Rio’s ‘nerve center’ adds automated alerts for floods, landslides

Rio de Janeiro’s year-old smart-city “nerve center” will soon be getting a bit smarter still.

The latest upgrade to the city’s advanced operations center will add an automated alert system to let officials and emergency personnel know when there have been changes in Rio’s flood and landslide forecast. Knowing about such changes as early as possible is critical for the coastal city of more than six million that’s bordered by hills and mountains.

The previous warning system relied on manually relaying forecast changes. The new system, being deployed with the help of IBM, will deliver automated emails and instant messages, which should make it possible to dramatically reduce reaction times in emergencies.

Opened less than a year ago, the Rio Operations Center brings information and processes from 30 different city agencies into a single place to provide a holistic, 24/7 view of how the city is functioning. The center uses analytical models developed by IBM to better predict and react to emergencies, manage traffic and public transportation, and oversee power and water supplies.

It also provides a way to forecast heavy rains — and possible impacts rain-related impacts — up to 48 hours in advance. The system is based on a unified mathematical model of Rio that pulls data from the river basin, topographic surveys, historical rainfall logs, and radar feeds. Using that data, the system can predict rain and possible flash floods, and has also begun to evaluate the effects of weather incidents on other situations like traffic or power outages.

“In addition to using all information available for municipal management, we share that data with the population on mobile devices and social networks, so as to empower them with initiatives that can contribute to an improved flow of city operations,” said Eduardo Paes, Rio’s mayor.

Citizens can also access daily data feeds from operations center via Facebook and Twitter.

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