IBM Intelligent Operations Center

Providing insight, oversight, and smooth collaboration

In many areas these days, it seems we have to work smarter and do more with less. Smarter cities must leverage information, anticipate problems, and coordinate resources. Luckily, IBM Intelligent Operations Center provides a unified view of all city agencies so you can predict events and respond quickly. In this article, learn about Intelligent Operations Center's features and explore its benefits, such as: centralized intelligence about your enterprise; collaboration to efficiently resolve issues; reduced overall cost of maintenance and repairs; and preservation of critical services and resources.


Tony Carrato (, Technical Strategist, IBM  

CarratoTony Carrato is the chief product architect for Smarter Cities products in SWG Industry Solutions. He is responsible for architecture across the IBM Intelligent Operations Center, IBM Intelligent Transportation, and other products in the Smarter Cities portfolio. Previously, Tony was a lead architect on the SWG SOA Advanced Technology team. He has over 30 years of IT experience and has worked in North America, Asia, and Australia. Tony is an IBM Senior Certified IT Architect, an Open Group Certified Distinguished IT Architect, and a member of the IBM Academy of Technology.

Pam Nesbitt (, Technical Strategist, IBM

photo of P NesbittPam Nesbitt is senior technical staff member in Industry Solutions Software. In the last year she has focused on aligning IBM business and technical strategies, and enabling clients with IBM Smarter Cities solutions. Her previous activities include software development and solutions delivery to clients. Ms. Nesbitt has won several external and internal awards, has presented at numerous international conferences, and has published in several peer-reviewed journals. She is an IBM Master Inventor with 110 patents issued and pending with the USPTO. She holds a B.S. in Neurobiology from Cornell University and an MCIS from Cleveland State University.

Michael Kehoe (, Product Manager, IBM Kehoe, the product manager for Intelligent Operations Center in the Industry Solutions Smarter Cities portfolio, is in the Software Solutions Group. He also provides guidance to the other Smarter Cities product managers. Mike has a long history with IBM in the CIO organization and in manufacturing systems. He is trained as a control systems engineer and has an extensive background in business intelligence and analytics.

06 March 2012

Also available in Chinese


City leaders and executives are expected to provide environments that are, first and foremost, secure. A secure, desirable environment is a place where people want to live and work, with:

  • The potential for growth, jobs, and new business.
  • A robust and enriching lifestyle.
  • Healthful venues.
  • Green space for exercise, community, and collaboration.

Leaders often have to make an aged infrastructure work with today's demands. They need to simultaneously supply an adaptive, open architecture and platform for growth that can handle: requirements of legacy city systems, new business, and rapid expansion for the vitality of the enterprise.

IBM Intelligent Operations Center addresses these challenging issues by providing insight, management, and oversight capabilities for any enterprise. It allows the operation of a smarter city, or any similarly complex enterprise requiring collaboration among multiple entities, with oversight by only a few people. Intelligent Operations Center delivers a collaborative workspace and "at a glance" status, along with:

  • Event management.
  • Event to incident escalation.
  • Support for creating and executing standard operating procedures (SOPs).
  • Assessing and displaying key performance indicators (KPIs).
  • Adaptability and easy addition of more functions.

City leaders need to quickly ascertain the overall status of their city or enterprise. They need to be able to swiftly identify issues requiring attention. Leaders might also need information from multiple sources, such as publicly available websites, weather sources, or other feeds. Because Intelligent Operations Center can recognize events as they arise, having your SOP responses in place helps manage impacts with optimum efficiency.

A major benefit of Intelligent Operations Center is that it aggregates several information feeds and makes sense of them in the context of the person viewing them. Its dashboards support different facilities, as shown in the executive view Figure 1.

Figure 1. Intelligent Operations Center executive view
Intelligent Operations Center executive view

(View a larger version of Figure 1.)

High-level design

Intelligent Operations Center performs in the context of a collaborative workspace that has support for multiple roles with different levels of access. Its appearance varies depending on who you are. The role-based context, which is enormously powerful, is necessary because Intelligent Operations Center provides so many avenues to data discovery. Out of the wealth of information flowing through it, Intelligent Operations Center can customize and display information that the viewer needs, showing only the information necessary for their role. Intelligent Operations Center also includes analytics, reporting support, and the ability to export information to other systems.

IBM designed Intelligent Operations Center as an extensible platform that allows "snapping on" of additional functions from customer engagements, business partners, or other use cases that can add functions. Examples of snap-on products include IBM Intelligent Transportation, IBM Intelligent Building Management, and Smart Vision Suite for security management.

Intelligent Operations Center runs on 64 bit Red Hat Enterprise Linux® on Intel-based platforms, such as the IBM xSeries. The IBM Smarter Business Cloud – Enterprise also supports it.

Flexible displays

IBM has experience in making cities smarter and understands the importance of immediate and direct communication between key agencies. To provide communication capability, Intelligent Operations Center facilitates immediate interpersonal chat through a built-in and secure instant messaging system. Intelligent Operations Center also fosters a climate of real-time accountability through visible workflow enaction and status. With Intelligent Operations Center, you can:

  • Define SOPs.
  • Govern responses to incidents.
  • Streamline and simplify adherence to guidelines.
  • Implement process automation.

Figure 1 shows a "heat map" that displays the KPIs for the city. The flexibility in displaying KPIs highlights Intelligent Operations Center's value. A properly configured KPI dashboard will provide in one screen, at a glance, all the necessary information to gauge the health of an agency, utility, or city.

You can choose KPIs to measure nearly anything of importance to city leaders, from the number of traffic accidents this calendar quarter to the on-time performance of the public transportation system. Intelligent Operations Center receives metrics for KPIs and uses them to compute the actual KPI.

For example, for bus performance the metrics might indicate, for each bus, whether it is ahead of schedule, on time, or behind schedule. Once rolled up with all the other bus information, this might compute to a single metric that indicates whether, on average, the buses are on schedule. City bus administrators can rest easy if they see, at one glance, that the average bus arrival is green. This probably means that, on average, buses are arriving at approximately their scheduled times. If this KPI turns yellow or red, the administrator can determine the cause and act appropriately.

Due to the hierarchical nature of KPIs, you can uncover and act upon the underlying cause of the KPI change. Intelligent Operations Center provides the simplicity of an overarching and all-telling dashboard, and the necessary underlying detail to determine a cause and enact appropriate remediation.


A major facet of Intelligent Operations Center is its ability to consume event information. Events represent occurrences of important happenings across the management domain represented by Intelligent Operations Center. It presents events appropriately to the user based on their role. Executives might view events as rollups or KPIs. Operators might see events in a list or on a map, and may respond to them based on their displayed urgency.

Events usually have a point in time, a location, and a type. For example, a water main break at a particular street intersection would qualify as an event. Events can also be things that you expect to happen in the future. Future events are useful for coordination purposes. For instance, multiple city agencies might plan roadwork for the same section of a road. The Intelligent Operations Center can correlate the events and enable collaboration so the city tears up the road only once instead of multiple times.

Intelligent Operations Center receives an event or a metric for a KPI, in the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) format. CAP, a standard protocol developed by OASIS (see Resources), enables the Intelligent Operations Center to consume information about events in a city or enterprise. The CAP format is quite simple and useful, even though it entails a minimal amount of information. The sender includes only relevant information about the event's location, severity, and other important details. The relative commonality and extreme extensibility of the CAP protocol make it a useful choice for interchange with the Intelligent Operations Center. It is also simple to use Intelligent Operations Center's enterprise service bus to map non-CAP messages into CAP format.

Typical flow

After receiving the CAP alert, Intelligent Operations Center examines it and determines whether it is a KPI metric. If yes, Intelligent Operations Center forwards it to its KPI processing engine where it evaluates the metric and updates the appropriate visual representation of the KPI. If the message describes an event rather than a KPI, Intelligent Operations Center handles it differently by making an entry in the geospatial database and showing it on the map, which typically appears on the operator dashboard. Intelligent Operations Center also displays the event as a line item in the event list on the same dashboard, as in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Intelligent Operations Center showing events on map and in event list
Intelligent Operations Center showing events on the map and in the event list

After Intelligent Operations Center recognizes an event, it can choose several different actions to mediate or manage the event. Typically, a first action involves escalating the event to an incident. The operator might first consult SOPs and communicate with local teams through Intelligent Operations Center's collaboration tools. An incident is flagged as something requiring special attention and handling. After an event has been escalated to an incident, a workflow or other predefined series of actions will be kicked off in accordance with an SOP.

SOPs are predefined instructions for dealing with things that a city can anticipate and plan for. SOPs can be reduced programmatically to a series of steps and actions—some automated, and some requiring a human to make a decision. Intelligent Operations Center can describe SOPs in detail and initiate them as needed. SOPs streamline the process, and do not:

  • Skip steps.
  • Require manual look-up of information.
  • Circumvent the usual routes of approvals and necessary oversight.

Automating certain tasks, such as providing a phone number rather than prescribing the action "call hospital," makes the workflows that much more valuable. However, you should still respect the need for a human to make decisions at certain points in the flow.


The IBM Intelligent Operations Center provides a unified view of all city agencies so you can predict events and respond quickly. In this introductory article, you learned about the high-level design, flexible displays for different roles, events, and the typical flow when an event becomes an incident.



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