IBM creates Guadalajara Smarter Cities center in search of social solutions

Friday, December 16, 2011

IBM's (NYSE: IBM) Smarter Cities Exploration Center, created in partnership with Universidad de Guadalajara in Mexico, will look to develop high social and economic impact solutions for Latin America, representatives from both entities told BNamericas.

The center is said to be the first of its kind in Latin America, and is tasked with the mission of designing solutions to tackle infrastructure challenges faced by Guadalajara and other cities around the world.

Joint work between IBM and Universidad de Guadalajara will focus on research and sharing knowledge through the exchange of intellectual property among researchers. IBM's data analytics, supercomputing and cloud computing capabilities will be used to drive development of new pilots and solutions.

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The center has already started developing a transportation pilot that could reduce commuting time in the city by 15%, representing some US$90mn in savings a year by enabling citizens to use their time more productively and promoting energy efficiencies.

"This project will bring significant savings in terms of productivity, a reduction in traffic, less pollution in the city and, at the end of the day, less stressed citizens, because commuting is a real headache in big cities," said Manuel Ávalos, the center's leader in Guadalajara.

This pilot - the first in a series of initiatives - will provide real-time analysis and forecasting of traffic behavior for 1.7mn vehicles in Guadalajara, enabled by supercomputing technology, analytics and web services connected to mobile devices feeding updates to users. The objective is to increase the efficiency of commuting alternatives.

"Our challenge is to reduce commuting time by 15%," said Víctor Manuel Larios, coordinator of the IT PhD program at Universidad de Guadalajara.

Traffic solutions also affect other areas, such as health, security and the resources available in a city, and "that's why we decided to start with traffic," Larios said.

In addition, mobile and smartphone use in the population provides the initiative with a great platform for crowdsourcing, as people can also participate by providing information.

"There is a strong government interest here to focus on health, improving services and security, but we still have to see what the priorities are. There is nothing concrete yet, but something for the health sector is the most likely," Ávalos said.

According to Larios, the transportation project will serve as the basis for subsequent stages in building a smart city, including issues such as health, social services, security and education.