Big Blue gives metros smart edge

Written by Diksha Dutta | Diksha Dutta | Updated: Sep 24 2012, 07:17am hrs
Back in 2010, American tech major IBM was declared the largest private sector employer after Tata Consultancy Services in India. Big Blue is also the largest player in the domestic IT market; it aggressively competes with homegrown tech companies like TCS, Wipro and Infosys for government projects and has managed to corner a substantial share of the government pie. So this was the perfect scenario for a tech behemoth like IBM to venture into what they call smarter cities. It brought the smarter planet concept to India in 2010 and today, it has over 20 projects under IBM smarter cities initiatives. To name a few cities among them are Delhi, Pune and Bangalore. IBM India is also working with Konkan Railways, Jet Airways, Wave City and DLF in the country.

At present, the focus is primarily on Indias metros, says Sandesh Bhat, vice-president, India Software Lab, IBM India. The larger cities in India are in an urgent need for better management. We identified all the pain points in metro cities like traffic congestion, water supply management etc. And today we have thousands of engineers in five cities in India that are spread in our different labs. Out of them, 400 of our engineers are dedicated to solving the problems in cities, he adds.

What are smarter cities and what are the problems that IBM is solving Dhamodaran Ramakrishnan, director, Smarter Planet Solutions, IBM India/South, explains: IBM is seeing good traction for its solutions in areas like traffic management, water management, crisis and disaster management. IBM India is also running pilots in some cities where it is trying to ease traffic congestion.

Bhat reveals that IBM has pilot projects in two major metros to identify different traffic control methods. He explains what the company did, We took a 5 km road as a case study and we realised that 2000 litres of fuel can be saved everyday by using our solutions. We can achieve this by maneuvering the traffic better. Even 10% of the commuting time can be saved for individuals. IBM implemented this pilot project last year in India.

IBM also conducted a survey through data available on social media to analyse traffic in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. The analysis of data from publicly available social media showed the worst traffic congestion is primarily caused by accidents and bad weather in the three cities together. Globally IBM uses GPS systems in cities like Stockholm and Singapore to track traffic congestion. In India, we are trying to track a traffic jam by collocating mobile phone density. We will implement it elsewhere in the world if it is successful here, adds Dhamodaran.

If traffic is one of the major concerns in metros, another is the insanity in airports when everybody is rushing to catch a flight. We all travel a lot, staying in metros and thus IBM realised that there needs to be better management in the airports. After all, so many times we catch a flight just on time, Bhat laughs.

Getting back to what IBM has already done to make airports smart: Delhi International Airport (P) Ltd (DIAL) partnered with IBM India to establish a common-use infrastructure in New Delhis passenger terminal building (T3) that automates its operations and improves customer satisfaction, while giving the airport a competitive edge through quality service in the fast growing growing Indian aviation market.

IBM has also helped Jet Airways go green. It completed the carbon mapping project for Jet Airways by using advanced analytics to accurately calculate and report aircraft emissions, enabling rapid decision-making for purchasing carbon credits and allowances, avoiding penalties and even grounding through compliance with new European Union regulations.

The Bharti-IBM deal was a landmark in the domestic IT market and Dhamodaran says that even by this deal, IBM is helping in making cities smarter. The telecom tower companies are the second largest users of diesel in India. Bharti Infratel, Airtels tower arm runs about 33,000 out of 4,00,000 towers in India. We monitor diesel usage in these towers and also send out a real-time alert when any tower goes down. IBM does the asset management in real-time for Bharti Airtel in India, which in turn, improves energy efficiency, and makes our cities more sustainable and green.

Bhat reveals that there is enough data that is available and needs to be utilised and that is what IBM is doing. IBM has led over 2,500 projects with cities globally. It can now monitor, measure and manage nearly any physical system at work in these cities. We have the ability to collect and analyse real-time information on everything from transportation networks to hospitals to the electricity grid, feels Dhamodaran.

Real estate is another booming sector in the metros and IBM is focusing on it too. Real estate developer DLF along with IBM India deployed a digital videos surveillance solution that integrates multiple security subsystems to monitor in real-time, potential threats. If a possible event is detected, the system will automatically alert security personnel and tag corresponding video data for easy reference. This helps improve overall security and cut reaction time to potential threats.

As the cities get smarter with IBM, there will be more to watch once the 20 projects, including pilot models get actually running in India.