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April 13, 2016
After a difficult few months following violence at the Confederations Cup, mass political riots across Brazil and FIFA and the IOC criticising Brazil’s laid back attitude; recently there has been some positive news coming out of Brazil.
As in any major city in the US and Europe, there are cameras on every street in Rio de Janeiro, keeping a close eye on citizens going about their daily business. However, the Cariocas have intuitively begun to use the cameras in order to create a better city and become Latin America’s first smart city. The main camera operation centre in Rio has an 80 metre wall full of live feeds from the streets of Rio de Janeiro provided by over 900 cameras across the city.
Data analysts translate the live images and information to predict traffic levels, where accidents may happen and which areas might be affected by flooding. This enables emergency services to react quickly to incidences, and the operations team is able to divert the traffic around the incident so that the relevant emergency services can deal with a problem as quickly as possible. The innovative use of the eyes on the streets has been developed alongside a live weather report stream that is constantly feeding weather data to professional analysts. This information can then be used to predict and alert those living in favelas of possible flooding, giving them vital life-saving notice before the possible flood.
The information received may also affect the future of Carioca legislature for example, recent data is said to reveal that between the hours of 5PM and 7PM on a Friday there are a higher number of motorcycle accidents. Passing such information onto those in power could be translated into new legislation banning motorcyclists from using particular streets for their own safety during these times.
The consultation between the residents of Rio and local government was vital especially with such a fragile relationship. It was therefore vitally important that they considered how the residents would react so as to not cause more civil unrest. The population can log-in online in order to see live video footage from the cameras across the city. This has enabled the Cariocas to plan their journeys better, avoiding traffic jams and incidences allowing the traffic to flow more freely throughout the city.
However, it is not only within the main city of Rio de Janeiro that innovation is taking place. In stark contrast to the efficient and planned layout of the city, the famous favelas that surround and look down on Rio are becoming unlikely new places for new technological ideas and developments. As part of a UNICEF project, children from the Morro dos Prazeres favela are using GPS enabled smartphones to take photos of problem areas such as dangerous paths for the elderly, rubbish piles which attract mosquitoes promoting the spread of dengue fever. These images are then tagged to a digital map of the favela.
The mapping of the favelas will help to highlight some of the daily challenges of living in the infamous favelas of Rio de Janeiro. The project has been expanded to map the winding maze of the favela as children of the favelas attach cameras to kites. This method is helping charitable projects and the city government to tackle the problems faced by the inhabitants of the favelas, objectively ensuring changes can be made effectively.
Rio still has social-economic problems with high rates of crime, poverty and traffic however the city and its favelas may be touching on something for the future by trusting and using the citizens to promote Rio as a smart city. As Rio continues its journey to become a technological city of tomorrow, other cities in Latin America have chosen a different technology-led approach. Rio can learn a lot from such cities, for example Medellin in Colombia. Once a place feared by investors and its population, the city has turned itself around to be voted as the most innovative city in the world in 2013. Although faced with a number of internal, social and economic problems the citizens of Brazil working in conjunction with the government can help to make a better, more stable future for Brazil.