IBM Plans 'Serious' Sim City

Big Blue to roll out gaming platform that aims to help planners better manage urban environments.
IBM said Monday that it plans to offer a SimCity-style online game that urban planners, students, academics, and others can use to learn more about urban sprawl and how to combat its negative effects on the environment.

IBM called its CityOne simulation a "serious game" that can help users "discover how to make their cities and their industries smarter by solving real-world business, environmental, and logistical problems."

IBM said it would formally unveil the game on May 4, at the IMPACT 2010 conference in Las Vegas.

For now, the company is offering only a brief description. "CityOne will be a no charge, 'sim-style' game in which the player is tasked with guiding the city through a series of missions that include Energy, Water, Banking, and Retail industries," IBM said.

"One mission involves a city where water usage has increased at twice the rate of 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," IBM said.

It's likely the game will include ways for players to apply simulated versions of IBM's smart-grid technologies to optimize the performance of public infrastructure. IBM's is pushing real-life versions of such tools through its Smarter Planet initiative, under which Big Blue is helping utilities and other organizations go green.

"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's VP for 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," said Pearson.

IBM has been aggressive in adapting gaming and simulation technology to business ends. The company, for instance, often uses Second Life to conduct meetings and facilitate communication between employees and partners.