IBM’s Software Analyst Connect event, Smarter Planet and sustainability

I attended IBM’s eighth annual Software Analyst Connect (#Connect09) last week in Connecticut. The theme of the event was “IBM Software for a Smarter Planet”.

You have to admire IBM for coming up with the Smart Planet branding strategy. Now anything Smart (Smart Cities, Smart Water even Smart Work) is automatically, subconsciously associated with IBM.

The Connect 09 event itself was superb. The delegates were all analysts and I was humbled to be in the company of so many really bright people.

It was a two day affair broken up into a healthy mix of keynotes, breakout sessions, round tables, an appliance showcase and chats with experts. The content level was very high and the networking opportunities were off the charts (I had face time with Steve Mills, Al Zollar, Sandy Carter and John Soyring (in the video above) to name-drop but a few).

The breakout sessions had titles like:

  • IBM’s Industry Frameworks and Solutions for a Smarter Planet
  • Driving Smarter Business Outcomes with Analytics and Information and
  • Smart Work and Dynamically Adaptive Collaboration

So while the content was quite in-depth and at times extremely technical, unfortunately there wasn’t a strong emphasis on sustainability. This is no big surprise as this was never billed as a sustainability-related event.

Having said that IBM’s larger Smarter Planet strategy talks very much to the Internet of Things vision where everything is instrumented with RFID tags or sensors and inter-connected which has massive potential implications for making the world more sustainable.

Then the talks from Steve Mills referenced IBM’s work with utilities in the Smart Grid arena and the development of the SAFE Framework while John Soyring talked up IBM’s work around the world on Smart Water initiatives.

The one use of the Smart X lingo which IBM use and I do object to is Smart Oilfields. The thinking goes that Smart Oilfields are ones that extract oil more efficiently from the ground. I’m sorry, but CO2 is a pollutant which is endangering all life on this planet. Anything which helps put more CO2 into the atmosphere, cannot be very smart.

It was spectacular to get a chance to record my chat with John Soyring about IBM’s work on water globally. Take 10 minutes to watch the video above. You’ll be glad you did.

Full disclosure, IBM is a client and paid my airfare (economy) to attend the event, accommodation and all delegates received a gift of a solar phone charger.


  1. says

    The point about oilfields is that they are likely to be around for a while yet – with all the best will in the world (which is lacking atm) we are still faced with a period of adjustment during which oil will play an important (if hopefully reducing) part. While we still have to suck it out of the earth, we might just as well be as smart as we can about it … while working on smarter ways to power our lifestyle!

  2. says

    No, I get that Ric. Really, I do.

    However, I still question branding anything as Smart which helps suck oil out of the ground more efficiently.

    The US has spent over $100bn a year in what some would argue is merely an attempt to secure oil resources in Iraq and Afghanistan with very little to show for the investment. Had that money (or even a fraction of it) been spent on research into renewables, Smart Oilfields might at this stage refer to the efficient shutting down of drilling operations!

  3. says

    USA != IBM … agree completely about (particularly) Iraq (Afghanistan may have other arguments, but Iraq was definitely about oil), and am not arguing against reducing our requirement for oil … but I think it’s a valid market for IBM, AS PART of a larger portfolio of opportunities

  4. says

    Glad to see you and James appear to have recovered from the flu.

    It may be semantics, but some of the initiative appear to be branded “Smart” and some “Smarter” – I think the oilfields should be “Smarter”, with the goal of reduction, while cities should be “Smarter” with the goal of leveraging analytics for risk and cost reduction (from food safety to police) and productivity improvement (education, transportation…). Not sure where I’d use “Smart”, which indicates to me that we’re closer to a goal than a problem statement.

    For example, I hate “Smart cars” – to me it is like trying to give a discipline – prematurely – credibility by appending “science” or “engineering”. (this from someone who taught “software engineering” long before it was an appropriate course name)


  5. says

    The point of Smart Oilfields is the long process to weaning ourselves off of fossil fuels. Although not at the event, I would be suprised if the Smart Grid conversations did not disclose that IBM is engaging in the process of helping cities plan for large scale interdependence, and sometimes (see babcock Ranch Example Bleow) net-positive environmental impact, including the use of Solar arrays to support whole cities. I see several are keeping this in context and that is great.

    For those who want to see how IBM is building smarter cities, to help wean us all off fossil fuel (in partnership with energy companies) see this keynote from Innovate on building the “worlds smartest city”

  6. Sudhir Kumar says

    I am keen to join IBM Safe City Connect or Smarter & Safer Initiative as I am an Integrated Security Consultant/Designer who can add value to these projects by designing solutions for keeping in mind the best management of civic agencies and monitoring of administration including policing with a back bone of C4I2.It will help safety & security to citizens and will help in minimising the impact of a disaster on a city or nation.Real time detection,survilliance and monitoring will help a quick emergency response.So please let me know how I can join IBM pls.My profile is there on Linkedin.