IBM’s Smarter Cities initiative leverages the fact that cities throughout the world have similar infrastructure problems, such as those related to transportation (for example, traffic congestion) and utilities (electricity, telecommunications, water, sanitation and energy). Mayors everywhere (as well as suppliers of services to cities) should be happy with IBM solutions’ instrumentation capabilities and their ability to use analytics to give insight for decision making and improved value.
IBM has targeted that 40% of its revenue will come from growth markets in 2015. That is very impressive. Note that this includes not only the pivotal “BRIC” (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) countries, but also other geographies. For example, IBM is targeting Africa. Although IBM has had a long-time presence in Africa, that tended to be limited to only several countries, including South Africa and Egypt. The complexity of the African continent poses quite a challenge, but IBM is used to dealing with complexity and thinking in terms of the many years necessary to make such investments pay off.
IBM recognizes that a local service presence and the use of local talent are essential. Since local talent is currently scarce, IBM recognizes (and is also acting by funding education programs) to develop the trained IT professionals who are needed. Surprisingly, but to its own benefit, IBM has found out that clients want the latest, fastest, and largest hardware. It is important to develop growth markets, as both the growth country and the countries outside that supply goods and services through companies like IBM stand to benefit. The world economy benefits in a win-win situation.
Although IBM’s Watson technologies have been spotlighted through play (i.e., the game show “Jeopardy”) as the demonstration of a solution to a Grand Challenge (i.e., moving computing far beyond the barriers with which it was traditionally associated), IBM is now concentrating on putting Watson to work in commercial environments. The initial focus is on information intensive businesses, such as healthcare, telecommunications and finance.
As IBM points out, Watson moves the computer from a calculator to a reasoning machine. Watson solved (in essence) the natural language problem, which includes the ability to “understand” difficult and complex questions expressed in English (a natural language) and then respond to them in the time that it would take a human to respond with an answer(s) that a human would find reasonable.