Tag Archives: smarter planet

A smartphone app for a Smarter City: Parker by Streetline

Have you ever struggled to find a parking spot in a big city? And whilst driving around in circles have you ever dreamt of a service that lets you know where the free parking spaces are? In this era where our smartphones can tell us when the next subway train is coming and where there’s traffic congestion, is this really too much to ask?

Apparently not according to Streetline.

Earlier this year the San Francisco-based tech firm launched the free Parker app which not only shows you where the parking meters are located, but also shows you which meters are available. Forget circling a five-block radius waiting for a spot to appear. With this app (currently available for iPhone and Android) you can pinpoint and snag that elusive space.

Not only does this save you gray hairs: you also cut down on emissions and congestion. The Parker app fits neatly into IBM’s Smarter City vision: one that fully utilizes technology to help us humans live more efficiently in urban spaces where close proximity. So it’s no wonder that Streetline won IBM Global Entrepreneurship Program’s SmartCamp 2010.

What are the key tenets of a Smarter Planet? These solutions should be Instrumented, Interconnected and Intelligent.

The Parker app demonstrates this wonderfully:

Instrumented

Streetline captures data using self-powered sensors mounted in the ground at each parking space which can detect whether or not a space is vacant. The Parker app uses your smartphone’s location sensors to know where you are and highlight local parking spots. It also uses the large screen to display a dynamic map of the nearest spots (rather than just display a list of street addresses).

Interconnected

The parking meter data from the sensors is transmitted across ultra-low power mesh networks to Streetline servers which build a real-time picture of which parking meters are vacant. This information can be shared with drivers through the Parker app, and also with city officials, operators and policy managers.

Intelligent

The Parker app is a perfect example of turning data into insight. Plotting vacant parking spots on a map helps you find a spot faster, with the added benefit of reducing congestion and emissions in busy metropolitan areas. The app even goes further: once you park, the app uses this information to provide walking directions back to your vehicle and can record how much time you have on the meter and alert you when time is getting short.

Download Parker now to see this app in action for yourself (currently available in a limited number of metropolitan centers around the US).

How Social Business relates to the Smarter Planet narrative

On a presentation today, Scott Neuman from IBM Collaborative Solutions showed how Social Business fits in with the key tenets of the Smarter Planet:

Instrumented

How are we getting more instrumented? As an example, smartphone shipments will outpace PCs by 2012. Technology is closer to us than ever before. For instance Location-Based Services allow us to share information directly related to our current location. Devices play a more integral role in our lives than ever before.

Interconnected

Beyond the proliferation of devices, we are seeing more of these devices being network-enabled. As a result, social networking accounts for 22% of all online time. Through Social Business, enterprises can realize more value by creating linkages across the ecosystem. Whether this involves tying up customer feedback to product development to fuel product innovation, or sharing information across a global sales organization, business operations can be more agile, customer-facing and inherently more valuable.

Intelligent

We are seeing increasing use of social data to help shape business decisions. Business Analytics and Optimization plays heavily into this area. Whether this be analysis of front-end data from social media monitoring or an examination of product forum threads to expose customer pain points, the Social Business is a smarter business.

This fits in neatly with the recent launch of the IBM Social Business site in the Smarter Planet area of IBM.com. You’ll find a number of resources, including the IBM Social Business Jam which I recently blogged about and a notable mention of IBMer Luis Suarez Rodrigues, who has been a major advocate of internal social networking here.

IBM turning 100: smarter planet, social media and meat chopping

2011 is quite a year for IBM. It marks its one hundredth year as company; as a brand.

What does this mean to me. Partly a reflection on what a brand means. Especially as I’m one of the newer entrants and wasn’t around when Big Blue was busy innovating punch card systems, typewriters, mainframes and the PC. Coming from an acquisition which only completed in the last two years, I have a much more recent relationship to the IBM eight-bar logo.

I was part of the web team that hoisted that infamous logo onto our website (before we transitioned over to the IBM.com domain for real) and from one point of view, that really was the extent of the change. Our teams remained intact and the day-to-day duties of the marketing organization remained largely unchanged: we had to continue our efforts of guiding prospects interested in our technologies. As always, we bemoaned the poor decisions of upper management and whined about the inflexibility of our business tools and processes, but now we just had a new object for our venom. So at one level I’d say the change has been superficial. A rebranding feels like little more than painting the lounge. Or a fresh application of lipstick. I had worked for a relatively large technology company. Now I work for a very large technology company.

But a brand goes beyond that.

It exists in our culture; our imagination. Hell, even my next door neighbor (an early-retired teacher) launched into an anecdote of how when he was studying at college he produced his essays on a shoestring budget by cobbling together bits of second hand IBM Selectrics typewriters he picked up at garage sales into one workable machine.

Currently IBM is driving a concerted push to create a ‘Smarter Planet’. I originally had my doubts around this campaign given my background in search marketing – we normally look to the market to find keywords to chase that fit our business objectives. This all felt a bit backwards. At the time (two years ago) ‘smarter planet’ didn’t even register as a search term. No one was talking about it.

I had yet to see the power of a major brand in exerting thought leadership.

Promotions appeared everywhere: from major newspapers to airports. But this was more than just an advertising campaign – internal business projects got on board too. This has given birth to such wonders as a machine that can compete at Jeopardy.

What has been the result? The Smarter Planet initiative is still very much a work in progress but just take a look at how search volumes have mushroomed on Google:

(click on image for more details)

The concept of a ‘smarter planet’ is now in our consciousness (or at least our Google-brain).

This level of cohesion and singularity is even more astounding given the dispersed nature of the IBM workforce. There are very few big hubs and campuses: around half of the workforce work remotely. This leaves little scope for water-cooler discussions but rather a heavy use of telecoms and social computing to bring teams together over teleconferences, screen share sessions or even ‘idea jams’ (short-term online discussion forums covering a set topic).

Internal communications also bleeds out onto the external web. As analyst Charlene Li points out in Open Leadership, “In 2005, IBM led the way… as one of the first companies to put in place blogging guidelines” and in December Mashable listed IBM as one of the top four companies to work for if you’re a social media professional. The nature of the organization has created the demand for social computing. Being one of the homeworkers, I’ll often find out about IBM initiatives through platforms such as Twitter.

So, it’s funny to think that with humble roots in the meat chopping business, IBM is now a global B2B technology force with an indelible print on our culture stretching back 100 years. And it continues to leave its mark: whether it’s easing congestion in major cities as part of the smarter planet initiative, or creating a large social media footprint. And I get to play my small part in this evolving story.

Daryl Pereira is a web and social media manager at IBM who tweets from his little corner of the B2B technology industry @cagedether. For more on the IBM Centennial, search Twitter for #ibm100