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IBM launches Global City Team Challenge

GCTC, supported by IBM, challenges teams to create smart city solutions

IBM launches Global City Team Challenge
(l-r) Predrag Lucic, Dima Kandalaft, and Maged Wassim. IBM is the technology partner for the Global City Team Challenge.

IBM has launched the Global City Team Challenge (GCTC) in Dubai, to encourage the development of smart city solutions to tackle regional development issues.

The GCTC, now in its second year, was created by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and US-Ignite, a non-profit focused on Internet applications for public benefit, to challenge developers, entrepreneurs, academia and other stakeholders to create technology solutions for smart city development.

Teams will be formed in cities around the world to create smart solutions to improve quality of life, with a focus on solutions that can be applied to multiple cities. As technology partner, IBM will be providing mentoring, workshops and other support to participating teams, as well access to its Bluemix cloud services platform.

Dima Kandalaft  Smarter Cities Leader, IBM ME, said that the Challenge aims to bring together government, startups, technology companies and so on as a wider community to find solutions to issues.

"Citizen engagement and involvement is key on the agendas of city leaders, they cannot fulfil that criteria without involving the bigger communities of startups and developers. If you have the tools, support from the government and open data, and the platform available in the cloud, then innovation becomes much easier," she said.

Last year's event involved 64 teams from more than 50 cities and 230 organisations around the world developing solutions over an eight-month period, building up to a final expo in the US in June 2015. Solutions developed included a network to find leaks in city water infrastructure; resilient and economical solar power systems for homeowners, and a system for data collection and planning for city-wide energy usage.

The 2015-2016 GCTC launched in the US in November, and was announced in Dubai as part of the UAE Innovation Week.

Maged Wassim, vice president, IBM Cloud, IBM MEA said that the idea is to form local teams to solve local issues, but to create solutions that can be applied to other cities worldwide. The Middle East launch is focused on Dubai, but IBM hopes that the program will grow to other countries.

IBM is supporting the Challenge through cloud curriculum for universities, and through the Bluemix platform, Wassim said. The cloud platform offers a range of as-a-service solutions, including IBM Watson cognitive learning, IoT solutions, and open source solutions, which developers can access to create smart systems. IBM is offering free access to select developers to the platform.

"The whole theme is about innovation using cloud. How do you enable people, different participants to innovate using cloud technology," he said.

Solving the challenges of city development is no longer a prescriptive process, with governments requesting specific technology solutions, he added, but rather has become a collaborative process where entrepreneurs and startups can bring ideas to government and IT vendors, and work together to create real world solutions.

Predrag Lucic, ecosystem development executive, IBM MEA, added that by making solutions available in the cloud, developers have a much more powerful toolset at their disposal, and have more flexibility to create systems, leading to better innovation. They can also make solutions a lot more quickly than is possible with previous models.

"You make platforms available to everyone," he said. "In the past developers did not have such computing power available to them, with the availability of the cloud platforms, they can access the computing power and services and API that they did not have before. They can innovate because they have the tools to do so."

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