IBM launches city government software platform

The IBM Intelligent Operations Center will offer a unified view of multiple back-end city government systems

IBM plans to launch a software framework that will help city and local government executives get a more complete view of how well their operations are running.

Such software may ultimately help governments save money and react to disasters more quickly, said Karen Parrish, IBM vice president of industry solutions.

The software, called IBM Intelligent Operations Center, will synthesize data from a wide variety of government IT systems, such as those that handle water systems, asset tracking, public transportation and traffic management. It will offer visually summarized views of the data being collected, using a number of business rules that IBM developed while building and maintaining individual government systems.

The software package will feature a series of dashboards, as well as data connectors for various back-end management systems. The software package is comprised of a number of different existing IBM programs, including the WebSphere application server and the DB2 database.

"We built an operations center that is able to take all those feeds in real time, massage the data, analyze that data and provide critical information to managers so they can make impactful decisions quickly," Parrish said.

While many infrastructure management programs provide their own views, the Intelligent Operations Center is designed to synthesize data from multiple systems, giving managers a larger view of operations.

IBM designed the software package to be modular. Different modules will be released over the next 12 to 18 months that will cover specific functionality, such as water management or public safety.

"Having an operations platform allows [governments] to pick the use cases that are most critical for them, when they need them," Parrish said. "We will build out each of these use cases as we see those patterns repeat themselves." No modules will be available at the time of the release.

To build the modules, the company will draw from 2,000 individual projects it has executed for cities such as New York, Memphis, Washington and Dubuque, Iowa. With this previous work, IBM noticed "patterns of commonality," in which multiple customers kept asking for similar capabilities, such as the ability to do centralized crowd management, or how to deal with road congestion, Parrish said. "We solve these problems all the time, we should be able to turn this into code," she said.

The company plans to offer the software, starting June 17, as part of a services contract, either from IBM itself, or from an IBM business partner.

Parrish would not reveal how much a typical implementation would cost, nor how long it would take to set up a typical deployment. She noted that while the software can be quickly connected to some widely used or standardized back-end systems, more customization will be needed to be done for in-house, legacy or more obscure systems.

Parrish also noted that while the initial version of the software package will run on premise, IBM may offer future editions in a hosted environment.

While most city governments are experiencing severe financial restraints these days, Parrish was confident they may invest in building operational centers nonetheless. It is the type of project that can be funded through U.S. federal government economic stimulus funding, she said.

In addition, the return-on-investment could save local governments money in the long run. Parrish noted how Alameda County, California, invested in a system to coordinate social services, which saved that government $25 million a year.

"The ROI on these things is pretty significant," she said.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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