IBM threw a big event in New York City on Thursday, October 1, and Friday, October 2, to publicize its Smarter Cities initiative, part of its Smarter Planet marketing message. The event featured an impressive list of politicians (Mayor Bloomberg, NY Governor Patterson, governors from Vermont and North Carolina) and CEOs (CEOs from ABB, Verizon, American Electric Power, etc.). I was part of the crowd of hundreds of attendees and IBMers on Friday, and my colleague Doug Washburn attended on Thursday.
It would be easy to dismiss this as part of hype machinery that IBM is running to build awareness of and create customers for its Smarter Planet initiative and the emerging offerings that it is creating under that rubric. But I think there is more going on here. What IBM is really doing is creating a vision - or more precisely, half a dozen visions - of how a new generation of technology can help address some critical challenges facing the planet. Visions of course can easily become hype. But as several speakers noted, visions are also a necessary first step in any transformation process, building awareness of what can be different at the end that will inspire people to start the journey. And IBM to its credit put concrete examples behind the proposals.
Here is what IBM is doing right:
Focusing on key social and economic problems facing many countries around the world. Cities and national governments face challenges of providing healthcare more efficiently, improving the quality and delivery of education, managing greater and greater volumes of people travel and goods transportation, providing public safety and security in the face of increased threats of terrorism and persistence of crime, and encouraging energy conservation and alternative energies to counter global warming. These are the problems that IBM's Smarter Cities initiative focused on.