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April 06, 2009

Cities: The Next Big Thing

The Global Innovation Outlook’s six-month study of water is complete and already beginning to yield some new partnerships and exciting opportunities. But, like a shark, the GIO must continually move forward. So yet again the time has come for IBM’s Global Innovation Outlook to radically shift gears and begin the exploration of a new topic: Cities.

Civilizations have long been measured by the greatness of their cities; Alexandria, Rome, Constantinople, to name a few. For thousands of years our cities have brought together people of all social strata and businesses of every industry. They are the platforms upon which commerce gets done. And they represent the human capacity for culture, community, and progress.

The popularity of cities continues to grow today. By 2010, there will be 59 metropolitan areas with populations greater than five million. The number of inhabitants in urban environments is expected to swell to more than 6 billion by 2050, more than 60 percent of the world population.

Of course, more people means greater demand for energy, water, food, housing, and capital. It means that older cities will need to update critical infrastructure, and new cities will need to build adaptable, flexible systems to accommodate shifting demographics. In both the developed and developing world, cities are being rethought. 

So the GIO is embarking on this exploration with one goal in mind: to make the systems that facilitate life in the world’s cities smarter. There are many complex systems common to all cities, including transportation, utilities and sanitation, public safety, health care, commerce, education, and social services. Each one is in need of innovation and greater efficiency if we are to accommodate the urban masses in the years to come.

Needless to say this is a huge topic, with many moving parts. As a result, the GIO will be using a variety of methods to test theories and gather insight, including our usual deep dive brainstorming sessions, smaller roundtable discussions, phone interviews, and online surveys. In fact, you’re welcome to take the survey right now and add contribute your innovative thoughts on how we can make our cities smarter.

Check back frequently to see how our study is progressing. And never stop thinking about how we can build smarter cities.



April 6, 2009 | Permalink

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