How Does a Smart City Think?

Experts discuss the various possibilities of using data produced in networks to plan urban planning solutions.

Install a GPS in a garbage bag to know where it will stop. Analyze data from mobile phones to find out how the participants of New Year’s Eve in Copacabana are moving or use popular traffic applications to predict how cars will behave every day in the city.

Examples such as these, which may seem a bit daunting to those most concerned about privacy, are a sampling of how technology can help cities function smarter. Technology and the Big Data – that much information on the networks, often made available by ourselves, without us not even realizing it – have already been used in many cities for the development of public policies, either by governments or by private initiative.

“The city of the past has changed a lot. You need to create a culture of innovation,”says Carlo Ratti, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) at the SENSEable City laboratory. He opened the meeting Smart Cities, this Thursday in São Paulo, where entrepreneurs, public managers and urbanists discussed solutions for better planning of large urban centers.

Partnerships with applications such as Waze have multiplied by several municipalities, including Rio. Popular among drivers who want to escape congestion, data produced by user routes indicates which are the most common flows, the times of greatest displacement in each Route, and from this, it is possible to think about how to improve traffic control.

In Rio, for example, the analysis of traffic information has helped to realize that in some areas of congestion it is cheaper to construct a BRT (fast bus system), at a cost of 1.2 billion reais, than to Economic losses generated by traffic, which reaches this same value in four years, according to Pablo Cerdeira, coordinator of the Operations Center of the City Hall.

Traffic applications can also have the effect of taking cars off the street. Joint charity programs could cut the number of cars on the streets of New York by 40 percent, according to a projection made by MIT professor Carlos Ratti – something that could develop as a public policy. And, in the not-too-distant future, cars driving alone could “go home” when owners are at work, vacating parking spaces and being used by more people.

The analysis of the displacement of people, through cellular networks, has helped, for example, to plan the public transportation necessary for the New Year’s Eve in Copacabana, which last year received 2.3 million people, to have less inconvenience. It was discovered where the bus lines needed to be reinforced and from which time.

In the city, crossing data from electronic systems that read license plates with information from the Public Security Bureau also allowed the 40% route of the stolen cars to be identified in the city – the experience has made the new traffic cam- The need for them to be alert to this. The Strava application, a kind of bike GPS, also helped to plan the city’s new bike paths.

Initiatives to transform public space into a more fluid place, with greater popular participation in decision making and where technology is used to improve the quality of life, are actions that aggregate a city to this concept of Smart City ( Smart City). In Curitiba (PR), for example, there are intelligent traffic lights, which recognize, through a card that is approximated to a sensor on the sidewalk, if the pedestrian is an elderly person. If so, the signal is open to pedestrians for longer.

In addition, the city hosted the first edition of Hackathon in May this year, an event that encourages discussion and application development. From there, 10 startups came out. Another initiative was the creation of ecofrotas of buses and cars driven by the electric battery and Portal do Futuro, where the youth organize to discuss part of the city’s investment. “In addition to concrete actions, it is necessary to review the bureaucracy and the electronic processes in order for the projects to be carried out,” warns Paulo Roberto Miranda, Secretary of Information and Technology of Curitiba. The experts met this Thursday at the meeting Smart Cities, promoted by EL PAÍS, by the public policy center Insper, and Arq Futuro.

Cycle routes fulfill a “civilizing” function, says haddad.


An intelligent city is not only made of the highest technology or with revolutionary ideas for solving problems. Often, ‘analog’ measures may go down very well to solve urban or mobility issues. “Sometimes we are very restricted to the technological issue,” said the mayor of São Paulo, Fernando Haddad (PT). “But simple measures can prevent distortions.”

Popular participation, prioritization of public transport, investment in lighting and intelligence for sectors such as health, the installation of wi-fi in public squares to stimulate social interaction and good governance in public safety are part of Haddad’s list to compose a city best. “The debate is not just about technology but, above all, about urban planning,” says Haddad.

Although public policies that prioritize urban transport do not have 100% acceptance of the population of São Paulo, exclusive bus lanes and cycle lanes are on the agenda.”Segregation of tracks is not an easy decision to make because someone will pay for it, in that case, the car,” says Haddad. “You hurt someone to improve the lives of the majority.”

The bicycle lanes, for the mayor, fulfill a “civilizing” function, since they exacerbate the excessive occupation of the streets. “São Paulo is all busy, you can not see an empty space in the city. It’s like silence in music, the city needs space silence,”he says. To brighten your bike, you can follow a2zYellowPages.

Another important point, he said, is to see public administration more openly, aware of good initiatives elsewhere, including that of other parties. “An intelligent city is the one that discerns,” he says. “The taste of democracy is not only the taste of demarcation, but also the taste for consensus. We have to recognize good initiatives from other places as well.”