By Bettina Tratz-Ryan
Check out the Gartner blog, where this post was originally published.
Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the Smarter Cities event hosted by IBM in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. My first experience was a visit to Rio’s Operations Center, built by the city and IBM as part of the city’s urbanization strategy to integrate 30 different agencies that manage the city and citizen’s services. IBM has built the first stage of the operations center as an infrastructure platform with the information management capabilities available. Each city has the ability to integrate those capabilities around their specific requirements of process alignment and data integrity. By building this center for Rio, IBM is moving its previously fully customized delivery of the smart city framework into a platform and service solutions model.
The operations center is focused in its core to provide a comprehensive emergency response system, implement crime prevention, detect and handle utility outages and traffic issues, resulting in safety and revitalization of different sections of the city. What I saw was equivalent to Mission Control Center NASA, a large wall full of different control screens, with feeds from over 400 video cameras and other sensors, as well as a map, with infrastructure outages and remediation activities. Operators from the different agencies were monitoring the screens, and based on the different scenarios, applied the appropriate standard operating procedures that determine activities and processes between the different agencies. What was really amazing though was the fact that, at this point, none of the operators really worked with the full capability of the integrated processes and data flows that proactively share and consolidate information between the agencies. Still, the center worked like clockwork.
After talking to the people and getting an understanding how the feeds of data and information from different databases and simulation schemes such as weather, topological changes and traffic are being analyzed, it was clear that the process of aligning and standardizing syntax and information logic across the agencies will not happen overnight. The operations center has been working for more than 10 months now, and the ability to have all of those subsystems under one roof and collaboratively working on traffic jams, electricity outages, weather challenges, etc., actually becomes an A+ success factor in Rio’s urban city operations. Bringing agencies under one roof and develop standard operations procedures sounds initially so trivial but represents a real game changer for many cities, considering that different public and private entities have always worked with different premises in their “day to day” activities or in their crisis resolutions. For Rio, the cooperation model has enabled the city to deal with their worst case scenario: heavy rainfalls that will threaten Favellas with mudslides. The center has now the ability to warn residents, through text messages and sirens, of the pending dangers and evacuations can be ordered almost immediately. Fixing electricity and street light outages is improving crime rate statistics in a decreasingly way.
Even though the data cannot be integrated through all the systems, as every system takes time to identify a common syntax in all of the information, the action items that are triggered through the information displayed on the large monitor screens are. So the ”man pool” in the center provides the human interface to all the different organizations. Bringing change and the opportunity through knowledge and information about the city is being brought very close to the citizens as well. Through social media, websites and a single public service phone number, touchpoints to city administration, utilities and transport moves closer to the citizens of Rio. They can partake in the transformation of their city by determining through different city application inclusion programs and competitions …what they expect from the new and more sustainable city! With the Soccer World Cup and Olympic Games approaching, this represents a great opportunity to leverage their ideas and get support for public investments and change management. The city is already successfully demonstrating the “usefulness” of its spending in the operations center on a daily basis. All the reporters and the news media broadcast live from the center, and can provide “up to the minute” weather and traffic information, school and special event information, anticipated outages and so on. The citizens see exactly what the mayor sees, giving the people the feeling that they are an equal partner in making the city a “smarter” environment.