IBM's startup guy: We're cracking new markets

Drew Clark expounds on IBM's prolific partnerships with vertical analytics startups -- and hints at new public cloud services from IBM

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So when we talk about Smarter Cities, we're really thinking about -- can we come into a city and help build a platform? And everybody would be on the same page and understand what's going on and there would be a lot more collaboration and flow among the agencies.

Knorr: That was the promise all the way back to the early Web services days.

Clark: Well, I think we're finally getting there. I don't want to oversell this, but we are starting to deliver lots of these IOCs to cities, and they love the idea it's not just a dashboard that's kind of hardwired, but it really opens up this kind of platform thing. Of course, we host a version of this on our cloud now -- I call it "city as service."

The idea that we can host this whole thing and provide connectivity across agencies and then it becomes a much more agile system as it wants to grow and expand. The other beauty of this is that there's another set of APIs, and that's for people. That's for people who live in the city because they should be able to get access to their government.

In so doing, we take another burden off the city, which is the citizens constantly demanding access to more services the city doesn't know how to provide, given the way they've traditionally built their city infrastructure.

We're trying to do this one city at a time. We think the city is the perfect unit of work for trying to do this because it's the nexus of a lot of these problems that you see. If you can make the city work, then you can start to say, OK, I have city A, and what about city B, and maybe city C, and now maybe I can interconnect those.

Knorr: And when you get down to the pothole level and people care about it. That helps sustain it.

Clark: Who doesn't want to be the mayor of a Smart City? The way this works is that we present this to the mayor. They typically love it. And their first reaction is -- well, I've got to go find a way to raise the money to go do this. So the mayor becomes the champion and the mayor wants to be the hero who built this thing. It's a very compelling proposition because he or she can go to the people who might fund this cause and say: "I want to build a Smart City, are you with me?" And nobody wants to say: "No, we want to keep it dumb. Everybody wants to have a Smart City."

Knorr: Do you think the sum of what you learn here will be able to be cycled back into enterprise?

Clark: I think it's an extension of the enterprise. I think it's the enterprise moving out to the network. This is all very much an enterprise play for IBM. It's enterprise moving to the edge.

Knorr: How does all this relate to mainstream trends?

Clark: You have mobile, social, localization, and cloud in this amazing confluence. And it's happened so quickly. A lot of observers have said that they've seen individual trends happen this fast, but they've never seen this kind of confluence of trends happening all at once. We have four things all converging at the same time.

Knorr: On the other hand, there's also an enormous pressure on it to create a private cloud, to become as efficient as Amazon or whomever.

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