Where you have been, and what you have done, are no longer key. For the change makers who reimagine governments, it is important to know where you are heading and what you intend to do – Next. With this in mind, 500 employees from multiple agencies in Rio de Janeiro, were selected to establish the Centro de Operações Preifetura do Rio de Janeiro (COR). The objective of COR was to be a hub for all of Rio’s major data feeds, and to channel critical information to citizens continuously. In partnership with IBM and Oracle, the COR monitors transport, energy, communications, public safety, health, and weather forecasts, to anticipate problems and respond to emergencies. This operational hub uses information from rain gauges and radar sensors, bus GPS systems, imaging software, and social networks, and combines these data streams to germinate insights in order to make operational decisions.

COR integrates every stage of the crisis management situation: from prediction, mitigation, and preparedness, to the immediate response to events, and finally to capture feedback to be used in future cases. The centre scrutinizes data collected by sensors scattered throughout the city, views images gathered from over 1,000 cameras, and works 24 hours a day.  This allows the city to address complex challenges holistically. Keeping a city working in a sustainable fashion is one of the great challenges of the 21st century.

A smart city puts the citizen at the heart of development. To alter the dynamic in the provision of public services, propel changes in practices, turn problems into creative solutions, and add value to the existing infrastructure, smart cities use feedback loops and multiple data sources from a range of digital ecosystems to prevent, mitigate, and even foresee crises.

Feedback mechanisms enable the provision of services, alerts, and information to citizens in a proactive manner. Sensors sprinkled like confetti gather data. This enables city managers to organize different stakeholders in layered urban settings by creating responses that are tailored, fresh, and in line with the liberties of all. By integrating feedback and citizen participation, smart cities become more economically competitive, talent attractive, and resilient. Feedback is also incorporated into planning cycles that future proof the city.

This is where the integration of early warning systems, cybersecurity, and disaster preparedness intersect in a national operations centre. The process of making a city smarter produces effective outputs which can be monitored by residents as well as by those visiting the city. This type of intelligent connectivity is part of place-making. Smart destinations connect tourism products and services with travellers anywhere, in real-time. Today, the geographical distribution of contextual, authentic and real tourism experiences is truncated only by the digital appeal of destinations.

By working collaboratively, smart city managers are able to integrate data on mobility, traffic, safety/security, surveillance, water, energy, and risk management to provide better services to the population and visitors. The gains from feedback and collaboration include: 1) transparent information for better planning and budget forecasting; 2) optimizing the use of resources and the dilution of unnecessary spending; 3) enhancing the image of public bodies, and improving the level of satisfaction of the population; 4) writing and rewriting soft laws in the sand and not carving them in stone, and; 5) allowing civil society through the use of technology, to help monitor public service delivery, as bureaucrats confront lingering municipal problems.

Digital technologies are not an end but a means for transforming the traditional infrastructure of the city into an ecosystem that uses feedback to bring benefits to the people and businesses that live and work in the city. Smart bus stops offer real-time bus schedules. Parking lots offer drivers real-time information on the availability of parking spaces. Sensors provide real-time data on noise levels, and other forms of environmental pollution, traffic and weather conditions, and citizens’ flows to optimize urban mobility.

Smart public lighting permits the dynamic management of lighting levels according to local conditions resulting in significant energy savings. Wireless waste containers monitor and measure the amount and type of waste. Data from the waste containers are sent to the sanitation department and waste collection companies. This enables better planning of collection routes by updating carters in real-time about routes, types of waste, and the weight. This optimizes the budget of waste management services.

Data geo-referencing and analysis of illicit activity in affluent and overlooked parts of the city allow law enforcement bodies to be more assertive in prescribing preventive measures and to work more efficiently in detecting and repressing crime. Data of this nature also supports social services to pay more attention to young people living in overlooked communities and to develop educational and cultural policies, projects and programs to influence the future of those living in vulnerable circumstances.

Departments in bureaucracies often operate like islands. This is reinforced by the way draft estimates are created. But the problems of municipalities have solution paths that transcend silos. The solutions need rich collaborative content. Governments want to provide extraordinary public services and improve the lives of citizens. But silos result in duplicated efforts and resources, cost overruns, low productivity, and the erosion of the refined and liquefied flow of data.