AT&T and IBM team on Smart Cities with see-everything IoT tech

AT&T and IBM are teaming up for the Internet of Things (IoT) on a huge scale, planning to outfit smart cities with cameras, roads, utility meters, and more that can all intercommunicate as residents and cars move around them. The "global alliance" will see AT&T and IBM first look at gathering and crunching Big Data from cities and utilities, potentially integrating news of traffic jams, parking lot congestion, where police and other emergency services are located, and even social media reports from those living or working in the city to dynamically shape urban planning.

AT&T's part in the alliance will be on the connectivity side, outfitting each of the IoT-enabled devices with a modem and access to the carrier's network. Meanwhile, IBM will do the aggregating and analysis through its M2M Intelligent Operations Center and other products, in addition to making sure that communications between each of the IoT nodes are secure.

First on the cards are mass transit vehicles, utility meters, and video cameras the companies say. They'll be used to evaluate patterns of city use – such as where people and traffic typically congregate – so that resources like first responders can be shuffled accordingly, and urban planning carried out more responsively.

However, the ambitions go further than traffic lights and parking lots. IBM and AT&T also plan to integrate data culled from social networking, tracking how residents and visitors to cities comment about infrastructure, weather, and significant traffic conditions, and automatically factoring in that information into real-time planning. These "insights from crowdsourcing" will help organizations "to better listen, respond, and predict" IBM's Rick Qualman suggests.

IBM and AT&T plan to set up a number of IoT test sites around the US this year, to help prove the value of smart cities. The project isn't the only one underway, however; in late 2012, Toyota set up the Intelligent Transport System site in Japan, almost nine acres of replica roadways outfitted with sensors that can send safety and traffic reports to cars.

Although still only in the prototype stage, the system can inform drivers of hazards and congestion beyond their own line-of-sight, in addition to boosting fuel-efficiency by giving car systems advance notice on road conditions.