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Our political leaders are not the only ones who have been handed a mandate for change. Leaders of businesses and institutions everywhere have a unique opportunity to transform the way the world works.
We find ourselves at this moment because the crisis in our financial markets has jolted us awake. We are seriously focused now on the nature and dangers of highly complex global systems. And this isn’t our first such jolt. Indeed, the first decade of the twentyfirst
century has been a series of wake-up calls with a singletheme: the reality of global integration.
The problems of global climate change and energy, global supply chains for food and medicine, new security concerns ranging from identity theft to terrorism — all issues of a hyperconnected world — have surfaced since the start of this decade.
The world continues to get “smaller” and “flatter.” But we see now that being connected isn’t enough. Fortunately, something else is happening that holds new potential: the planet is becoming smarter.
That is, intelligence is being infused into the way the world literally works — into the systems, processes and infrastructure that enable physical goods to be developed, manufactured, bought and sold.
That allow services to be delivered. That facilitate the movement of everything from money and oil to water and electrons. And that help billions of people work and live.
How is this possible?
First, the world is becoming instrumented. Imagine, if you can, a billion transistors for every human being. We’re almost there. Sensors are being embedded everywhere: in cars, appliances, cameras, roads, pipelines…even in medicine and livestock.
Second, our world is becoming interconnected. Soon, there will be two billion people on the Internet — but systems and objects can now “speak” to each other, as well. Think of a trillion connected and intelligent things, and the oceans of data they will produce.
Third, all of those instrumented and interconnected things are becoming intelligent. They are being linked to powerful new backend systems that can process all that data, and to advanced analytics capable of turning it into real insight, in real time.
With computational power now being put into things we wouldn’t recognize as computers, any person, any object, any process or service and any organization — large or small — can become digitally aware, connected and smart.
With so much technology and networking available at such low cost, what wouldn’t you enhance? What wouldn’t you connect? What information wouldn’t you mine for insight? What service wouldn’t you provide a customer, a citizen, a student or a patient?
The answer is, you will do all these things — because you can. But there is another reason. We all will because we must. Consider:
According to published reports, countries around the world are losing as much as 40% to 70% of their electrical energy because grid systems are not “smart.”
Congested roadways in the U.S. cost $78 billion in 4.2 billion lost work hours and 2.9 billion gallons of wasted gas annually— and that’s not counting the impact on air quality.
Inefficient supply chains cost $40 billion annually in lost productivity — more than 3% of total sales.
Our healthcare system really isn’t a “system.” It fails to link diagnoses, drug delivery, healthcare providers, insurers and patients — as costs spiral out of control, threatening
both individuals and institutions.
One in five people living today lacks safe drinking water.
And, of course, we’ve seen what’s developed in our financial markets, a system in which institutions could spread risk, but not track it.
Yet all of these things are solvable on a smarter planet.
Stockholm has used smart traffic systems to cut gridlock by 20%, reduce emissions by 12% and increase public transportation use dramatically.
Smart food systems are using RFID technology to trace meat and poultry from the farm through the supply chain to store shelves.
Smart healthcare systems can lower the cost of therapy by as much as 90%.
Smart systems are transforming energy grids, supply chains and water management, as well as helping confirm the authenticity of pharmaceuticals and the security of currency exchanges.
There is a tremendous mandate for positive change in the world. We have the resources to do this. In the coming weeks, you’ll be hearing more from IBM on the specific ways we can make our planet work better. Let’s build a smarter planet. Join us and see what others are thinking at

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