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Is Rio de Janeiro the world's first 'smart' city?

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Ricardo Moraes/Reuters/File

(Read caption) Children play in Rocinha, a notorious hillside 'favela' or slum that overlooks some of Rio's swankiest areas. Rio will host soccer's World Cup in 2014 and the Summer Olympics in 2016. The city has employed IBM's Smart Cities technology to coordinate its activities from emergency responses to traffic control.

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Smart growth seems to have taken an evolutionary step in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. IBM has brought their Smart Cities concept to the former Brazilian capital, a model that uses information and communication technology to improve economic efficiency, thus enabling further development.

Services are carried out via the IBM Intelligent Operations Center. Think of it as a mission control for cities, white lab coats included. They are able to leverage real-time city information, anticipate problems, and coordinate available resources.

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The system was originally integrated in Rio as a way to improve the city’s emergency response system following the 2010 floods. By using a forecasting system that synthesizes data from the river basin, topography surveys, historical rainfall logs, and radar feeds, the operations center is able to anticipate heavy rains, flash floods, landslides, power outages, and traffic hazards.

But the fun doesn’t stop there. IBM kicked things up a notch by fully integrating 30 city agencies into a single operations center, constantly tracking the pulse of city operations. By breaking down inter-organizational silos, they speed response and recovery time.

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