By Tabitha Jean Naylor
IBM hopes to reduce commuting times and carbon emissions for Guadalajara drivers, and to make it easier for city government workers to share information, under one of 24 “Smarter Cities” grants it made in 2011.
A Smarter Cities Exploration Center, announced in December 2011 and operated in cooperation with the University of Guadalajara, will identify ways to use the computer giant’s software and services for data analytics — a major area of focus for its new CEO – to improve public services in the city. Joint work between the University and IBM will identify ways to apply the latest technological solutions to mend the outstanding issues in the public service area.
The center’s work is based on three week study conducted in July 2011 by six IBM experts who pinpointed weaknesses in the city infrastructure and management processes. It found major flaws in data administration, such as the fact city departments were all using different tools and data storage systems. As a result, information records were often inexact and conflicted with each other. This made it harder for departments to communicate and share data, slowing services to the more than four million citizens in the metropolitan area.
The center has already started the development of a transportation pilot that uses state-of-art supercomputers to analyze and forecast traffic for the city’s 1.7 million vehicles, and manage the vehicle flow to according routes. Recent projections predict that the pilot will reduce commuting times by as much as 15%, translating into $90 million in savings every year, not to mention a substantial reduction in carbon emissions.
In the next few years similar improvements are expected to create a “single view” of government services over all public service departments. Using the latest technological achievements, such vital services as healthcare, education, and law enforcement will be upgraded to intelligently respond to the growing needs of the citizens.
Explosive population growth over the past three decades has been accompanied by a variety of escalating demands from both citizens and businesses, straining city departments and making it harder to do everything from receiving a building permit to driving to work.
IBM spokespeople were unavailable to discuss the size of the staff in the center, the amount they are contributing, or the exact timetable of future work to be done. However, recommendations included in a summary report on the IBM Web site include:
Implementing a “supra-departmental” form of governance that includes a “transformation office” responsible for the strategic planning and deployment of business systems and IT related architectures even as elected officials change.
Building on its current geospatial information system to create a single view of land usage.
Map, document and streamline city processes across departments to manage them more efficiently.
Continue integrating its IT systems in a “municipal cloud” to reduce costs and increase efficiencies, and
Providing a “single window” on the Web through which citizens can access services.
Its work in Guadalajara is part of the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge, announced in 2010 “to help 100 cities over a three-year period to address some of their most critical challenges,” according to IBM. Other teams are working in communities ranging from Newark, N.J. to Mecklenburg County N.C. to Townsville, Australia and Senda, Japan.
IBM was one of the first high-tech companies to open branches in Latin America, and established its first presence – a manufacturing plant – in Guadalajara in the 1970s.