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September 17, 2012

IBM Analyzes Chatter on Social Channels to Prioritize Action Plans for Cities

By Cheryl Kaften, TMCnet Contributor

Armonk, New York-based IBM (News - Alert) has unveiled a sophisticated analytics platform to help city managers measure and understand public opinion on key issues and services, from electricity and water infrastructure to traffic to pollution. The new Social Sentiment Index capabilities—delivered via the IBM Intelligent Operations Center (IOC) for Smarter Cities—were introduced last week by the company at IBM Smarter Cities Forum in New Delhi, India.

With a wealth of online content and public commentary on social channels—such as Twitter and Facebook (News - Alert)—city officials need new ways to measure positive, neutral and negative opinions shared by citizens regarding important municipal issues.  The IOC – which combines IBM software and services to integrate city operations through a single dashboard view to help cities improve efficiency – has been augmented with social media analytics capabilities that will help city officials make more informed decisions by:

  • Looking at unfiltered public attitudes and actions
  • Distinguishing between sincerity and sarcasm
  • Even predicting trends as they surface online (see video). 

To demonstrate the potential of  the new platform, IBM revealed the findings of a recent  Social Sentiment Index on traffic, which looked at public attitudes across India’s largest cities— Bangalore, New Delhi and Mumbai. Analysis of publically available social media showed that the worst congestion is primarily caused by accidents and bad weather (three out of four times) when looking at the three cities together. It also indicated some interesting variations among the cities analyzed. For example, social conversation in Mumbai about stress around traffic is about half as high as Bangalore and New Delhi; references to the impact of rush hour on congestion in New Delhi are between five and seven times more negative than in Bangalore and Mumbai. 

Among the findings on India’s cities overall:

  • In 20 years, they will have to accommodate 250 million to 300 million more people than they do today. That’s the equivalent of 11 New Delhi’s.
  • Of the 4.1 billion people of the world who have no access to electricity, India accounts for over 300 million.
  • Only 74 percent of urban households in India are served by piped water supply. No Indian city has piped water 24/7; four to five hours of supply per day is the average.
  • Despite increased investment in infrastructure, an estimate US$1 trillion in improvements will be required to meet the country’s resources over the next five years.
  • By 2012, India is expected to become the world’s third-largest emitter of carbon dioxide (it only ranked fifth in 2005).
  • The number of private vehicles in India is expected to more than triple by 2021.
  • India has witnessed major urbanization in recent times, with an estimated 30 people leaving rural areas for areas for cities every minute during the next 20 years. At this rate, the country will need some 500 new cities within the next two decades.

“Like all rapidly growing cities across the world, there are infrastructure growing pains in many Indian cities,” said Guru Banavar, vice president and chief technology officer, Smarter Cities, IBM. “However, when city officials can factor public sentiment – positive, negative or otherwise -- around city services, they can more quickly pinpoint and prioritize areas that are top-of-mind for their citizens. This could mean more targeted investment, improving a particular city service, more effective communication about a service that is offered, and even surfacing best practices and successful efforts that could be applied to other zones of a city.” 

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO West 2012, taking place Oct. 2-5, in Austin, TX. Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO (News - Alert). Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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