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Next Best Action in a Smarter Planet: Think Global, Optimize Local

April 30, 2012

The planet is a huge place to optimize. Often, it's not clear, in a world divided among squabbling nations, where we should start.

People-centric lifestyles are paramount. You should begin by making your own corner of the planet more livable. As the world rapidly urbanizes, the demand for Smarter Cities will intensify. With population pressures, resource constraints, and aging infrastructures, urban areas will struggle to provide well-run environments where people might want to settle and businesses to invest.

But you can't govern massive, sprawling, dynamic urban areas solely by gut instinct. Among other key governance tools in Smarter Cities, you need dynamic scorecards of the key performance indicators of livability, encompassing transportation, energy, safety, security, power, water, food, waste, commerce, healthcare, education, and more. Just as critical, you need an urban fabric that continuously monitors, controls, and optimizes all of these interdependent infrastructures.

Clearly, big data is absolutely critical to governance of any large urban area, given the massive data volumes, the requirement for real-time optimization, and the myriad types of information associated with diverse applications. Analytics can provide the decision support infrastructure for optimizing management and operations across layers of urban infrastructure. By the same token, advanced analytics—leveraging statistics, mathematics, linguistics, and artificial intelligence—help urban planners, civil engineers, and operations personnel find the nonobvious patterns that help them build and run it all smoothly.

Next best action is the integration pattern for continuous optimization, leveraging advanced analytics and other sophisticated technologies. To the extent that we instrument our cities  with real-time sensor grids, automated feedback remediation loops, embedded decision automation, self-healing network-computing platforms, and other analytic- and rule-driven systems, we can build a continuously optimized urban grid. As metropolises merge into regional megapolises, we'll need to federate Smarter Cities using virtualization technologies that support cross-community integration of data, processes, and middleware. If we can embed network intelligence in the urban experience, it will contribute to a more scalable, efficient, livable experience for residents and visitors alike.

But rest assured that this need not be a technocratic vision of the future. If we federate the emerging global big data fabric well, each of us will be able to manage the optimizations relevant to our homes, our neighborhoods, our cities, and our workplaces. We'll also have the flexibility to interconnect as much or as little as we need to into the worldwide grid.

It's a utopian vision, yes, but not far-fetched. As we connect our communities into the Smarter Planet, the world will grow smarter and our individual lives more productive.

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