Rio Basically Installs Technology You Thought Already Existed

Rio de Janeiro paid $14 million to design and install a massive data collection system called Smarter Cities by its creator IBM. This bad boy knows the geographic low zones that collect water and how much water that particular region is gathering during any particular rainstorm in real time. It knows how many cars are going through that intersection right there, right now. No, not that one, this one. Actually, it’s both of them, all of them. And more.

To some this is a major boon to one of the world’s largest cities with some of the world’s worst infrastructure. It won’t stop the buildings from falling down, but it will make sure the ambulances can get there and to the hospitals quickly. It won’t stop the mudslides that smother the favelas, but it gives the government more power to predict when and where mudslides will occur so the government can implement evacuation procedures.

It is also a potential massive loss of privacy. And if it can really help Rio become better governed how much longer before other cities install similar systems? And,according to the article the world is still becoming more and more urbanized. By 2050 75% of the global citizenry (we’ll all be citizens by then, I assume) will live in cities, and therefore potentially surveilled by systems like Smarter Cities (or Cisco’s competing product, Smart+Connected Communities).


The other interesting thing to note here is IBM’s role. Firmly committing themselves to getting out of the personal computer business, their new move is, well, quite frankly exactly the kind of move that IBM will likely do well that I don’t think anyone really predicted they would make. IBM has looked like a fading dinosaur for as long I can remember knowing about the company. But this move into rapid data crunching of combined social, civil, geologic, and meteorological data this really befits the behemoth.

Cisco probably does this just as well, by the way, and maybe better since my understanding is that they’ve been more involved in civil infrastructure projects than IBM has been which, if true, should give them a comparative advantage both in the know-how category and the “we’ve already got our fiber-optics under your city” category. But, if you were the right kind of futurist and somebody asked you to predict, in 1979, what IBM would be doing in thirty years, this is probably pretty close to what you would predict.

I’m particularly excited that somebody may give this a closer look when its employed to help manage the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, two massive events that should put the governing capacities of this system to a dramatic test.

As the say, read the whole thing.

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