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IBM’s Smarter Cities Challenge helps cities improve services

Photo Courtesy of | © Teoh Chin Leong

IBM’s Smarter Cities Challenge program will be sending teams of company experts to five municipalities through 2018 to provide pro bono consultative advice on issues such as affordable housing, economic development, immigration and public safety.

The five recipients – Busan, Korea; Palermo, Italy; San Isidro, Argentina; San Jose, U.S.; and Yamagata City, Japan –  were selected from a highly competitive pool of more than 100 cities around the world that applied for a grant of consulting services from IBM.

Since 2010, IBM’s citizenship arm has made such Smarter Cities Challenge grants to more than 130 cities worldwide chosen from more than 600 applicants, with nearly 800 of IBM’s top experts delivering pro bono services.

For the upcoming pro bono consultative engagements, IBM may use Watson’s cognitive analytics capabilities to identify and understand city data such as transportation patterns or public health trends. Or, natural and human-influenced meteorological events may be parsed, taken from the world’s largest weather data sets, recorded by The Weather Company, an IBM Business. Analysis of such information may help inform IBM’s recommendation to city stakeholders to address their local challenges.

Here’s how a typical Smarter Cities Challenge engagement works: After intense preparation, IBM Smarter Cities Challenge teams, comprising six IBM experts, spend three weeks working closely with city staff in each winning city, analyzing data about a critical issue facing the municipality. Team members consider diverse perspectives on the topic through meeting with local officials, citizens, businesses and not-for-profits. Best practices used by other cities are studied. After working closely with city leadership, the IBM team then recommends innovative and specifically tailored ways to address the issue.

Smarter Cities Challenge engagements have helped cities around the world to significantly improve the quality of life for their residents. Projects informed by IBM advice have helped to upgrade skills of city staff, enabled cities to win prestigious awards and made them more competitive. Here are some of the results achieved to date:

  • Memphis, U.S., and IBM worked to successfully design a plan for decreasing demand and improving response time for emergency health services and for improving long-term healthcare, particularly for the city’s most vulnerable citizens.
  • Pingtung County, Taiwan, won the 2015 Energy Smart Communities Initiative Best Practices Award from among 200 submissions across Asia Pacific for its implementation of a smart microgrid based on its Smarter Cities Challenge recommendations.

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2018 INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics and Operations Research
April 15-17, 2018, Baltimore


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