Pulse 2012: The Shift Toward Smarter Infrastructure

By | Mar 13, 2012

Pulse 2012 is officially underway, and the four central focuses of the conference can provide some powerful insights into the short-term future of IT. While the cloud, mobility, and data security may already be on most IT managers' radar, the concepts behind a smarter physical infrastructure and the benefits that can derived from those concepts may not be so obvious. However, a better understanding of what a smarter infrastructure can do will not only provide immediate tangible benefits to midsized businesses, but will better prepare those businesses for the future of technology.

Pulse 2012 Keynote

The keynote speech (which you can see on this IBM website) for the smarter physical infrastructure aspect of the conference, was delivered by George Ahn, IBM's VP of Enterprise Asset Management, along with a few additional guest speakers. The speeches focused on how emerging systems make it easier to manage assets by taking advantage of progress in the fields of mobility, cloud computing, and especially big data analytics.

Ahn discussed how business leaders consistently want a better return on assets, which leaves IT and infrastructure managers looking for ways to improve efficiency. By implementing smarter systems that can provide real-time intelligence on everything from energy grids to assembly lines to employee movement, businesses will get an end-to-end view of their infrastructure and have the ability to react quickly to changing conditions. By then adding a layer of robust analytics on top of the infrastructure, businesses will have a much better chance of prescribing the outcome they want in future endeavors.

Ahn noted a number of companies that were already seeing benefits from smarter systems, including Portland General Electric, Honda, Ford, AIG, and even the Smithsonian.

Perhaps the most poignant section of the presentation was when Rick Nicholson, an industry analyst at IDC Energy Insights, sought to define just what made these systems smarter. He noted that smart systems use intelligent devices, pervasive broadband networks, and a combination of big data, social media, and the cloud to provide actionable intelligence that will help reduce costs, improve service levels, and enhance the decision-making process.

Smarter Physical Infrastructure and the Future

While the concepts behind a smarter infrastructure will make sense to businesses that have a large physical component, like manufacturers or utilities, the reality is that these kind of innovations can help almost any business. Any company that has to manage their own real estate can see huge gains in a return on assets by adopting a smarter solution, even if they only manage a small number of buildings.

Take Paris' Louvre Museum, which is in a decidedly low-tech business, but still managed to see a better return on assets through a modern asset-management solution. As noted in this IT Pro article, the museum used their new system to better manage the 65,000 repair and maintenance jobs it had each year and to better predict and proactively plan for future jobs.

For businesses that have little physical infrastructure to manage, there is still something to take away from the shift toward smarter systems. Analytics, often referred to as big data, provides the final layer that all smart systems rely on to provide a benefit. As growing computing systems are able to handle and aggregate more and more information, the analytics field is poised to explode. Businesses that stay on top of the evolving analytics field and prepare to integrate advanced analytics engines into their own systems, stand to perform much better than their competitors who are late to realize the changing face of IT.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

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