Brazilian cities had unprecedented growth during the last decades, a phenomenon closely tied to the country’s booming economy. Large metropolitan centers such as state capitals Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo became the hubs for the most relevant companies in Brazil and the largest pockets of population, but also became affected by issues such as high crime rates, unreliable traffic flow and sudden rains that led to landslides and floods.
Over the last few years, these issues have been tackled by local governments through the use of technology, with smart city projects that placed Brazil at the forefront of urban planning in the world.
Rio de Janeiro’s Centro de Operações and Contact Portal
Perhaps the most famous Brazilian city, Rio de Janeiro has for some years been affected by issues such as sudden rain, the cause of tragedies like massive landslides in some of its most precarious suburban areas. Not only that, crime rates climbed to disturbing levels through the 1990’s and 2000’s, leading many tourists and locals to seek other locations to live and spend holidays in the country.
Being chosen to host the 2016 Olympic Games and some of the most important matches of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the second largest city in Brazil faced tremendous challenges to increase the security of its streets and establish a reliable monitoring system to assure unpredictable weather conditions were handled with the proper measures by local authorities.
In 2010, the Rio de Janeiro municipality government opened its Centro de Operações, Portuguese for Center of Operations, in an effort to promote the quality of its policies through the use of technology and connectivity. The center receives video feeds from over 500 surveillance cameras installed in the city and houses 30 departments from the local government.
These offices, that include traffic surveillance, security, weather forecasting, electricity and gas providers, exchange data amongst themselves to increase the efficiency of their services. The result of a BRL 16 million investment, the Center of Operations had its project developed in partnership with companies IBM, Oi, Cisco and Samsung.
In 2012, during the months of heavy rainfall, actions coordinated by the Center of Operations helped ensure zero casualties related to floods or landslides. Reports from that year also indicate that the interchange of intelligence between the city’s departments promoted a 25% decrease in the time taken to respond to traffic accidents. The combined benefits of this project enabled Rio de Janeiro to be awarded the title of the leading smart city in the world during the 2013 Smart City Expo World Congress.
Porto Alegre, state capital of Rio Grande do Sul, also installed an integrated operations center during 2012, which in many regards works similarly to Rio de Janeiro’s Centro de Operações. Housing 17 government departments, the Porto Alegre center coordinates operations for issues that include traffic, public security and weather forecasting. Other large cities in Brazil that have also established integrated operations centers include state capitals Belo Horizonte and Cuiabá.
Another initiative by Rio de Janeiro’s authorities designed to facilitate the population’s access to government services was the creation of a portal called Central 1746 in 2011. The name refers to the phone number locals can call in order to request a number of services from the city’s government such as waste removal, repair of damaged roads and walkways and also report witnessed illegal activity. These requests can also be posted on the Central’s website.
São Paulo’s Detecta and Video Surveillance Projects
Crime rates in the largest city in South America have been steadily increasing over the last five years, which prompted local authorities to take action to assure the security of its streets. With over 11 million citizens and companies that amount for over 10% of the country’s GDP, security in São Paulo is a massive, complex issue, and projects designed to assure it require a strict approach.
In 2014, the São Paulo state’s Public Security Department announced the launch of a system developed in partnership with Microsoft, named Detecta. The project was inspired by a similar initiative that has been in operation in New York since 2012 and is comprised of a big data solution that integrates the police’s intelligence headquarters with the thousands of phone calls received by their contact centers, video cameras spread across the city and the thousands of policemen patrolling the streets.
Also known as DAS, or Domain Awareness System, Detecta’s functionalities include the capture and storage of various types of information, such as the images of a suspect or vehicle license plates based on video feeds from over 500 cameras, and an alert application based on data processing, all of which are accessible by patrolling officers. Priced at BRL 9,7 million, the project was implemented gradually due to the necessary training that was provided to the local police force and should contribute to the improved security of São Paulo streets.
Smart city projects established to tackle public security through the use of video surveillance have been taking place in many large Brazilian cities. This is the case of São José dos Campos, located in the state of São Paulo, which in 2012 installed a video surveillance system developed in conjunction with Ericsson that currently includes 500 cameras and 160 kilometers of fiber optic cables scattered throughout the municipality area. Along with an emergency response system fully integrated with the video surveillance platform, this initiative helped murder rates in the city drop 19% over the last few years.
A number of cities throughout Brazil have implemented or either begun the development of Smart City projects that should be deployed in the near future. In 2014, the small town of Águas de São Pedro, in the state of São Paulo, was the subject of a pioneering initiative handled by Brazilian carrier Vivo designed to establish a fully digital city.
Some of the project’s actions include the placement of sensors at parking spaces located in the city’s central areas to provide drivers with information on their availability, the installation of surveillance cameras and sensor-activated light posts and a digitized education platform that includes the broadcast of reports from students of local public schools to parents mobile phones.
The historic city of Olinda located in the state of Recife, was selected in 2015 to be a part of the Open and Agile Smart Cities initiative, which will enable the implementation of an open-source standard known as FIWARE. This platform allows for the development of Smart City solutions based on data integration and openly accessible APIs.
By 2016, the city of Curitiba, state capital of Paraná, will direct investment in a smart city project that foresees the development and increased effectivity of sectors such as infrastructure, management and geographic information processing. Some of the announced goals include the offering of an accessible and robust e-government platform and updated information regarding various aspects of the city, and also a general overhaul of the municipality’s ICT infrastructure. A similar project should also be put into action by the city of Fortaleza, which additionally plans to expand the offering of public Wi-Fi.