Almost Live from Mobile World Congress: IBM and AT&T Collaborate on Smart Cities

Kathryn Weldon
Kathryn Weldon

Summary Bullets:

  • Mobile World Congress is energized and energizing this year, with many announcements relating to enterprise mobility and M2M.
  • Among them was IBM and AT&T’s alliance to go to market together in specific verticals in M2M – initially, city governments and midsize utilities.

Municipalities and mid-size utilities are two vertical segments that are hard to “crack”. So-called “smart city” deployments include some really interesting use cases such as traffic management, public safety/surveillance, mass transit, utility and parking management, garbage collection, and venue/event management. In theory, cities could benefit greatly from technologies such as M2M that can bring about process improvement point solutions. They could also benefit from running analytics from collected and crowd-sourced data housed in a central database, for example to identify patterns that could improve city management, reduce costs and even generate revenues. While it sounds like there could be a solid ROI for these kinds of deployments, most municipalities in the U.S. and around the world are budget strapped. Many of the department heads that might benefit from this sort of knowledge are not tech savvy when it comes to deploying M2M and running meaningful analytics on collected data.

IBM and AT&T have announced an alliance to focus on these areas, bringing together an interesting mix of capabilities.  It sounds like IBM will do most of the heavy lifting, and stands to gain the most in revenues since the data analysis is based on its analytics and asset management software. IBM has, for example, launched its “Smarter Cities Challenge”. The program provided 100 cities worldwide with $50 million worth of IBM technology and consulting services, helping municipalities to identify, examine, and address a wide range of issues.

But AT&T also has a major role to play, which starts with its network, service delivery platform, and global SIMs. AT&T also has its Foundry facilities for M2M application prototyping and development. In theory, the types of M2M devices developed by AT&T and its solutions partners would be highly re-playable: AT&T could offer them to many municipalities, taking advantage of its considerable strength in sales and distribution. At an analyst breakfast held at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, IBM and AT&T also noted that M2M deployments often end up with unusual side benefits, i.e., they start by solving a single problem and then mushroom into addressing many others. AT&T and IBM both have some municipal and utility clients already for a variety of IT and network services and technologies, but in the U.S. they are stronger together than either would be by itself when it comes to improving city management with M2M. If this partnership works well, it may lead to future joint mobility opportunities between the two companies for other verticals.

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