IBM Green City Lab Aims for Chinese Government Deals

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IBM will develop green city planning applications with a Chinese municipality that it could sell in other government deals in China, the company said Wednesday.

IBM and the northeastern city of Shenyang will launch a joint development lab for computer applications that help forecast water pollution trends, plot efficient traffic plans and devise caps on industrial carbon output, said Thomas Li, director of the IBM China Research Lab, in an interview. Shenyang, in Liaoning province, will pay IBM 275 million yuan (US$40 million) initially and invest further funds in the lab, IBM said.

IBM will provide intellectual property in data modeling, analytics and high-speed computing to kick start the lab, which will customize current IBM applications for use by the local government. One application, which balances carbon emissions and industrial output when given targets for each, will help Shenyang assess the environmental state of various industries in case it is one day required to assign carbon caps. IBM will also provide services such as placement selection for sensors that track water quality in city mains.

But the joint lab will also develop new applications, which will cover public opinion analysis and food production monitoring in addition to city planning. The products that come out of the lab could later be sold to other local Chinese governments looking for green projects, said Li. IBM will give a cut of the sales revenue to Shenyang and a local university, both of which will contribute researchers to the lab, he said. IBM itself will give the lab the equivalent of 20 to 25 full-time researchers.

The deal creates a new model for IBM's cooperation with local governments and other partners, said Li. IBM has similar joint labs in other countries and is in talks with three other local Chinese governments about labs like the one planned for Shenyang, he said.

IBM does much of its business in China with government bodies. It has sought the deals partly to place itself in areas of future public and private investment, both of which often follow government agendas, said Li.

IBM has worked, for instance, with China's railway ministry to deploy train monitoring and service stations nationwide, and with the Wuxi city technology park on an application hosting and development platform IBM hopes to deploy around the country.

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