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IBM aims to build 'smarter planet'

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News | 3/17/2010 12:00:00 AM | FADIL ALİRIZA

Through a new concept, leading information technology firm IBM aims to provide a new arena for the world that is becoming more intelligent. The 'Smarter planet' concept offers new ways for both governments and the private sector through the convergence of the digital and physical worlds

As part of efforts to shape the next generation of cutting-edge IBM products, one of the company’s top researchers recently stopped in Turkey to introduce the “smarter planet” concept, the next elevation in technology.

“We do see the world getting more intelligent. Not just knowledge workers in terms of people entering the workforce, but actually intelligent sensors, this conversion to the physical-digital world,” said Kerrie Holley, one of IBM’s 72 prestigious research fellows, in comments to telecom professionals in Istanbul last Thursday. 

The “smarter planet” concept appears to target governments, offering ways to collect, connect, analyze and utilize information needed for functions like water systems, infrastructure, electricity, healthcare and public safety. 

Connecting the computer systems of these different sectors can allow for a dramatic drop in the time needed to deal with communication and IT problems. For example, there are 53,000 water agencies in the United States, yet there is no coordination among either them or their digital data systems. 

This, among other things, stunts the ability of policy makers and the public to keep track of a valuable common resource, manage its use and check its quality, Holley said, adding that the “smarter planet” idea also has several applications for the private sector. 

Giving the example of cross-systems marketing, Holley said: “You’re walking down the street, and you’ve been looking for this book for the last five years, and suddenly an alert appears on your phone telling you that that book happens to be two doors down, just because you happen to be in Boston that day.” 

He continued, saying: “That’s the kind of intelligence that we see available when we start connecting the dots, the information, the process and the technology. This is what I mean by this convergence of digital and physical. Marketing, cross-selling, retaining customers are all examples of opportunities that the private sector has.”

[HH] Research and development process

IBM’s comprehensive systems approach has come out of one of the largest research and development departments in the world while the company is also provides a wide array of products and services. 

According to Holley, IBM offers “analytics, technologies around the business process and around-transactions management,” as well as actual hardware, such as chips and computers. 

There is a real market for IBM’s work because it will cut IT costs for private companies, Holley said, adding that 65 to 85 percent of IT worldwide costs are simply devoted to maintenance.

“IT is frequently becoming a constraint on how quickly a business can adapt, move, take advantage of new models and take advantage of new markets. Costs are being spent on maintaining IT rather than changing the business, innovation and doing new things,” Holley told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review in a recent interview.

One area of concern with IBM’s “smarter planet” concept is privacy and security. By creating digital spaces where information between many systems can automatically communicate with each other, the proliferation of data communication brings about new challenges, Holly said.

“There are security concerns. I want to make sure that the service that I’m making is accessible – that the people who are actually using it have the authorization to do so,” said Holley. “We cannot ignore the security thinking that we always imbed into transactional systems.” 

While security is a major concern for business-to-business interaction, business to consumer interaction also raises the issue of privacy, he said.

However, Holley is extremely positive about the opportunities that the “smarter planet” concept brings to the field.

“It’s about people working smarter, its about intelligence being ubiquitous, being in devices, and being able to see the convergence of that to really create new capabilities, new marketplaces, allow business to be more adaptable and allow business to change quicker,” said Holley.

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