We've all seen IBM's 'Smarter Planet' ads, which leave no doubt that Big Blue is angling for a much stimulus money as it can get. Conveniently, IBM can lean on former CTO and current wise-man emeritus Irving Wladawsky-Berger, to take urban planning out of the realm of politics and into purely technological terms:
We have much to learn about cities: how to improve their operations by leveraging technology and engineering; how to best manage them day-in, day-out by using all the real time information at our disposal; and how to best plan for their future by viewing cities as systems of systems. The challenges are enormous, but so are the opportunities to now do something about them.In another post, he puts urban planning on the same plane as Enlightenment philosophy (not that I disagree, but it's a little tough to be lectured by a vendor, no matter how many patents it holds).
We are now trying to figure out how to best apply the latest technologies, scientific thinking and common-sense reason to improve the planet, its cities, and the overall quality of life for people everywhere.In other words, not only is urban planning a foregone conclusion but, by extension, what's good for IBM is good for America. Redmonk analyst James Governor puts this in more prosaic terms:
Smarter Planet is not about technology so much as organization and Big Systems thinking. IBM is co-investing with governments around the world in areas such as energy, healthcare, transport systems, water quality because they are set to be the century's biggest challenges. Big Challenges = Big Revenues.Big revenues indeed. And this brings me to a 'Better' Place, which wants to provide cities with grids to power electric cars. According to Governor (who can apparently read Hebrew), Better Place has picked supply chain management technology from SAP -- which is unsurprising given that its founder, Shai Agassi, is a former SAP executive â€" and hired IBM's services division to do the implementation.
This puts IBM in a great position to demonstrate expertise in this kind of infrastructure planning while repairing its ties with SAP. And while rival platform vendors like HP and Oracle haven't positioned themselves for these kinds of projects, IBM is trying to make the case that it should be seen as a good guy worthy of partnering with for the greater good.
It has the marketing spiel, but not necessarily the software, to manage huge infrastructure projects. SAP, which has long been rumored on IBM's shopping list, does have this expertise. As Governor notes, "there are any number of reasons why IBM might finally decide to pull the trigger and acquire SAP â€" but the kind of huge projects Better Place represents could be the best one yet."