cracked sidewalks that need to be fixed
  • Unsafe activity going on in your neighborhood

The SeeClickFix Challenge:

There’s a very interesting crowdsourcing effort going on I thought you might be interested in checking out.  The folks at SeeClickFix have partnered up with IBM’s Smarter Cities Scan in an effort called the “SeeClickFix Challenge on the Smarter Cities Scan”

SeeClickFix empowers residents to actively care for and improve their neighborhoods by engaging them to report on things they think needs to be ‘fixed’ by posting information of those things on the web.  Residents pinpoint the exact location on a map and can upload pictures of the problem.  The IBM Smarter Cities Scan team recognized this service as a novel approach to help us all improve the cities we live in.  So the two teams are now partnering in this unique social collaboration challenge.  The crowdsourcing effort will run from February 8-21 on the Smarter Cities Scan.   And you can participate!

How You Can Participate:

  1. See – spot a non-emergency issue in your neighborhood, go to http://seeclickfix.com/citizens and enter your city name to begin the process
  2. Click – “Report an Issue” to open a ticket describing the issue and what can be done to resolve it
  3. Fix  – Monitor your ticket and the issue you reported to see how your city responded.
  4. Share – Go back to the Smarter Cities Scan site and report on your SeeClickFix experience by sharing your SeeClickFix story.   We want to understand how citizens and  communities put SeeClickFix to new uses in all urban environments.  In the process perhaps we can generate some new ideas on how to make our cities better places to live in.  So please share your story!!

I just entered my first ‘problem’ into the SeeClickFix database for my community and found the process easy.  There’s a walking/bike path in my community that needs repairing in a certain spot.  It is not paved and doesn’t drain well…so it gets all muddy.  The path is just a few feet from a 50mph road and I am worried some runner or biker will slip and fall into traffic. 

Want More Information?

Spread The News!

The more people we have contributing stories, the more we all learn in the process.  Help publicize this collaboration challenge to your social networks via email, Facebook, and Twitter (use tag #seeclickfix).  And If you blog, consider authoring a post about this challenge as I have done here.

IBM: 5 Innovations That Will Impact Us Within 5 Years

IBM 5 in 5 The world is experiencing unprecedented urbanization.  Last year marked the first time in history that the majority of the world’s population was residing in cities.  This trend is not stopping and will have huge implications for our large urban environments we call home.  So what can be done to make our cities economically, socially and technologically healthy–and keep them that way?

IBM recently unveiled a list of 5 innovations that will have the potential to change how people live, work and play in cities around the globe over the next five years.  The following text provides a summary and there is a 3 minute video embedded below…

IBM’s Next 5 in 5…

1) Cities will have healthier immune systems:  Because of population densities, cities will remain hotbeds of communicable diseases.  By standardizing methods for sharing health information and analyzing disease outbreaks, public health officials will know precisely when, where and how diseases are spreading.

2) City buildings will sense and respond like living organisms:   The technology that manages building facilities "will operate like a living organism that can sense and respond quickly." Thousands of sensors inside buildings will monitor everything from motion and temperature to humidity, occupancy and light.  These smart buildings will enable repairs to be made before something breaks, will help emergency units respond quickly, and will let people and companies monitor their energy consumption and carbon emission in real-time.

3) Cars and city buses will run on empty:   IBM predicts that improved battery technology will power the next generation of eco-friendly vehicles. It says the new batteries won’t need to be recharged for days or months at a time (depending on how often the vehicles are driven) and will allow trips of 300 to 500 miles on a single charge.  Also smart grids in cities will allow vehicles to be charged in public places using renewable energy, such as wind power, for charging so they no longer rely on coal-powered plants.

4) Smarter systems will quench cities' thirst for water and save energy:  To deal with the estimate that demand for water is expected to increase sixfold in the next 50 years cities will install smarter water systems to reduce water waste by up to 50 percent.  Smart sewer systems will also be installed that not only prevent run-off pollution in rivers and lakes, but purify water to make it drinkable.  Plus, interactive meters and sensors will provide people with real time, accurate information about their water consumption. 

5) Cities will respond to a crisis:  Even before receiving an emergency phone call. In support of the news:  IBM is helping law enforcement agencies analyze information so they can anticipate crime and be ready to respond when it happens.  Also the New York Fire Department has selected IBM to build a state-of-the-art system for collecting and sharing data in real-time and the company is also designing smart levee systems to prevent cities from devastating floods. 

A common denominator in all five of these innovations is a sophisticated data analytics capability that can take volumes of data, perform modeling and simulation on that data, and turn it into actionable insights for decision makers.  Five years could be an optimistic time frame for a few of these, but in this case, I think a little optimism helps to push the envelope on research and development of the innovations.

Watch the 3 minute video….

Read up more on IBM’s Next 5 in 5

New IBM Commercials Highlight Smarter Planet Issues

imageIBM has just launched five new TV commercials in conjunction with the US Open tennis tournament. 

The TV commercials support IBM’s strategic Smarter Planet campaign, so there is a little selling going on in the videos.  However, these are important emerging trends, so here you go.

  • Cloud – Message:  Workstations used to be tied to a mainframe. Now they're conversing with a cloud.
  • Secure Collaboration -  Message:  The choice between being open and being secure isn't a choice anymore. Collaboration is the key to business on a smarter planet, but you need to make sure your business is protected.
  • Oil -  Message:   Energy is one of the world's most vital resources.  How we extract, use and preserve this resource is vital to our future.
  • Water -  Message:  Water is something we all take for granted, but there is a limited amount in the world. Smarter water management is necessary to ensure our farms, factories and businesses continue to have access to safe, high quality water.
  • Public Safety – Message:  Cities all over the world are getting smarter.  By collecting, analyzing and sharing data, your city can be safer, too.

I really like the creative look and feel of these commercials.  I understand there was a bunch of research that went into them.   While I believe the commercials will appeal to the public at large, they are obviously designed to target the IT audience, line of business leaders and CXOs. 

For more on IBM’s Smarter Planet initiative, check out http://www.ibm.com/ibm/ideasfromibm/us/smartplanet/index.shtml

$50k ITS Congestion Challenge

Have an innovative idea on how to solve traffic congestion?   The Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America), in partnership with IBM and Spencer Trask Collaborative Innovations (STCI), has launched a global challenge to identify innovative ideas for combating transportation congestion.

ITS America is challenging commuters, transportation experts, entrepreneurs and academic researchers to come up with the best ideas to reduce traffic congestion and lessen its economic and environmental impact.

At stake is a $50,000 prize presented at the 16th World Congress on Intelligent Transportation Systems in Stockholm, Sweden, this September.  The winner will also receive the development support needed to put his or her idea to work.

Winning ideas are expected to focus on the following five areas:

  1. Speed and efficiency:  Using technology to reduce delays and transport people and goods efficiently and reliably.
  2. Behavioral impact:  Innovative ways to convince users to choose options that reduce congestion.
  3. Safety:  Preventing accidents, improving incident response and providing more timely, accurate transportation information.
  4. Sustainability:  Lowering energy use and emissions while actively managing traffic and reducing congestion.
  5. Economic competitiveness: Improve productivity through new technologies (e.g., wireless applications and mobility tools).

For additional information and to enter submissions, visit Join the ITS Congestion Challenge

Stockholm: 2009 Intelligent Community of the Year

The Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) recently named Stockholm, Sweden the Intelligent Community of the Year for 2009.  The Scandanavian community, known for its prowess in innovative technologies and its quality of life won the 2009 award.  A detailed profile of Stockholm and why it was selected for the award can be found at this ICF website.

It’s nice to see Stockholm get this award, especially since IBM has been deeply involved in the city’s Intelligent Transportation initiatives.

Since 1999, ICF has presented awards to honor the achievements of communities tackling the complex task of building and maintaining competitive and inclusive local economies in the global Broadband Economy.   The ICF is a think tank that “focuses on the creation of prosperous local economies and robust societies in the broadband economy of the 21st Century”.  The goal of the yearly awards is to increase awareness of the role that broadband and information communications technology (ICT) play in economic and social development at the community level worldwide.

Earlier this year, the ICF had announced their annual list of The Top Seven Intelligent Cities of 2009.  These seven finalists were selected based on analysis of their nominations by a team of independent academic experts.  The academic team  conducts a thorough review of the nominations and generate quantitative scores during the selection process.   These cities have proactively re-engineered their economies and social networks to make them more flexible and adaptable, which gives them a powerful competitive advantage.  The top seven communities are chosen, not because they excel in all areas of ICF's Intellligent Community Indicators, but because each demonstrates excellence in at least one. 

image

The Top Seven cities of 2009 were:

  • Bristol, Virginia, USA. Bristol has made an impact after taking on incumbent telcos in court and the state legislature to win the right to deploy a fiber network called OptiNet.  OptiNet will become a fiber-to-the-premises network for business and residents in Bristol and four neighboring counties.  It has attracted more than $50 million in private investment, including the region's first technology employers, and improved rural education and healthcare by connecting local providers to leading institutions.   
  • Eindhoven, Netherlands.  Established a public-private collaboration called Brainport. Among more than 40 public-private projects are an award-winning coop that has brought FTTP and a broadband culture of use to the suburb of Neunen, and the SKOOL outsourced IT management system for public schools.
  • Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.  When it could not get broadband from the private sector, Fredericton founded the e-Novations co-op, which deployed a fiber ring that spurred competition, giving the city a 70% penetration rate at speeds of up to 18 Mbps.  The next step was the Fred-eZone wireless network, which provides free WiFi service across 65% of the city.  The combination of broadband, entrepreneurship and Fredericton's universities has powered the creation of over 12,000 jobs.
  • Issy-les-Moulineaux, France.  Beginning in 1980, a visionary mayor focused policy on creating an innovative, IT-based knowledge economy, implementing e-government, outsourcing IT needs, and taking advantage of liberalization to attract competitive fiber carriers deploying cost-effective broadband.  Public-private innovation includes a cyber-kindergarten for children, cyber tearooms for older citizens, citizen e-participation in decision-making, a successful business incubator and ICT-based real estate projects.
  • Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada. This bilingual community has become a major Canadian customer contact and back office center, and built a "near-shore" IT outsourcing industry.   Private-sector carriers have collaborated in the city's growth as a telecom-centric economy, and helped power the addition of 20,000 new jobs since the early 1990s.  
  • Stockholm, Sweden. In the mid-90s, Stockholm, the economic and political capital of Sweden, established a company called Stokab to build an open-access fiber network.  Today, the 4,500 km network connects more than 90 competing service providers to government and business customers.  Though the city already has a 98% broadband penetration rate, Stokab will also provide FTTP access to over 95,000 low-income households in public housing by the end of 2009.  Stockholm also manages KISTA Science City, housing more than 1,400 companies, plus a support program for start-up and early-stage companies.  
  • Tallinn, Estonia.   Making creative use of people and funding, Tallinn computerized its schools and deployed widespread WiFi as well as nearly 700 public access kiosks.  The city also developed a large-scale digital skills training program, extensive e-government, and an award-winning smart ID card.  Through partnerships, it developed high-tech parks including Ulemiste City, Tallinn Technology Park and Cooperative Cyber Defense Center. 

For more see this ICF website.  Also check out the videos here View Top7 Video

For those of you working on projects related to Smart Cities, you might also want to spend time reading the 49 page white paper “The Top Seven Intelligent Communities of 2009”