Rio’s ‘big brother’ control room watches over the city

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  • Posted on August 29, 2013

    It’s the place where we gather the minds of the city, we gather the departments but we also gather the technology. Mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Eduardo Paes


    The Operations Center means that the mayor now has more information about his city that he can use towards other initiatives.


    “I sleep better thanks to it. The worst thing is not having the information, to not have the tools to act. But we do now,” Paes says.


    Read more: Mayor’s dream big, redefine urban living


    The video wall in the center displays live information from 560 cameras, a weather forecasting system and a smart map capable of analyzing 60 different layers of data streamed from sensors around the city.


    The mayor commissioned IBM to set up the Operations Center in 2010, following a storm that killed 68 people.


    “We integrated more than 20 city agencies into one central command center, decreasing emergency response times by 30%,” says Michael Dixon, head of Smarter Cities for IBM Globally.


    Paes explains that it was tough to manage the city before the Operations Center was built, since the different departments were spread all over the city. Now they can quickly find solutions to help manage everyday life.


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    “It’s the place where we gather the minds of the city, we gather the departments but we also gather the technology. I would call that a technological center or urban app or urban technology,” he says.


    The landslides won’t bring us down


    Rio is surrounded by many steep hillsides on which most of its favelas, the shanty towns, are built. Up to 20% of Rio’s inhabitants live in favelas, and many of them are at risk of landslides.


    “We have a history of big floods because of heavy rains and big landslides, especially during summer time,” says Paes.


    Rio has hundreds of favelas and the city authorities have launched a regeneration project called ‘Morar Carioca’ that aims to “urbanize” them all by 2020 — improving the infrastructure in the favelas and integrating them better with the city.


    “We use it as a laboratory for new experiments on environmental and environmentally friendly public things,” Paes says of the project.


    Read more: Brazil’s catadores turn trash into art


    But until the favelas are urbanized and safe, the city relies on the Operations Center.


    So far, Paes is confident his city vision is paying off.


    “It’s amazing because I would say that the biggest benefits are the bad things that don’t happen, that won’t come to reality because of it.”

    CNN – International Edition/AC

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