James Governor's Monkchips

IBM Joins Obama’s Coalition for a Smart Planet: Change!

Share via Twitter Share via Facebook Share via Linkedin Share via Reddit

A few days ago Sandy Carter, IBM Software Group’s hard-charging, always on, marketing supremo and good friend pinged me to talk about the company’s latest Big Idea – the Smart Planet. Well CEO Sam Palmisano kicked it off this morning, with a speech at the Council of Foreign Relations.

Andy Piper explains the core idea really well here:

Sam talks about how the world has become instrumented, more interconnected, and devices more intelligent. And he talks about how the current world crises – ecological, financial, and others – represent an opportunity for change. The next step for the globally integrated economy is a globally integrated and intelligent economy and society.

You should read Luis too, with his roundup of links to IBMers blogging on the initiative. Cool. Sometimes IBM’s obsessive desire to work on the toughest problems seems wrong-headed, and leads to complexity. But this time around I feel things could be different. Why? Because IBM is choosing to work on exactly the right problems- that problems that Obama has also pledged to make his own. The kind of problems that Greenmonk is trying to help tackle. The kind of problems that involve eating your broccoli (thanks again vendorprisey).

That’s right – i am not sure IBM realised it when it set out on this Smart Planet mission but it has clearly captured the Zeitgeist better than any other company in the world right now. Its surprising that Steve Lohr’s New York Times piece didn’t make the Obama connection (at least not explicitly).

I.B.M.’s chief executive, Samuel J. Palmisano, is proposing a technology-fueled economic recovery plan that calls for public and private investment in more efficient systems for utility grids, traffic management, food distribution, water conservation and health care.

So let’s look at Obama’s agenda on the AWESOME change.gov site.

Revitalizing the Economy

Ending the War in Iraq

Providing Health Care for All

Protecting America

Renewing American Global Leadership

While IBM isn’t talking about American hegemony, or the Iraq situation – its clearly focusing on the other three areas. The language might as well come from Obama’s speeches, right down to the call for change.

People want change

There are two things recent events have shown us these past weeks: how small and interconnected our world is. And that change is unavoidable.

Once our economies have stabilized, we will need to heed the call for change and address the systemic inefficiencies in our world’s infrastructures—the processes that underpin the way billions of people work and live—and make our planet smarter.


How ineffective our power grids are: 67% of energy is lost due to inefficiencies.

How sick our healthcare system is: costs have pushed nearly 100 million people below the poverty line.

How dirty our water is: one in five people do not have access to drinkable water.

How wasteful our food chains are: U.S. consumers throw away $48 billion worth of food a year.

Healthcare, Energy, Trying to Revitalise the economy. Surely its no accident that Palmisano evoked Franklin Delano Roosevelt, as does Obama.

In an interview, Mr. Palmisano compared today’s economic challenge, in broad strokes, with that faced by the United States as it struggled to emerge from the Depression or after World War II. In the 1930s, he said, the New Deal programs, among other things, brought electrical service to much of country — not only to rural homes, but also to factories, which no longer needed to build their own power plants, as many had previously.

After World War II, Mr. Palmisano said, the government’s construction of a national highway system helped create larger markets for goods.

“We’re at a similar stage now in that these are difficult economic times,” he said. “The right way through it is not to hunker down, but to step up and invest and improve our competitiveness.”

We need to invest to save the planet. Its a time for Heroes (more Zeitgeist surfing).

When Greenmonk first started talking to Smart Grids we looked like outliers. Now our ideas are mainstream. Google and IBM are now strongly behind the idea.

Obama should give Mr Palmisano a call. We just voted for change. We are hopefully leaving some of the idiocy behind us. We voted for a smart planet. IBM is going to help deliver it.

One of the points I make in my sustainability stump pitch is that, paraphrasing Michele Obama,

“For the first time in my adult life I am truly proud to be in the IT industry.”

IBM likes to avoid talking politics, but the subtext is clear. The company is ready to help Obama with a massive program of renewal. The spirit of FDR is with us. The challenges have never been greater.

Go Obama. Go IBM.

disclosure: I voted for change. IBM is a client. Sandy is a friend.

my flight was just called. See you on the flipside.


  1. That’s great news indeed. Seems like everyone is jumping on this bandwagon, including General Electric and Google:

  2. James … Your statements are very powerful and on target as usually!

    However, don’t give me all the credit James. John Kennedy is my partner in crime and has done an incredible job in driving this forward….and of course, our visionary, Jon Iwata.

    What does everyone think about the concept?


  3. Concepts are concepts. And then there is action. I’d love to help with some concrete action, BTW. Where do I sign up?

  4. […] with real time, and presumably tied to their Smart Planet initiative, telemetry was a key theme of not just the IBMers at the show, but the customers and partners I […]

  5. do you work for IBM?

  6. hey g the disclosure is above. IBM is a major client- so yes in a sense i do work for IBM. but not directly.

  7. […] My buddies Adam and George are spending our time at work producing media for our “building a smarter planet” blog.  I’ll be re-posting some here…. starting with an inspiration from James Governor’s thoughts: IBM Joins Obama’s Coalition for a Smart Planet: Change! […]

  8. […] , web 2.0 Tags: dean kamen, IBM, innovation, smarter planet, smarterplanet I was just reading James Governor’s post on Monkchips about a Smarter Planet, which is an initiative IBM ((full disclosure – I  work for them) has been sharing recently about […]

  9. […] am on the record approving of IBM’s Smarter Planet strategies. But Its important to avoid spin at times like this. Mr Palmisano – on that front you have recently […]

  10. […] color me hopeful. In James Governor’s post,  IBM Joins Obama’s Coalition for a Smart Planet: Change!, he writes:  “…IBM is choosing to work on exactly the right problems- the problems that […]

  11. […] package, so IBM’s timing couldn’t really be better. I have written at length about alignment between IBM and Obama’s agendas. For obvious reasons Greenmonk is pretty fired up about this stuff, but given Jeff lives in Austin […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *