"IBM's grand plan to save the planet" (Fortune) discusses IBM's "Smarter planet" campaign to "tackle some of the most vexing dilemmas of our era." Apparently IBM is also making a lot of money doing it; seems that resolving vexing problems is more profitable than building PCs.
The article lists three examples of smarter planet projects:
- A traffic congestion management system in Stockholm
- A smart electric grid in Houston which can quickly isolate outages for repairs and meanwhile route around them (similar to Smart Gird City)
- A food distribution tracking network in Norway which can tell you farm a package of meat came from
What do these problem domains have in common? They can all be modeled a smart networks. A dumb network cannot measure its own effectiveness, whereas a smart network can measure its operating condition, report its status, diagnose problems, and repair itself. A smart network can be autonomic, which a dumb one cannot.
Why are smart networks such a big opportunity? Two industries that are the biggest, most successful users of computer software are the financial and insurance industries. This is because their products are virtual and so can easily be modeled and operated by computers. Another huge user of computers are telephony companies because their product, the phone network (as well as data networks) are, well, networks which can easily be modeled and operated by computers.
The big insight of smart networks is approaches for being able to model more phenomena in life as networks. By putting sensors in the network and tagging the items in the network so that they can be tracked (by sensing them), the network can be modeled; by embedding actuators with the sensors, the network can also be operated by computers.
And being in a business magazine, the article pointed out that IBM is making a fortune doing this.