Rio De Janeiro to Become World’s First Smart City
Rio de Janeiro is well on its way to becoming the world’s first smart city. Back in 2010, Mayor Eduardo Paes opened an operations center that was intended to enable city employees to respond rapidly in the event of emergencies. That operations center was just the first step in an effort to improve the city through the use of the latest technology.
The operations center itself serves multiple purposes from everyday problems to major crises. For example, flooding is a major issue because of the hilly terrain on which the city lies.
The operations center, which gets feeds from 900 cameras around the city, also receives weather data and is able to sound sirens when areas are under the threat of severe flooding. Another, more mundane example of just how useful this technology can be is that it enables city officials to respond more rapidly to accidents by diverting traffic.
Attempting to build on what the city’s government has already done, UNICEF, in conjunction with NGOs, has followed suit in an attempt to make life better in some of the poorer areas of the city. They have hired teenagers to survey some of the city’s favelas, or shanty towns, digitally to identify areas that pose dangers to public health and safety. The teens are provided with kites, which are a popular toy in the area, equipped with digital cameras in bottles. They then take photos of some of specific problem areas. The photos are then uploaded to and digitally mapped on a website.
The project is not designed to solve all of the areas’ problems, but it has already started to help address some specific needs. One example of a type of site that the project is identifying is trash heaps.
In most first world countries, this would be considered a quality of life issue, as the inconvenience and smell created by the bags would be problematic, although probably not life threatening unless the trash remained there for a very long period of time.
In Rio, though, mosquitos that carry dengue fever are drawn to these sites, which can quickly turn into breeding grounds, thus creating a public health crisis.
Safety issues have been addressed by the program as well. In one instance, a nursery school that was near a drop finally got a balcony. Railings have also been added to many of the steepest areas on the sites’ many stairways.
Both the city’s operations center and the UNICEF program have a long way to go in maximizing the use of technology to make Rio a safer and healthier city. For instance, the operation center’s cameras, which are normally streamed online, shut down during Brazil’s summer protests, something many residents said was intentional, which city officials deny. Even so, the positive steps that have been taken in Rio stand to continue to improve health and safety standards in the city as it looks forward to hosting the Olympics. Look for other cities to follow suit should these efforts be as successful as many of their proponents believe they will be.