The numbers surrounding urbanization worldwide are staggering. In 2008, the number of people living in cities, for the first time in civilization, surpassed the number of people living in rural settings. Although urbanization is happening on every continent, the story could not be more dramatic in China, where urban migration will add 350 million people - more than the entire U.S. population - to cities by 2025.
This will result not only in a swelling of the built environment, which will grow by 26 percent over the next ten years. It will also create unprecedented levels of demand for city services on a scale that most city governments have never experienced before, especially in the developing world. This realization is driving city leaders and technology innovators to launch an effort to leverage information and communications technology (ICT) systems to make it easier for cities to deliver services and foster innovation. Pike Research documented these efforts in our recent report, Smart Cities.
Next week, worldwide experts on smart cities will descend upon Rio de Janeiro for IBM’s SmarterCities forum to examine IBM’s work on implementing ICT technologies to improve Rio’s urban infrastructure. IBM and the Rio de Janeiro city government have been working hard on the Rio Operations Center to manage its burgeoning investments in infrastructure and prevent the urban disasters that have plagued the city in the past.
The Operations Center emerged largely in response to pervasive mudslides in Rio in 2010, which claimed the lives of more than 200 Cariocas. In an effort to avoid such disasters in the future, Rio is first investing in smart city infrastructure that tracks weather patterns and identifies likely vulnerabilities. In the long term, however, the Operations Center will be used to monitor a broader range of city services. And as attention turns to Brazil in anticipation of the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, Brazil is particularly keen on demonstrating its ability to become a 21st-century nation.