Last week I attended IBM’s Smarter Cities event in NY. This invitation-only event was the second in a series of high-level gatherings that IBM organized to emphasize the importance of data and analytics in addressing big problems such as healthcare, energy and transportation. The first such event was held last June in Berlin.
IBM is focusing on analytics these days. Selecting “smarter cities” as a topic for
these meetings is interesting. IBM is
very good at complex system thinking. By
focusing at the city level, IBM attempts to apply their system thinking and
problem-solving prowess at an interesting set of issues where analytics can
move the needle. IBM views cities as
settings that are complex yet manageable.
The company is also very good at bringing together individuals who can
make an impact. Attending the NY event
were four state governors and lieutenant governors, several city mayors,
including the mayor of New York
Not only because of the diversity of the event’s attendees
but this was one of the first genuine cross industry and cross border demonstrations
of appreciation in the importance of data for decision-making. In speeches and hallway conversations
attendees talked about how our existence in an increasingly instrumented,
interconnected and intelligent world will require advances in data storage,
management and analysis. Interesting
example mentioned in one talk: the new bridge on I35 in Minneapolis
It’s not about collecting data but about effectively using
data to create results. NY Mayor Bloomberg gave a couple of examples on new
crime analysis systems being used in the city and the contributions they are
making as well as his initiatives to make more of the city’s data available
over the web. Dr. Denis Cortese, Mayo
Clinic’s CEO, talked about his clinic’s efforts to analyze customer data to
identify the best value a patient can get while receiving the best care. One of his points I particularly liked was
“don’t take pride on analysis but work on being rewarded for outcomes.” Dr.
José Armando Ahued Ortega, Mexico
The speeches I listened and the conversations I participated, once again reinforced my conviction that we can’t continue operating under the prevailing paradigm of “store data first and analyze it later,” even if the physical storage costs go to $0. We are collecting so much data that in most cases we don’t have time to catalog it properly so that we can decide how and where to store it. As a result, we lose track of the data we collect before we even have the opportunity to analyze it and benefit from it. But, even if we could convince ourselves that we will analyze the data at a later time, because of the amount of data we collect, the cost of managing the data we store is starting to become prohibitive (energy costs, data administration costs, data maintenance costs). Since collection is cheap, and becoming cheaper, we need to start making real time decisions on what to keep and what to throw away, where to keep it, and when and how to analyze it. While I’ll continue looking for investments in companies that deal with data analysis (more on that in another post), I came out of IBM’s event more bullish than ever about companies that address data classification.
Interestingly enough while the Smarter Cities event was
going on Columbus Circle
Videos of the Smarter Cities presentations can be found here.