IBM has announced the winner of its Global Entrepreneur of the Year award. In total, 600 young companies competed in the 2010 competition through multiple ‘SmartCamp’ contests around the globe. The winner was decided at the World Finals in Dublin, a three-day forum of academia, venture capitalists, government and industry leaders.
IBM sees the competition as a key way of working with a new generation of entrepreneurs on issues such as water, transportation, healthcare and the environment.
Anyway, this year’s winner is Streetline, a method of combining traffic sensing and an existing parking management network. It integrates ultra-low power sensing with web-based solutions to manage traffic and parking as one integrated system.
City parking operations have become increasingly complex and parking management has assumed a central role in the economic health of cities. But the quality of information hasn't kept up. Streetline’s solution can show traffic patterns in the city as well as the true status of every parking space - either at the curb side, in lots and in garages – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Apparently 30% of urban traffic congestion is caused by drivers looking for parking, so the Streetline system can help reduce congestion and make finding a parking space easier.
Streetline apparently won the award because the judges liked the impact that their solution would have – making parking easier and simpler - as well as the environmental impact by reducing pollution.
Well congratulations to Streetline. It does seem like an interesting solution, but there seems to be a bit of a paradox here. IBM seems to have refined its green solutions down to anything with a ‘smart’ label in front, on the grounds that smart=efficient=green (I paraphrase, but you get the point). It’s very often true, but not always.
Here we have a solution that makes it easier for people to drive into big cities. It may reduce some carbon emissions by cars looking for parking, but the net effect will be to allow more cars into the cities.
Surely, if there’s any situation where cars can be dispensed with it’s in city centres where public transport is most readily available and creates much less emissions than cars.
So a good solution, but is it what should be emerging from SmartCamps?