The Rio Operations Center's responsibility is to control the city's daily operations, integrating several departments involved in Rio's routine; and to manage crisis and emergency situations.
Rio de Janeiro has been hit hard by repeated Atlantic storms imperiling the city. This especially affects the mostly low income settlements that are located on the high slopes surrounding the metropolis and are prone to devastating landslides. Following a vicious storm in 2010, Rio de Janeiro decided to create a center that operates 24 hours a day, staffed by officials from 30 city departments. This center has become a global model showing the benefits that can be derived from collaboration, alignment and data sharing across city divisions.
The model has had many other benefits for the day-to-day management of the city. Traffic emergency time response has been reduced significantly with citizens alerted about traffic snarl ups and accidents and redirected to the best routes. Data gathered for the center also enables the identification of neighborhoods with higher dengue fever infection rates. In planning the facility, Rio officials visited alert centers in Madrid, Seoul and New York, and have since forged cooperation with the city of Johannesburg that established a similar entity, the Joint Operations Committee.
In April 2010, the city endured heavy rains (over 304mm in 24h) and 68 people died due to landslides. Moreover, 22.72% of the city's population (around 1.47 million) lives in vulnerable low-income communities, most of which located in slopes. A 2010 study conducted by GEO-Rio (Rio Institute of Geotechnical Foundation) identified 20,000 households on high geological risk areas – 2,000 of them have already been relocated through public housing programs.
The Rio Operations Center was officially created by a Municipal Decree on December 23, 2010, with the goal of increasing the city's resilience. The Decree determines its responsibility to control the city's daily operations, integrating several departments involved in Rio's routine; and to manage crisis and emergency situations. The Decree also establishes that the Rio Operations Center should interact with the media in disseminating and receiving information related to crises and process information from the 1746 Hot Line.
Inaugurated in December 2010, the Rio Operations Center was created primarily for risk management and prevention though it soon became clear that it was also a strategic tool for administrating urban mobility and coordinating large scale events.
The promotion of greater integration – internal and external – of the municipal administration has been established as one of the city’s guidelines in the city's strategic plan. The Rio Operations Center was designed to improve the cooperation and the communication between government entities, and to deliver relevant information for public departments and the population. It increased the capillarity of municipal departments and their reach. Its goal is to monitor and optimize the city's operations, as well as anticipate solutions and minimize occurrences.
The Rio Operations Center is a Rio de Janeiro City Hall initiative. Its technological platform development was done by the Municipal Company of Information Technology (Iplan) and the Pereira Passos Municipal Institute of Urbanism (IPP). The Rio Operations Center was designed based on the technological expertise of partners such as: IBM, Bilfinger, Cisco, Samsung and Google. Using Google Earth technology, it was possible for Iplan to create an integrated system of georeferenced data from all municipal assets involved in Rio's daily operational routine – the Geoportal software. The Operations Center collaborated with Oi and TIM (telecom companies), which implemented the links for data transmission.
The Control Room – the heart of the project – where 200 controllers, in three 24/7 shifts, monitor the city in real time, receiving images from over 900 cameras, through 30 km of fiber optic cable. The 60m² videowall in the control room, is composed of 80 46-inch monitors, which rely on Bilfinger and Samsung technologies. Cisco provided the tele-presence system, and Itautec provided the computer network used by employees of the Operations Center.
The Crisis Room is used for emergency meetings with different departments, connected to two other small crisis rooms, one at the mayor's official residence, and the other at the Civil Defense Service.
The Press Room is where media representatives are constantly releasing alerts to the population. The communication with all media outlets is a two-way exchange of information that amplifies the communication of the municipal authorities' messages, thus increasing its capillarity, and recommendations to the population. The media also warns the Rio Operations Center whenever there is an atypical event notified by their audiences.The creation of a channel of communication improves the public policy quality, and guarantees transparency, accountability and public trust.
The 1746 Hot Line is a communication channel with City Hall, whereby citizens can report problems, requests and complaints about city services, get information about debts, fines and permits, and even tourist information. Along with the communication strategy, transparency and the digital engagement of citizens is fostered.
The Rio Operations Center has three areas of operation: risk prevention and management, city's operations and major public events.
- Risk prevention and management aims to save lives and includes the weather forecast, rainfall volume monitoring, and general security measures. This integration of data and teams made the Operations Center the focal point for crisis situations management in a city historically suffering from heavy rains and flooding.
- In routine operations, through tools of intelligent monitoring and direct contact with the field teams, the Operations Center becomes aware on any occurrence of which impact on the city's routine, responds with the necessary steps and guides the public about how to proceed to circumvent possible problems.
- The daily learning process of how to conduct the city's dynamics with the Rio Operations Center as a new operational management focal point has contributed to improve planning for major events such as the 2013 World Youth Day and the 2014 World Cup.
To process all data generated in the Rio Operations Center, City Hall created the Big Data department "PENSA – Ideas Room" in June 2013. This new department aims to search, analyze and evaluate correlations and define impacts by crossing different databases, in order to improve service delivery to citizens. “PENSA” possesses access to all municipal databases. Big data management enables research to look for patterns and analysis that could not be achieved otherwise. It is possible, consequently, to plan policies based on accurate information. Now, data generated, for instance, by the daily management of traffic operations are now also used for public transportation policy and traffic planning.
City Hall constructed a three-story building at a total cost, including equipment, of R$ 20 million (approximately US$ 8.9 million).
The Rio Operations Center gathers almost 30 city departments, public agencies and utility companies, as well as State Government’s representatives.
The Rio Operations Center enables a new administration model that provides communication and coordination between public entities, facilitates information sharing and enables prompt and efficient decision-making processes.
The center improved the city's management efficiency in many different areas – public transportation is one of them. Transportation is a major challenge in megacities like Rio de Janeiro and increased efficiency and use of public transportation are key to a sustainable urban development. Representatives of Bus, BRTs, Train, Ferry and Subway companies are present at the Rio Operations Center. The emergency response time was reduced by 30%. When any traffic incident is identified, traffic teams are rapidly sent to the location to solve it. The city's map, with over 80 digital layers, shows data such as the present location of all municipal vehicles and equipment.
In the case of street maintenance, the center coordinates the municipal or concessionaries’ teams responsible for the repair and traffic control. Another example was the work developed on dengue fever, a mosquito-transmitted disease with a high incidence level on summer. The geographical analysis of cases enabled the identification of the neighborhoods with the highest infection rates. City Hall used the information to implement preventive actions.
Each department has its own organizational background. Through the years, each developed its standard procedures. The decision making process used to be fractionated. In most cases, communication was done bilaterally. Departmental rivalries and information withholding had to be overcome. By integrating all stakeholders in the same room, all departments receive information simultaneously and in contact with other agencies. This collaboration constitutes a daily learning process. The Rio Operations Center is not vertically structured, thus these interactions are constantly improved. Protocols for coordinating actions in over 150 types of occurrences were established.
To respond the challenge in terms of qualified human resources, the 400 employees go through continuous training and simulation exercises.
In an increasingly urbanized world, with local governments facing several challenges such as traffic, hampering more and more citizen's lives and the consequences of climate change, with the proliferation of severe weather related events, an operations center is a strategic tool for smart megacities.
During the Rio Operations Center's conception, city officials visited similar centers in Madrid, Seoul and New York. The Rio Operations Center has been visited by dozens of delegations, including government officials, private companies and university students.
The effort to increase the city´s resilience involved a comprehensive set of measures. The Rio Operations Center has a team composed of four meteorologists and seven technicians that work 24/7 monitoring the weather conditions with a variety of online information mechanisms. The whole weather technological system is linked to the National Space Research Institute (INPE) computers.
The communication strategy is key to alert the population about incidents and redirect them to the best alternative. Waze is one of the tools used, as well as three daily bulletins reporting the main occurrences are released on the Rio Operations Center’s website, by SMS, Twitter and Facebook accounts as well as radio and TV stations which are present 24/7 in the Rio Operations Center.
As an effort to educate the dwellers on how to prepare to risk situations, the Civil Defense created the Community Protection Program focusing on three subjects:
- Training of Community Agents,
- Community Alarm and Alert System, and
- Simulation Exercises at Public Schools.
Similar centers in the world, such as CISEM in Madrid, coordinate police, fire and ambulance services. The Rio Operations Center is unique due to the quantity of public services and concessionaries integrated. The enormous quantity of data collected by the Rio Operations Center and the 1746 Hot Line is also being used in other initiatives.
- Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Rio Operations Center: integrating data and monitoring utilities in a truly intelligent system, Guangzhou Award for Urban Innovation, http://cms.guangzhouaward.org/template/view/id/2208/type/content/template_id/87.html (accessed 26th May 2016)
- Rio Operations Center: integrating data and monitoring utilities in a truly intelligent system, Urban Innovation Database, http://www.urban-innovations.org/index.php/Rio_Operations_Center:_integrating_data_and_monitoring_utilities_in_a_truly_intelligent_system (accessed 26th May 2016)
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