IBM officials like to talk about the need for smarter cities as part of the company's ongoing Smarter Planet campaign. Now the company is helping to build a smart city from the ground up.
IBM is working with Kitson & Partners to build a smart city called Babcock Ranch outside of Fort Myers, Fla. Kitson & Partners originally purchased 91,000 square acres of land, but then turned 73,000 of them over to the state as part of a land preservation project.
The rest of the land is being used to create a city intended to be home to about 50,000 residents. Some might argue about whether 50,000 people, all of which can fit inside Yankee Stadium in New York City, are enough people to qualify as a metropolis rather than a small town. But according to Syd Kitson, who heads Kitson & Partners, the concepts being applied at Babcock Ranch can scale up to millions of people. In fact, Kitson says the company is in the planning stages of projects overseas that would involve millions of dollars.
Kitson & Partners has contracted with IBM for a multi-million dollar project to manage all the systems involved in building the city along and to create a dashboard system for ongoing management. Most of those systems will be powered using solar energy, right down to the kiosks to power electric cars. That effort, he said, has attracted support for the project from organizations such as The Sierra Club.
Kitson said his organization is working with companies focused on renewable energy and assembly-related activities to set up shop in Babcock Ranch. In addition, the company is recruiting universities to set up research facilities and is working with the local county government to create a charter school.
It wants to avoid all the management complexity associated with cities that sprung up along trade routes and waterways with little or no planning. In many cases, the roads in those cities were built over cow paths, rather than planned to reduce costs or for long-term sustainability.
Like most real-estate ventures, Babock Ranch is not without its risks. But given the number of environmentally conscious people and companies willing to be headquartered in environmentally friendly places, chances are will see a lot more Babcock Ranches before we know it.