Rio de Janeiro

‘’ A city on the path ‘’

A few months ago, for the needs of our graduate course on Smart Cities, our Professor Betty Tsakarestou challenged us to explore the globe and find out what makes a city sustainable, smart or simply better for its habitants to live in. Our team (Christina Charalampidou , Marieta Christopoulou , Effie Tzoumani) chose Latin America to focus on and here are some of our favorite City Stories: Medellín, Santiago and Rio de Janeiro.

Rio de Janeiro

Rio is the first Brazilian city to crack the top 10, is building up towards the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. Like other Olympic cities before Rio, the city is using the infusion of capital to make the city smarter and more sustainable. This of course has not been without controversy, particularly with the riots that broke out when the government sought to raise public transit fares. It is trying to address its issues with income inequality and leveraging smart solutions to enhance the quality of life for all its citizens. Rio, at the request of Rio’s mayor, Eduardo Paes and with the help of I.B.M, built the “Rio Operations Center” to monitor events in the city in real time. The center was initially created to monitor the weather, so city officials could react faster to floods. The much hyped integrated operations center, allows for real-time monitoring of meteorological, crime, traffic, live camera feeds. It’s also used to monitor any emergency event. There is nothing quite like it in the world’s other major cities because it’s a citywide system integrating data from some 30 agencies, all under a single roof. It is the handiwork of an I.B.M. unit called Smarter Cities and, if all goes according to plan, it could lay the groundwork for a multibillion-dollar business.

Operations Center of the City of Rio

In fact, the idea for the center was born out of the mayor’s frustration with the regular injury and loss of life in the poor favelas on hillsides due to heavy rains. Using sensors in the hillsides combined with meteorological data and new communications tools, the integrated center is equipped to predict mudslides and warn communities in advance. City employees in white jumpsuits work quietly in front of a giant wall of screens — a sort of virtual Rio, rendered in real time. In Rio someone can see video streams in from subway stations and major intersections as well as a map that glows with the locations of car accidents, power failures and other problems. Last but not least a sophisticated weather program which predicts rainfall across the city is available in Rio.

Eduardo Paes, left, mayor of Rio de Janeiro, at the scene of a building collapse in January. Rio’s new operations center coordinated the emergency response, as agencies alerted hospitals, dispatched ambulances and closed streets

Another ongoing project involves hiring local teenagers to take digital images of problem areas in the favelas in an effort to create a digital map of hot spots and enabling city staff to begin tackling challenges such as removing accumulated trash which attracted mosquitoes and contributed to higher incidences of dengue fever. Lastly, it is worth noting that special police units have moved into about 20 slums, called favelas, in an effort to assert government control and combat crime.

From all above someone ends naturally to the conclusion that Rio de Janeiro is certainly one of the most interesting cities in Latin America, having done a lot of things to be ‘’smarter’’.

*Based on the article of ‘’The New York Times’’, Mission Control, Built for Cities

See our presentation for Latina America here

You can also follow our journey on European Smart Cities: Berlin, Lisbon, Barcelona and Istanbul.