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Intelligent cities like Rio make “dumb, rude, and dirty” traits of the past

Cities like Rio de Janeiro are integrating intelligence and smart technology into their operations to run better and make “dumb, rude, and dirty” traits of the past.

When describing people, there’s a difference between smart and intelligent. Intelligence, the measure of a person’s ability to learn, is inherent. Smart on the other hand, refers to learned inferences and requires effort and experience. Smart people are sensitive to their surroundings and know things that can help them achieve their goals. Intelligent people seek to understand what they know and find new ways to improve the world around them by analyzing the way things work. With cities, it’s the same. According to Wikipedia – a notable example of collective intelligence – smart cities are characterized by their adept application of systems and sensors to capture information that can be used to solve issues like traffic congestion. Intelligent cities do that too, but what distinguishes them is their ability to integrate all dimensions of human, collective, and artificial intelligence within the city.

What makes Rio intelligent

Two years ago Rio de Janeiro established a unique  center of operations that is revolutionizing city management and drawing thousands of visitors from around the world. The hundreds of cameras and countless other sensors and devices scattered around Rio that live-stream data onto a vast video wall for round-the-clock monitoring are enough to classify the city as smart. Working with the meteorological institute and watching the action on huge Google map displays, city operators immediately know about unusual occurrences such as accidents, power outages, or torrential storms, and can quickly take steps to prevent or solve problems. What makes Rio intelligent is the way citizens and administrators are integrating all forms of intelligence to make city management a smooth operation.


Social media plays a key role. Citizens are encouraged to access the Citizen’s Portal and take an active role in operations via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. Not only can they get information and understand processes, but by expressing preferences or frustration, citizens can influence how the city is run. Sanjay Poonen, president of Technology Solutions and Mobile Division at SAP, blogged about his impressions after a recent visit. “Alexandre Cardeman, the CIO of the center, told me that during this year’s Carnival, they noticed a spike in words such as ‘ugly’, ‘disgusting’, and embarassing’ in tweets and other messages,” says Poonen. “By zooming cameras in on locations where the messages where being sent from, they saw piles of garbage left in the wake of the first Samba School’s procession. City operators alerted the garbage collectors who were able to clean up before the next group paraded down the avenue. This way to ‘Run a City Better’ with analytics and collaboration between city and citizens, as the City of Rio is doing, happens thanks to their incredibly talented team, a mayor and a CIO with a vision, as well as advances in technology such as SAP’s Sentiment Analytics solutions and SAP Business Objects BI  which the City of Rio uses.”

M2M for smarter city management

By integrating data from over 30 municipal, state, and federal entities, Rio benefits from collective knowledge sharing. Whereas previously each organization operated independently with little or no insight into each other’s operations, today they act as one unit. And of course, artificial intelligence in the form of technology infrastructure and tools is everywhere, making Rio a good example of why Brazil is one of the four countries identified by the SAP/Harris M2M survey as being most ready to drive connected, smarter cities. When asked what they thought would be the greatest benefit of M2M (machine to machine) technology, over a third of the 750 IT decision makers surveyed globally agreed it would be the ability to improve urban living through “smarter” city management.

“The number of things connected to the Internet is expected to reach 50 billion by 2020 and consumers, who are also citizens, are driving this transformation,” says Poonen. “Today, M2M technology is primarily used to collect vast amounts of machine and people-based data. The Internet of Things concept goes one step further by not only integrating machines, people, ERP, CRM and social networking systems, but also analyzing and using all the data.”


After all, what’s the use of data if you can’t make sense of it? Because the capacity to innovate and to manage uncertainty are critical factors for measuring intelligence, one of the true marks of an intelligent city is how well it uses data for predictive purposes. By applying the right analytical tools, intelligent cities can increase predictive insight, speed up decision making, and improve performance and outcomes. By pooling all their intelligence, cities like Rio can help citizens deal with the uncertainty of tropical weather, for example, by providing early warnings and guiding people to safety before mudslides or floods threaten their lives.

Montreal says merci

While most cities nowadays are focused on smarter operations, some are using technology to prove that cities can be gracious as well. Using SAP Precision Retailing, Montreal has developed thank you packages for citizens who use public transportation. The Societe de Transport de Montreal (STM) is partnering with retailers, other transportation partners such as taxis, and entertainment and media providers, to bring personalized offers to their 1 million OPUS Card users.  “As a thank you for helping to save trees every time you ride with us,” says Michel Labrecque, responsible for administering STM, “we’ve developed the STM Merci app that sends you personalized offers and suggestions that are attractive because of price and geographical relevance.”  Now that’s a smart way to say merci!

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