[LINK] IBM MD on a smarter economy

David Lochrin dlochrin at d2.net.au
Thu Jun 11 11:10:35 EST 2009

On Wednesday 10 June 2009 13:03, Tom Worthington wrote:
> IBM has a "Smarter Planet" initiative, with at its core the idea that 
> with more information smarter decisions can be made: 
> <http://www-07.ibm.com/innovation/au/smarterplanet/>.
> I would argue that better information is needed, not more, but IBM is 
> generally on the right track. Many of the examples Glen gave about 
> using information for traffic congestion, electricity and water use 
> require very small amounts of information and do not require 
> broadband systems. Many of the examples would work well with a low 
> bandwidth ubiquitous wireless network.

However there's always a tradeoff, as Karl Marx pointed out back in the 19th century.

More use of IT&C for finer management of infrastructure involves more complexity, resulting in greater efficiency when everything is working correctly but bigger problems when failures occur (i.e. greater vulnerability).

I'm reminded of a story from long ago involving a large city in Canada where the City Fathers decided to use a Univac mainframe to control the traffic signals in the CBD.

All traffic lights & sensors in the CBD were connected to a Univac (1108 ?) computer at the control centre.  It was quite comprehensive; for example the operators could smoothly re-program traffic flows to allow a snow plough to clear a given thoroughfare at a given time.  The system was duly opened and everything worked beautifully.  Congestion disappeared, but slowly built up again as more people took advantage of the road system.

Then one day the single mainframe broke down.  By this time congestion was back to where it had been, but far more traffic was using the system and the old procedures had fallen into disuse.  The result was chaos which took days to sort out.


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