IBM Shows Tools For Smarter City Management

The Operations Center platform bundles information-management software with dashboard-style analytics, performance measures, and monitoring capabilities.
Slideshow: IBM Empowers Smarter Cities
Slideshow: IBM Empowers Smarter Cities
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Here's IBM's message to cash-strapped cities: It won't take a pile of money and months of consulting and integration services to deploy the IBM Intelligent Operations Center for Smarter Cities, a software platform announced on Monday that is aimed at holistic city monitoring and management.

The IBM Intelligent Operations Center for Smarter Cities bundles a range of software components including a database (DB2), application server (WebSphere), business rules engine (iLog), data integration and data management (various InfoSphere pieces), and business intelligence and real-time monitoring (Cognos). By bringing everything together into a single product, which starts shipping later this month, IBM says it has made the technology easier to purchase and deploy.

"It's a massive shortcut that helps cities integrate all kinds of systems, data sources, and sensors that are currently siloed," said Karen Parrish, IBM's vice president for Public Sector solutions, in an interview.

IBM is, of course, well known for its vast software portfolio and for its Global Business Services integration business, which makes a ton of money knitting all that software together in custom, one-off deployments. But these are lean times for governments, while daunting infrastructure and service challenges demand immediate action. In short, cities don't have the time or money for long, costly deployments.

From a back-end perspective, the Operations Center is ready to accept and monitor data from line-of-business applications and any number of real-time sensors. It could be video feeds or street sensors used by police or traffic-and-transit engineers. It could be water or sewer sensors, weather-prediction feeds, or 311 complaints and service requests.

From a front-end perspective, the Operations Center provides a cockpit-like collection of dashboards and key performance indicators that can be tuned to provide insight to anyone from the mayor to individual managers handling specific departments or events.

The Operations Center is a problem-agnostic platform upon which cities can address any number of analytic use cases, but IBM says it will add repeatable "solutions" (IBM code for what most people call "applications") for common urban challenges. The first three solutions, to be released over the next 12 to 18 months, will be public safety, water management, and transportation monitoring.

In a public safety scenario, dashboards and analytics will support coordinated and timely decision-making for day-to-day police work or large-scale public events. As an example, IBM is currently working with Rio de Janeiro to support the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics planned for that city. Monitoring capabilities and performance indicators developed for Rio are likely to turn up as customizable features of the public safety solution.

In a water management scenario, analytics could help managers act preemptively by deploying water maintenance crews to repair pumps before they break or by alerting fire crews to broken fire hydrants, IBM said.

The first three solutions will likely be followed by a href="">healthcare/hospital and education solutions, Parrish said. "We've addressed these sorts of needs with customer solutions for cities around the globe, but we want to develop something that's very repeatable for specific use cases," Parrish said.

IBM did not detail the costs of the Operations Center or specific release dates for solutions. The software will be scalable to cities of any size, IBM said, and the company naturally has recommended hardware configurations upon which the software can be deployed.

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