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Imagine a city where all the buses run on time and traffic never backs up. AT&T and IBM (and a whole bunch of others) want to make that dream come true.

The telecom giant and IBM are working together to cash in on the hot Internet of things megatrend, with plans to initially target cities and utility companies, the companies announced today.

AT&T brings a worldwide network. Big Blue has software for analyzing and visualizing a bunch of data coming from sensors planted all over the place. And it has hardware to process all of this information.

Together, these giants have a shot at streaming in revenue from one of the hottest types of emerging technology today.


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The trouble is, other big technology companies have been scrambling to capitalize on the so-called Internet of things. In December, Qualcomm, LG, Sharp, and other companies came together with the Linux Foundation for the new AllSeen Alliance. Now AT&T’s Digital Life business division, which focuses on home security and automation, is part of the AllSeen Alliance, too.

Meanwhile Cisco, GE, Intel, and ARM have been making a bunch of noise about the Internet of things, through acquisitions, new business units, and other initiatives.

And in October, AT&T agreed to let GE use the AT&T network and cloud.

AT&T’s collaboration with IBM could have a few interesting implications. According to an IBM press release on the new alliance between the companies, city planners working in Internet of Things-enabled cities should get a better sense of how people travel around in vehicles and how best to dispatch emergency-response vehicles to circumvent traffic.

And city planners can get ideas about how to re-route traffic when it’s not as efficient as it could be. More real-time reports on incidents from sensors can help as well.

Because IBM has done work with cities in the past — for example, improving the accuracy of bus arrival times in Dublin, Ireland — this partnership focusing at first on smart cities, among other potential customers, could turn out to be more successful than other early go-to-market strategies from big tech companies.

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