What Is A City, Let Alone A "Smart" One?

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

While I started my previous blog post with the observation that KACST was not a “city,” Caroline Spicer, Strategy and Market Development Leader for IBM Global Business Services, made the point later in the day that there is not “a city” but many models of cities depending on future vision. There are a couple of points to draw out here. There is not one model of a smart city.  Cities can focus on particular initiatives based on their leaders’ (and their constituents’) priorities and vision for the future of the city. As Caroline pointed out these might be:

  • The well-planned city – focused on urban design and development
  • The healthy and safe city – focused on health
  • The sustainable eco-city – focused on the environment
  • The city of innovation – focused on science and technology, the knowledge base
  • The city of commerce – focused on trade and retail
  • The cultural or convention hub – focused on tourism
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30 Hours In Saudi Arabia: How "Smart" Is That?

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

Very smart, I say.

Here I sit finally getting a chance to reflect on my 30 hours in Saudi Arabia. Yes, just a little more than one day. But one day was enough to change any preconception that I might have had, and spark my interest to learn more. My “day” started with the VIP treatment through passport control – which I must say was much appreciated.  The airport in Riyadh is certainly not Dubai International – far from it. But if there were any disappointment at the inauspicious first impression, it stopped there. Although to set the stage, I was invited to Saudi Arabia by IBM to participate in an analyst event showcasing “Smarter Cities” initiatives in the Kingdom. So admittedly, I was only presented the “smart” side of Riyadh. I am eager to see more.

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Building B2B Markets: One Entrepreneur at a Time

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

Last December I wrote about Building B2B Technology Markets, looking at how to penetrate a market with almost none of the traditional characteristics of a mature technology market? As technology vendors increasingly look to emerging markets as a significant opportunity and source of growth, this question becomes more pressing.  The report explored some of the elements of Cisco’s Country Transformation initiatives in order to identify steps in the process of building market infrastructure:

For example, the report looked at partnering with governments to encourage market-friendly policies and investment in the necessary technology infrastructure to support market development and overall economic growth.  And, from a sales perspective, trade associations provided an alternative channel to reach small and medium businesses in markets where distributors and resellers weren't available.  

But, another element critical to successful market development is the ecosystem of partners developing solutions specific to the particular market, or even just contributing local innovation for new approaches to broader global issues.   Building B2B Technology Markets discussed finding local organizations to act as partners in the market, and even investing in educational initiatives, but missed the next step of how to help create these new local ecosystem partners. 

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Upside-down is right-side up for Telefónica: Latin America shows growth and opportunity

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

The word for “crisis” in Chinese apparently comes from two roots meaning “risk” and “opportunity” – there is both a downside, and the potential for an upside.  That’s how César Alierta, Telefónica Chairman and CEO, began the opening keynote of their 2010 Leadership Conference in Miami (where I spent several days last week).  For Telefónica, that definition has played out with the global economic crisis.  While results in Spain have been their downside, Latin America has been the opportunity.  Telefónica has a presence in 15 countries in Latin America (and 42 countries worldwide), with offerings in mobile and fixed telephony and in IT services.  Not all offerings are available in all markets but in many countries Telefónica has leveraged a strong position in one offering to expand into the others becoming the first integrated operator in the region. 

According to José Maria Pallete, CEO of Telefónica Latinoamérica, Latin America represents 65-70% of their total customer base, 40% of revenues and about 40% of the operating income. In the enterprise space (as opposed to consumer services), 37% of Telefónica revenue comes from Latin America.  That corporate segment (including public sector) marked double digit growth in Latin America in 2009, with its biggest markets in Brazil and Mexico. 

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A Tale of Two Cities: Two Approaches to Making Cities Smarter, Part III

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

This post is the third in a three part series on Smart Cities. Best to start with Part I.

Two Approaches to Making Smart Cities

As with most things in life, there are a number of ways to approach smart cities. One way is to start from the ground up. A new city is born - a clean slate - to be made smart with the necessary infrastructure for its connected systems to communicate and collaborate to create an efficiently running city. A recent article in Fast Company, highlighted a number of smart cities projects that essentially started from the ground up - or, in one case, from the mud flats up. The most widely written about start-up city is Songdo. The concept was launched as a vision of the South Korean government and eventually, through the work of a real-estate developer and Cisco as the IT infrastructure provider, has become a reality - although the city is not expected to be complete until 2015. Songdo and other start-up cities have become one answer to the nagging concern about increasing urbanization.

Reconciling the rapid urbanization in China with the observation of one World Bank official that "Cities are expensive to retrofit and modify once they are built," start-up cities just might be one answer to China's urban needs.

China's "start-up" smart city: Meixi Lake

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A Tale of Two Cities: Two Approaches to Making Cities Smarter, Part II

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

This is the second in a three part series on Smart Cities. Best to start with Part I.

Urbanization in China Sets the Stage by Defining the Need

According to the World Bank, China's urban population was 191 million in 1980. By 2007, it was 594 million, excluding migrants. About half of China's population now lives in cities, and that trend looks likely to continue particularly as the government relaxes restrictions on internal movement institutionalized in the strict hukou system of residential registration.

And, bigger cities face bigger challenges to meet the needs of their burgeoning populations:

  • Infrastructure and jobs. Between now and 2025, it's likely that another 200 to 250 million people will migrate to China's cities, adding to an existing mobile or migrant population of about 155 million. Providing infrastructure - housing, roads, hospitals etc. - and jobs for this anticipated inflow of people poses major challenges. With new changes to the hukou system, this migration into cities could be even greater.
  • Energy. Urban residents use 3.6 times as much energy as rural residents; suggesting that energy use is far from its peak. In China, energy intensity (consumption of energy per unit of GDP) is 7 times that of Japan and 3.5 times that of the United States, and over 70% of electricity use is coal-produced.
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A Tale of Two Cities: Two Approaches to Making Cities Smarter, Part I

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

This is actually not a tale of two specific cities but of two types of cities, or “smart cities” as the new moniker goes. It will appear in three parts.

Defining Smart Cities 

“Smart” has become the adjective of choice among tech vendors to describe solutions that capture, synthesize and analyze the vast amounts of data being produced by computing and networking systems. Forrester defines Smart Computing as: 

a new generation of integrated hardware, software, and network technologies that provide IT systems with real-time awareness of the real world and advanced analytics to help people make more intelligent decisions about alternatives and actions that will optimize business processes and business balance sheet results. 

What does that mean in layman’s terms?  Every system can be smarter if it can learn from and act on the data it produces. 

A city is a “system of systems” making the potential for efficiency exponential as all of its systems interact.  Therefore, a smart city is:

A city that uses technology to transform its core systems – city administration, education, healthcare, transportation, public safety, real estate, utilities and business — enabling them to capture, analyze and act on the data they produce.

As a result, a smart city’s systems can optimize the use of and return from largely finite resources.  It can, in other words, “do more with less.” Using resources in this smarter way also boosts innovation, a key factor underpinning competitiveness and economic growth.

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China's National People's Congress: A Nod to Bigger Cities. Let's Hope for Smarter, Too!

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

On Friday March 5th, the National People’s Congress (NPC) – China’s equivalent of Congress or Parliament – held the opening meeting of its annual full session.  At a high level, the agenda of the session will focus on succession planning for government and Communist Party leaders, the stimulus exit strategy and economic initiatives for the coming year.  In this, there is much to interest tech vendors.

In one of the opening speeches, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao presented his work report which summarized some major economic indicators for 2009 and provided a broad outline for the 2010 plans. Technology appeared center stage throughout much of the speech, and the word "innovation” was peppered throughout.

Premier Wen presented the economic highlights of 2009:

  • China's GDP reached 33.5 trillion yuan, up 8.7% from a year earlier.
  • Fiscal revenue was 6.85 trillion yuan, up 11.7% year on year. 
  • A total of 11.02 million job opportunities were created for urban residents.
  • The per capita disposable income of urban residents was 17,175 yuan, up 9.8% in real terms, while the net per capita income of rural residents was 5,153 yuan, rising 8.5% in real terms.
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IBM’s Growth Markets grow…and get smarter.

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

IBM_smarterplanet A couple of weeks ago IBM announced its 4th Quarter and Full-Year 2009 results.  Their Growth Markets Business Unit which includes 140 of the 170 countries that IBM operates in – grew 14% in Q4 compared to 3% decreases in the Americas.  For the quarter, Growth Markets represented 20% of IBM’s revenue.  For the year, Growth Markets were 19%, up just slightly from 18% of total IBM revenue in 2008.  The signs are clear: Growth Markets are growing, even as other markets fell.  Much of the success in Growth Markets has come from “Smarter Planet” solutions which are gaining traction among governments, utilities and private sectors.

NOTE: IBM’s growth markets are those that show increased potential for them.  They do not equate to emerging markets according to the financial world’s and economic discipline’s definition.  But, there is much overlap.

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