IBM Serious Game Tackles Urban Challenges

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IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced CityOne, a new "serious game" that can help customers, business partners and students discover how to make cities and their industries smarter by solving real-world business, environmental and logistical problems. Based on decades of experience in solving business challenges in creative ways, IBM “serious” games are designed to train the workforce of tomorrow. Details on the latest serious game from IBM will be unveiled on May 4, during the IMPACT 2010 conference in Las Vegas.

With an estimated one million people around the world moving into cities each week, experts predict population in the world’s cities will double by 2050. Today cities consume an estimated 75 percent of the world’s energy, emit more than 80 percent of greenhouse gases, and lose as much as 20 percent of their water supply due to infrastructure leaks. As their urban populations continue to grow and these metrics increase, civic leaders will face an unprecedented series of challenges as they modify their infrastructures to meet these challenges.

In order for urban centers to sustain growth and play a positive and central role in the global economy, cities must grow smart. City infrastructures that deliver vital services such as transportation, energy and water, must rely on a wealth of new information and technologies that will allow them sense and respond intelligently to the needs of their growing populations. With CityOne, IBM is providing a virtual environment that will help tomorrow’s leaders learn how to apply advances in technology and better understand how these systems work.

CityOne will be a no charge, “sim-style” game in which the player is tasked with guiding the city through a series of missions that include the Energy, Water, Banking and Retail industries. For example, one mission involves a city where water usage has increased at twice the rate of population growth, supplies are becoming strained (and possibly polluted); the municipality is losing as much as 40 percent of its water supply through leaky infrastructure; and energy costs are steadily increasing. To complete this mission, the player would be challenged to institute a Water Management System that would include accurate real time data to make decisions on delivering the highest water quality in the most economical way.

Players who promote a more customer-centric business model to the banks represented in their city will discover how mobile payments, dynamic invoicing, and micro-lending can impact business goals. In all of the missions represented in the game, the player will need to determine the best way to invest to meet the financial, environmental and sociological goals of the city’s industries while balancing their budgets and the needs of the citizenry. In parallel, players will learn how the components of service reuse, process management, cloud and collaborative technologies make business models more agile.

"Serious games allow professionals to inherently comprehend system interactions, and accurately model the potential business outcomes that can result, in a way that no other medium can do," said Nancy Pearson, IBM vice president of SOA, BPM and WebSphere. "CityOne will simulate the challenges faced in a variety of industries so that businesses can explore a variety of solutions and explore the business impact before committing resources."

Historically, simulation gaming has been used extensively in the military, by athletes and by scientists to discover effective new strategies and techniques and develop the skills needed to implement them. These simulations have migrated into the entertainment space and spawned a new generation of what are known as massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs). In these online games, players from all over the globe log into realistic and real-time virtual worlds via the Internet; they learn different roles and skill sets, and come together in self-selecting teams to collaborate and carry out missions in pursuit of common goals. Businesses have realized the value of this and are deploying their own games to create life-like simulations of real markets, customers and business situations that they deal with every day.

"Enterprises are increasingly adopting Web 2.0 collaboration tools to appeal to a new generation entering the workforce that grew up immersed in social media technologies," said Lisa Rowan, director HR, Learning, and Talent Strategies research IDC. "Training will need to follow suit by incorporating interactivity and gaming to be relevant to this new workforce."

IBM is not new to the serious games space. Over the years, IBM has released a number of games such as INNOV8, RoboCode and PowerUp that are used by schools, businesses, museums and conferences.  Additionally, IBM has conducted an extensive study of massive multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs), and the results have underscored how a rotating leadership model is likely to affect an enterprise.  Based on these results, last year IBM announced the second in the INNOV8 series of games that teach the fundamentals of Business Process Management (BPM) using a 3D environment. The INNOV8 series is now being used by more than 1000 universities worldwide and is offered for free to schools via IBM’s Academic Initiative.

Mark McGibbon, a PhD DBA professor of IT and Business at a leading university has used INNOV8 in three of his classes including Process Improvement, his Software Acquisition Class and Analytics and Simulation.

"Using serious games like INNOV8 to teach something as slippery as Business Process Management has really helped my students visualize directly the impact of these systems on a business,” said McGibbon. “We are greatly looking forward to the next IBM game."

IBM will be unveiling the CityOne Demo in the Agility@Work Zone during the IMPACT Conference. A special session titled ‘Using Games to develop strategies and skills to thrive in a real-time world’ is part of IBM’s Executive Education Track at the upcoming IMPACT conference. Michael Hugos of the Center for Systems Innovation and Phaedra Boinodiris, IBM’s Serious Games Program manager will be presenting how  businesses can profit from simulation gaming.

For more information on IBM serious games and details on how IBM is helping clients and Business Partners to make smarter, faster decisions, visit: http://www.ibm.com/cityone


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