IBM Relaunches Smarter City Initiative With An Innovative Portal

IBM has relaunched it's Smarter City initiative and the website portal is something you should visit to experience.  It is truly an immersive, interactive experience designed to show how cities all over the world are using advanced technology to help address some of the biggest problems facing our planet.  

 Smarter City Portal
It is a fact…our cities are getting larger and larger.  With that growth comes significant challenges for city leaders.  Increasingly, city operations are being digitized, creating brand new data points.  With the greater digitization of its core systems and the use of advanced analytic capabilities, cities can enhance decision-making and improve urban planning.

The Smarter City portal allows you to explore and experience how Smarter Technology can have an impact on making a city more sustainable, more intelligent, and simply better places to live and work.  At the portal, you have options to learn more about how technology can impact all areas of a Smarter City, including Transportation (all forms of transportation), Public Safety, Communications, Energy & Utilities, Healthcare, Social Services, Education,  Retail, Economic Development and other critical operations that make up a large urban city today. 

I suggest you give it a visit and explore this innovative portal at www.thesmartercity.com

New Transportation Study Says Urban Sprawl Causes Congestion

Driven Apart For years now, The Urban Mobility Report, issued every two years by the Texas Transportation Institute, has been regarded by many transportation and urban planning experts as the ‘bible’ on traffic congestion issues.   The report has been used to justify large road improvement projects throughout the country in an attempt to solve major metropolitan traffic congestion problems.

However, a new report from CEOs for Cities offers a dramatic critique of the 25 year old industry standard created by the Texas Transportation Institute’s Urban Mobility Report (UMR).  The report provides a new look at traffic congestion and suggests there are additional reasons why  Americans spend so much time in traffic.  The report

The new report titled Driven Apart: How sprawl is lengthening our commutes and why misleading mobility measures are making things worse says the solution to the congestion problem has much more to do with how we build our cities than how we build our roads.  The report says that we need new metrics like 'total trip distance’ and ‘total travel time’, metrics that are not currently in the The Urban Mobility Report.

The report ranks how long residents in the nation’s largest 51 metropolitan areas spend in peak hour traffic, and in some cases the rankings are almost the opposite of those listed in the 2009
Urban Mobility Report.  Here’s a list from the report of the 10 cities (out of the 51 studied) where commuters spend the most time getting to work every day. 

Cities Avg. hours per year in traffic
Detroit – Warren – Livonia 179
Indianapolis – Carmel 166
Louisville / Jefferson County 165
Raleigh – Cary 161
Birmingham – Hoover 159
Oklahoma City 154
St. Louis 153
Memphis 152
Richmond 147
Kansas City 142

The report says that compact cities are the real answer to reducing traffic delays.  The key is to have land use patterns and transportation systems that enable their residents to take
shorter trips and minimize the burden of peak hour travel.   These conclusions are very different than those of the UMR, which has long been used to measure traffic congestion and has been used to justify road improvement projects costing millions of dollars.

It’s nice to have a fresh look at the traffic congestion issue.  Thanks CEO for Cities!

For more information, you can access the report (exec summary AND the detailed report) and supporting press release, graphics, etc. by heading over to http://www.ceosforcities.org/work/driven-apart

Intelligent Transportation Scenario: Advanced Traveler Information Systems

LONDN023 I’m wondering when in the future will we arrive at a place where there will be open standards for traffic information that will allow us to have Advanced Traveler Information Systems.  

Traffic information is certainly needed by everyone.  That means we need to have it available on all sorts of devices using all sorts of applications.   So why not open standards so the information can be available and used to help us all get from point A to point B in less time and with less frustration/hassle?

I see a future where Advanced Traveler Information Systems are capable of advising travelers of suggested travel route changes due to traffic congestion changes…all in real time.  An integrated system would need to be able to draw real-time information from any type of transportation in the region, then process that information against the traveler’s requests/needs,  then provide that information back to the traveler in the format needed for the traveler’s device and application.

Here is a scenario….

Monday evening

1. Jack receives an email from his global head of marketing that an important client will be visiting London to discuss a new deal. Jack is to host dinner for the global client on Friday evening at Nobu in London.

2. Jack books a table over the Internet for 1900 on Friday and puts the details into his Lotus Calendar.

Friday

10:00 – The day has not started well: Jack is in back-to-back meetings the entire day with some client issues.

17:30 – Jack’s online calendar reminds him of the dinner and alerts him of his travel options based on reaching the restaurant by 1900:

  1. Taxi: due to ongoing road works on the route, there is a bad traffic jam along the route – he would need to leave the office by 1800. The estimated cost was £25.
  2. Bus: as there were bus lanes throughout the route, the road works would not impact the journey too significantly – he would need to leave the office by 1810. The cost would be £2.
  3. Tube & walking: the Piccadilly line was currently on schedule; he would need to start walking to the Tube by 1815. The cost would be £3.

The application on Jack’s smartphone recommends that Jack go with option 4:  Tube and walking.

18:20  -  On Jack’s walk to the Tube, his smartphone alerts him of a security incident on the Bakerloo Tube line. If he were to continue with the planned route, he would arrive at the restaurant only at 1945. It advises him to change his route by walking to the nearest bus stop. The bus route would get him to the restaurant at 1910.

19:10 – Jack arrives at the restaurant slightly late but thankfully his guest has not yet arrived – the guest took a taxi and was caught in a traffic jam!

The successful outcome in the scenario above is dependent on open transportation information standards and Advanced Traveler Information Systems, including

  • An extensive sensor-based transportation system operating in the region where real-time information is collected on every type of transportation available to the traveler
  • An back office analytics-rich system capable of analyzing the millions of transactions coming into the system for each mode of transportation
  • Applications available on personal mobile handheld devices capable of interacting with the regional Advanced Traveler Information System.  The mobile application needs to be able to become an agent for the person, acting on stored personal preferences, the calendar for the day, and the real-time information available from the regional system.

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.

Scientific American: 20 World Changing Ideas in Science

Scientific American 20 World Changing Ideas Scientific American published an article back in December titled “World Changing Ideas” that caught my eye.   The article provides a laundry list of ideas that Scientific American says have the potential to improve our lives and our planet.  The magazine has been running similar articles on an annual basis for a number of years.

The December article covers ideas in five general categories (Energy,Transportation, Environment, Electronics, and Health) that highlight the power of science and technology to improve the world.

Here’s a summary of some of the 20 ideas from this article

Energy

  • Pay for solar panels on your house like you pay for a house mortgage.
  • Biofuels from genetically engineered plants.
  • Innovations in Nuclear Power production that can stem nuclear proliferation
  • Smart meters in the home
  • Wind Power harvested from a fleet of high-flying giant kites or windmills

Transportation

  • Plug-in hybrid trucks for short-haul cargo trips
  • Subway-like bus lines

Environment

  • Someday the oceans might be regulated by a worldwide marine planning and zoning committee
  • Harvesting energy trapped in garbage via a technology called plasma gasification
  • Cement that naturally absorbs carbon dioxide as it hardens
  • Introducing new honeybee colonies to our farms
  • Developing crops that can handle saltwater

Electronics

  • HP’s Central Nervous System for the Earth (CeNSE) project
  • Smartphones that can act as real-time language translators
  • Advances in Personal Robotics

Health

  • Biomarkers can help understand the causes of complex diseases
  • Satellites can help track and predict the spread of diseases
  • Better and cheaper ways to help blood clot quicker
  • Performing blood tests in real time by putting a drop of blood on a computer chip
  • Innovations in dental care.

The 20 ideas above are all interesting and innovative trends in science and technology.  Some I would say are more ‘world changing’ than other ideas.  And I am sure we could all come up with another 20 trends / ideas in science that are not listed above.

There’s much more detail in the article.  Scientific American articles are available to subscribers only, but at the time of the writing of this post, I found the article at Scribd here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/23475128/20-World-Changing-Ideas.  Also…you can listen to a podcast where Scientific American magazine Editor in Chief Mariette DiChristina and editor Michael Moyer talk about the "World Changing Ideas" feature ( Download this podcast ). 

IBM IdeaWatch: Innovative Thought Leadership On Intelligent Computing For A Smarter Planet

IBM IdeaWatch I subscribe to IdeaWatch, a monthly e-newsletter sent out by IBM’s Institute for Business Value team.  The newsletter always provides interesting articles.   The articles contain strategic insights and recommendations based on research that IBM’s Institute for Business Value team of analysts and consultants regularly perform.  The articles help me stay informed on the critical issues facing business leaders. 

Today I opened the most recently newsletter in my in-basket.  You can see the full online version at IdeaWatch.  Here’s a list of the articles in the current issue:

As mentioned above, you can access the current version of the e-newsletter online at IdeaWatch.  From that page you can also access all the previous issues.

If you are not yet subscribing to this monthly e-newsletter, I encourage you to do so.  It’s a nice monthly digest that provides with current thought leadership content. To subscribe, you’ll need to go to the subscription center for IBM e-newsletters https://www-931.ibm.com/bin/subscriptions/welcome.cgi?cl=ZZEN and once you register with your email id, you’ll be presented with a list of e-newsletters.   Look for IdeaWatch: Business Perspectives from IBM Global Business Services and select it to subscribe.

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

10 Social Media Tools to Navigate Your City

Today out on the Building a Smarter Planet blog (http://asmarterplanet.com/), there is a post by Josh Catone from Mashable titled Smarter Transportation: 10 Social Media Tools to Navigate Your City.  The post contains Josh’s list of social media sites that can help you plan routes from one location in a city to another.  The tools each have their own unique features and benefits….each is different in their own way. 

Here is my summary of Josh’s ten top tools. 

  1. Google Maps  We all know this tool for driving, but did you know it can help you plan a walking route too?  It can also help you find those Starbuck’s along your route.  But Google also offers even more features, like real-time traffic conditions.
  2. Waze  Waze specializes in real-time traffic information, collecting that information from it’s users.
  3. Wayfaring  Another Google Maps mashup, Wayfaring focuses on having users share experiences they had during their trip.
  4. Walk Score     For those people really into walking.  It tells you how ‘walk-friendly’ your route is going to be.
  5. MapMyRide   For those who love to ride bikes, this helps you preview that next ride.  It will even estimate the calories you will burn.
  6. HopStop  If you are into public transportation (trains, buses, subways, etc.) check out this tool. 
  7. Zimride   Josh likes this carpooling tool, which is cleverly integrated with Facebook.  If you are into carpooling, you might also want to check out iCarpool
  8. RideCharge   This tool helps you pre-book a taxi ride via your mobile device.
  9. GasBuddy   This tool delivers up-to-date gas prices, so you can plan out where to get that tank filled-up along your route.
  10. FuelFrog   This site helps you monitor how your car consumes gas, helping you learn how to reduce your fuel consumption.

For much more discussion of these tools, plus links to others, check out Josh’s post at http://asmarterplanet.com/blog/2009/09/smarter-transportation-10-social-media-tools-to-navigate-your-city.html

Friday Gadget: i-Real Personal Mobility Device

toyota-irealToyota has been experimenting with Personal Mobility devices for some time (i-unit and i-swing concepts).  Their latest prototype is called i-REAL.  It is a personal mobility vehicle which uses three wheels (two at the front and one at the back).  The ‘driver’ sits in a chair when operating the i-Real.

It operates in both low-speed and high-speed modes.  When operating in low-speed mode, it shortens its wheelbase to allow it to move naturally among pedestrians (and at a similar eyesight height) without taking up a large amount of sidewalk space.  In high-speed mode, the wheelbase lengthens to provide a lower center of gravity and better driving performance.  The i-Real is like a three-wheeler Segway and hits 20mph.

Watch the 4 minute video from BBC here.  Interesting part of demo starts about 2 minutes into the video.

Toyota says the i-REAL ensures safe handling [both to the driver and those around the vehicle] by employing perimeter monitoring sensors to detect whenever a collision with a person or object is imminent.  It alerts the driver through noise and vibrations and alerts people around it of its movements through the use of light and sound.   The i-Real concept car is designed to communicate with other i-Reals, allowing you to find and navigate to them on command.

$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

Terrafugia’s Transition Car Plane

Early the morning of March 5, an automobile with foldable wings taxied down a runway in Plattsburgh, N.Y.   The pilot stepped on the gas and the car took off, flew for 37 seconds and landed further down the runway.   It was moment that reminds me of the original Wright Brothers fight.    The pilot duplicated the flight about a half dozen times over the next two days.   Terrafugia, the company that built the plane, will continue with more tests over the next few months, pushing the plane with longer flights and a variety of maneuvers to learn about its handling characteristics.  Terrafugia has named the plane Transition 

image

The street-legal Transition is powered on land and in the air by a recently developed 100 hp Rotax engine that gets 30 mpg on the highway using regular unleaded gasoline.  As a plane, its 20-gallon tank gives it a 450-mile range with a 115 mph cruising speed.  The pilot can switch from one mode to the other from the driver's seat, simultaneously folding up the wings and shifting the engine power from the rear-mounted propeller to the front wheels in about 30 seconds. 

So you can, in minutes, drive to the airport and put down the wings and take off.  When you land, you can, in minutes, fold up the wings and drive home.  You never have to get out of the car.

image

The full-sized version being tested now is a proof-of-concept vehicle, to be followed later this year by a production prototype.  The company is taking deposits now and hopes to start delivering its first Transitions — or "roadable planes," as the company calls them — in late 2011.

The Federal Administration has created a new class of plane (Light Sport Aircraft) and a new “sport pilot” license category just for pilots of such craft, including Terrafugia's two-seater Transition.  The "sport pilot" license required to fly the Transition takes only about 20 hours of training time, about half that required to earn a regular pilot's license.  We’ve all fantasized about flying in our cars at one time or another, perhaps the Transition concept is the Wright brothers event of our generation.

For more information, pictures, and video, fly on over to http://www.terrafugia.com/

THE FUTURIST: Ten Forecasted Trends

THE FUTURIST is a bi-monthly magazine published by the  World Future Society'.   The Nov-Dec 2008 edition's cover story is "Outlook 2009".  In the magazine, there is a list of Top Ten Forecasts for 2009 and beyond.

The FUTURIST always has a flair for dramatic, attention-grabbing prediction/forecasting lists and this year's is no exception.  Here is a summary of this year's list…

  1. Every sound / movement can be recorded by 2030.  By the late 2010s, ubiquitous, unseen nanodevices will provide seamless communication and surveillance among all people everywhere.
  2. Bioviolence becomes a greater threat as the technology becomes more accessible.  Bacteria and viruses could be altered to increase their lethality or to evade antibiotic treatment.
  3. The car's days as king of the road may soon be over.  More powerful wireless communication that reduces demand for travel, flying delivery drones to replace trucks, and policies to restrict the number of vehicles owned in each household are among potential developments.
  4. Careers to become more specialized.  For example, instead of simply majoring in business, more students are beginning to explore niche majors such as sustainable business, strategic intelligence, and entrepreneurship.
  5. The world's legal systems will be networked.  The Global Legal Information Network (GLIN), a database of local and national laws for more than 50 participating countries will lay the groundwork for a more universal understanding of the diversity of laws between nations and will create new opportunities for peace and international partnership.
  6. Professional knowledge will become obsolete almost as quickly as it's acquired.  An individual's professional knowledge is becoming outdated at a much faster rate than ever before.  Rapid changes in the job market and work-related technologies will necessitate job education for almost every worker.
  7. The race for biomedical and genetic enhancement.  Humanity is ready and eager to pursue biomedical and genetic enhancement.
  8. Urbanization will hit 60 percent by 2030.   As more of the world's population lives in cities, rapid development to accommodate them will make existing environmental and socioeconomic problems worse. 
  9. The Middle East will become more secular while religious influence in China will grow.  Popular support for religious government will decline in the Middle East.  Religion in China will likely increase as an indirect result of economic activity and globalization.
  10. Access to electricity will reach 83 percent of the world by 2030.  Electrification, at 73 percent in 2000, may reach 83 percent of the world's people by 2030.  Electricity is fundamental to raising living standards and access to the world's products and services.

Access the full detail here  Top Ten Forecasts for 2009 and beyond.

Most of these seem like they are safe bets to me to be key trends by 2030, except for number 1 and 3.  I think those are much longer term trend (e.g. out another 100 years).