Soccer game

Smart cloud helps cities manage events, services

Large scale public events like South by Southwest or the Superbowl bring revenue to cities, but they require extraordinary collaboration among a variety of private- and public-sector organizations. And while city agencies produce streams of operational data that could be used to improve services required in hosting a major event, they’ve not had a way to easily translate that data into actionable information.

Now IBM and AT&T have teamed up to provide government managers a way to analyze and visualize this data using a cloud-based service called Event Management for Smart Cities. 

The solution leverages Internet of Things technologies and IBM Smarter Cities Software as a Service (SaaS) to help manage an event lifecycle. It was demonstrated at the  June 11 SmartAmerica Challenge in Washington, D.C., in which organizations demonstrated Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) technology, programs, and test beds that would improve safety, sustainability, efficiency, mobility, and overall quality of life.

The event management solution is part of IBM’s new Intelligent Operations open-cloud-based  software portfolio. Delivered in the IBM SmartCloud, the Intelligent Operations Center (IOC) helps users monitor citywide operations by collecting, visualizing and analyzing operational data from multiple sources to ensure safe and profitable public events.

In February, IBM and AT&T announced a partnership to develop solutions that help support the Internet of Things. The companies said they would combine their analytic platforms, cloud, and security technologies to gain more insights on data collected from machines and  planned to initially develop solutions for city governments and midsize utilities.

The application takes historical data and uses it for analysis to predict trends.  “We ask, ‘how would we adjust our resources based on how we saw them being used in the past?’” said Phil Fritz, who leads IBM’s Smarter Cities software-as-a-service offerings.

The city of Minneapolis started using the larger IOC last year to track more than 1,250 metrics citywide, according to Otto Doll, chief information officer for the city, in a blog post. For instance, Minneapolis city workers use IOC to track hotspots of criminal activity and search for root causes, spot flu outbreaks or uncover concentrations of vacant properties.

For events management, IOC connects to multiple data sources, including social media posts, city applications, sensors and third-party partners. AT&T provides network connectivity to devices such as IP cameras that can be pointed at different parts of a stadium.

The IOC can access those views and, using a dashboard showing analysis of the video data, alert stadium staff to a congested entrance or exit. That information can then be shared that with the public via apps or stadium signage.

When IOC collects such data sets, it includes location information, but sometimes supplemental information provided by cities is needed, Fritz said.

“In many cases some of the data isn’t available,” he said. “It may be published but not consumable – like a PDF report as opposed to a spreadsheet. That’s just a challenge of the industry as a whole.” To help ensure more machine-readable data, IOC is using more open data from cities, he added.

The IBM applications are scalable. Governments can use the services to communicate within a single department or across multiple organizations as long as they also are connected to the IOC. Customers using the SaaS option need only data and a browser to work it. Other technology prerequisites vary based on need. For transportation-related applications, for example, a method for moving data from radar loops to the computer are often necessary.

IOC apps can be role-based. A mayor would see an executive dashboard – a simplified version of high-level services with the status of a service highlighted in red, yellow and green. Engineers could see a map of the city peppered with various points representing  events, an instant messaging window, video feeds, or an event list to see what’s happening and how the city is preparing. Employees in the field could be receiving text or instant messages with their next work orders.

“There’s a variety of different views that are all security-controlled so that the right data gets presented to the right level,” Fritz said. “That way we orient the focus and attention to the data that they’re working on.”

About the Author

Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in northern Virginia.

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