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About IBM's Operations Center in Rio de Janeiro

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The municipality of Rio de Janeiro in partnership with IBM in the framework of the Smarter Citiess, inaugurated in December 2010 the Rio City Operations Centre. This technological research centre is designed for the forecasting and control of climatic disasters (torrential rains, landslides, etc.), as well as for the optimisation and operational efficiency in the management of the city's services: transport, police, hospitals, water and electricity management, etc. It is an action aid tool for the city and an information tool for the Cariocas. Ulisses Mello, Research Director at the Operations Centre, answered questions from Chronos.

Chronos reacts in a blog post on the philosophy of this model to conclude that there's probably another smart city beyond Smarter City.

How does the Operations Centre in Rio de Janeiro work?

In concrete terms, the Rio City Operations Centre (COR) consists of a dashboard that represents the overall state of the city's public service operations. Fifty screens arranged in a space of 80 square meters operate 24 hours a day with nearly 400 professionals. 300,000 metres of fibre optics, 700 cameras, 40 meeting rooms and a crisis room are also necessary for its smooth operation. We retrieve data from city services via an online platform and offer a real-time shared service that interconnects objects, services and people. Analytical tools allow us to visualize predictive information 14 hours in advance. The accuracy of this information is approximately 80%. With the COR, we provide a daily report of anticipated or current crises to guide public action on a daily basis and inform residents via different channels (computers, smartphones, dedicated public spaces).

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What are the objectives of the NRC?

The ROC contributes to the sustainability of the city of Rio insofar as it promotes rational energy consumption and optimizes the management of the public services offered to the inhabitants. Furthermore, we are part of a crisis management dynamic in the face of the Region's difficult climate and economic and social instability (crime, illegal trafficking, etc.). The tool is also used to organise major events. It is aimed at all inhabitants, whatever their social background.

ibmriojaneiro2In order to do this, we are working to:

To deliver a global operational vision of the current state of the city through key performance indicators and their history.

Foster multi-domain collaboration through operational collaboration between city departments.

Facilitate decision making by collecting and exploiting data through visualization techniques, advanced simulation and predictive analysis tools.

How do you address the population?

We try to address all social strata of the population by multiplying the information channels, from digital tools to human mediators.

On the digital tools side, we offer a website where people can access all the information and data processed. They can also choose to receive this information on their mobile phone, by SMS or other types of alerts, according to the theme of their choice (climate, transport, etc.). Users can also view our models.

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For individuals who do not own a mobile phone, we use the "squares of knowledge" located in the favelas, places of proximity and sociability set up under the impetus of the secretary of information technology. These places encourage the grouping of neighbouring communities; they promote the collection and exchange of information among the inhabitants, who can thus react to alerts. Thanks to these "knowledge squares", lack of access to technology is not a barrier to accessing information.

What are the difficulties you are encountering in this project?

The ROC mobilizes a large ecosystem of actors. Even if the decisions concerning the analysis and processing of the data are exclusively the responsibility of IBM, we must dialogue with the bodies concerned. This is why we have set up a global political support for the project.

Moreover, even if we communicate through knowledge squares, we still have a long way to go to reach the majority of the population. To do so, we need to adapt our communication and solutions to different cultures, to different audiences. Our mission is therefore also to understand the best ways to transmit our information according to the targets we are trying to reach.

More specifically, we are thinking about developing new communication processes for the favelas, neighbourhoods that are particularly exposed to risk. The aim is, on the one hand, to let people know that data exists and is available, and, on the other hand, to channel it to the most vulnerable populations. Together with the municipality of Rio de Janeiro, we would like at the very least to quickly inform them where the shelters are located in the event of a climatic disaster and to show them how the city can help them.

Is the Rio ROC model replicable?

It is up to us to distinguish between what is unique to the city of Rio de Janeiro and what can be industrialized in the process. Rio de Janeiro has a very strong political ambition: to show itself as an intelligent city. As a result, it is well ahead of other cities in the world in terms of traffic and urban data processing. The city has already built an urban data circulation system between its various agencies. Different data collection centres have been scattered throughout the city, producing very high-resolution maps (accuracy per square metre). Once the data was available, we still had to route it to a common online platform and cross-reference it with data related to public transit networks, the road network, etc. In addition, the modeling of our data is completely configured for the city of Rio: the historical and topographic information of the city is integrated into our modeling. The scientific nature of our work is based on the consideration of the local context.

Nevertheless, the NRC principle can be replicated. It is possible to combine a large number of urban services through cloud computing, to operate at high or intermediate levels of service. It is possible to find other cities in the world where, in a singular context, the value created by the technology has been proven [think of SongDo in Incheon Province near Seoul, South Korea]. If we take the example of transport, the optimization and forecasting of flows can be easily exportable. In this context, I think that Rio de Janeiro is ahead of the rest of Latin America. Sao Paulo has already integrated some elements of the COR model, and other cities are taking a close interest in this model.

(Article directed by François Vienne and Julie Rieg for Chronos / October 2012)

About Chronos

Chronos is a research and forecasting firm whose work is based on four main themes: mobility, the city, digital and everyday life.

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