What Makes a Smarter City? IBM Bets on 24 Winners

Smarter Cities Challenge

IBM announced the first batch of cities this week awarded grants as part of the company's three-year, $50 million Smarter Cities Challenge. The recipients--including New Orleans, Newark, Rio de Janeiro, and Jakarta--are diverse, to say the least. So how did they end up with IBM's attention, and what happens now?

IBM chose 24 recipients from more than 200 city applicants, all of which were vying for IBM's expertise in data analytics to tackle problems like crime, education, and budgeting.

The issues in the winning cities are as diverse as the cities themselves. In St. Louis, Mo., for example, IBM has already hit the ground running, with consultants and technology specialists using advanced data analytics to deal with the city's public safety and education problems. Data analytics are being used to "deploy public safety officers and to figure out which students are most at risk of dropping out, as well as social service needs," explains Stan Litow, IBM's Vice President of Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs and President of IBM's Foundation.

In Chengdu, China, IBM will home in on the local government's Wireless City initiative, and in Rio de Janeiro, the company will work on infrastructure, environmental, and economic challenges.

The company had a number of requirements for potential recipients: discrete sets of issues to deal with, an assurance that IBM would have full access to the city's data, a population of approximately 300,000 to 750,000 residents, and the equivalent of the top city official signing off on the proposal, among other things. Some (not-so-smart?) cities were knocked out of the running simply because they didn't have the mayor's signature on their application.

But overall, the process was competitive. "We were looking for cities where you could really make an impact," says Litow.

A team of six IBM employees will be deployed to each recipient city, including at least one technology specialist, one business and consulting expert, and one marketing and communications pro.

IBM will reveal the goals of other recipient cities in the coming weeks and months. And as for the cities that didn't make the cut this time around? Better luck next year (and, make sure to sign on the dotted line).

Follow Fast Company on Twitter. Ariel Schwartz can be reached by email.

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1 Comments

  • David Kaiser, PhD

    I'm disapointed that Chicago isn't on this list. We have been pretty progeressive around green initiatives, improving schools, reducing crime, etc, and there is a great high-tech community here (Groupon, anyone?) Maybe for version 2.0....

    David Kaiser, PhD
    Time Management Coach for Authentic Leaders
    www.DarkMatterConsulting.com