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Unequal smart spaces: the Command and Control Centre of Rio de Janeiro

Espaços inteligentes desiguais: o Centro Integrado de Comando e Controle do Rio de Janeiro
Espacios inteligentes desiguales: el Centro Integrado de Comando y Control de Río de Janeiro
Espaces intelligents inégaux: le Centre Intégré de Commandement et de Contrôle de Rio de Janeiro
Lalita Kraus, Fabiola de Cássia Freitas Neves e Aldenilson dos Santos Vitorino Costa


As tecnologias de informação e comunicação transformam o cenário urbano. A troca permanente entre o espaço físico e o espaço digital transforma a dinâmica espacial. Para esclarecer essa transformação, o artigo visa materializar o conceito de espaço smart por meio da análise de um estudo de caso: o Centro Integrado de Comando e Controle do Rio de Janeiro. O objetivo é tornar as dinâmicas espaciais visíveis observando o seu arranjo técnico baseado na gestão da informação. Os resultados da pesquisa apontam para o risco que, ao invés da instalação de um centro provedor de serviço, seja implementado um sistema autoritário e de controle já que esse novo espaço se caracteriza por novas relações de poder a partir da gestão de dados.

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1Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are an indispensable element for understanding the contemporary urban society as cities are dependent on computer-controlled spaces (Lefebvre, 2013; Thrift and French, 2002; Santos, 2008a). As they become more accessible and cheaper, they change the urban setting which becomes increasingly technically mediated. This intermediation affects the way social relations occur in the urban space (Santos, 2008a).

2The smart city conception, which is the main project involving the use of such technologies in the management of urban functions, is currently one of the main pillar of urban space transformation and of the so called smart urbanism (Datta, 2015; Luque-Ayala and Marvin, 2015). It relies on a rational faith in technological determinism as a mean to improve and make more efficient the planning and management of cities (Duarte and Firmino, 2009; Townsend, 2013).

3The offer of simple and “effective” solutions to complex social problems makes the smart city with its technological backbone extremely appealing for corporations and the State. Morozov and Bria (2018) state that it is justified by a context of austerity politics where cities, in order to be competitive, transfer part of the management of public infrastructure and services to private companies. For this reason, in the last decade, a “smart-cities gold rush” has been experienced, fuelled by technological innovation, a growing interest in urban problems and the economic opportunity offered to IT corporations such as IBM and Cisco.

4However, there are growing critical studies that point out a preoccupation with technology since it obfuscates the critical issue of whether its implementation affects urban inequalities and democracy. Firstly, the normative and celebratory evaluation of what is labelled as “smart” could simply hide an inextricable link between neoliberal ideologies and technocratic governance (Chakrabarty, 2019; Hollands, 2008; Greenfield, 2013; Vanolo, 2014). At the same time, advances in technology have an intrinsic potential for mass surveillance (Duarte and Firmino, 2009; Zuboff, 2015), exacerbation of inequalities and the substitution of political decision by data-based evidence (Morozov, 2018).

5In the last decade in Rio de Janeiro, numerous investments made the city stand out on an international level due to piecemeal smart initiatives that were implemented before any smart strategy or policies were built. One of this pilot project was the Integrated Command and Control Centre (ICCC) of Rio de Janeiro. Although the Rio´s Operation Centre (Centro de Operações do Rio - COR) was at the centre of media attention as the main pillar of the primary smart city strategy outlined by the local government during the mega-events, the ICCC was also part of this strategy. For this reason, it was cited by the Smart City Expo in their awarding of the “2013 Smart City of the Year” to Rio de Janeiro (Enbysk, 2013).

  • 1 Portal da Copa. Centro Integrado de Comando e Controle Nacional coordena ações de segurança durante (...)

6Funded in 2013, the ICCC was installed when the city was governed by politicians, like the mayor Eduardo Pães, who deeply believed in technology as a way forward to reduce crime and violence. The inicial purpose of the centre was to manage local security actions during the World Cup, since “the existence of a command and control centre in a city reduces emergency response time”1. The promise of security guarantees is a prerequisite for hostingl mega-events in order to avoid any potential risk that would damage the city and the event reputation (Fussy & Klauser, 2015). This precondition results in a standardization of public security measures, that are typically found in sport mega-event preparations and range from the urban militarisation to the technologization of public security policies.

7Centralized big data command and control centres, such as the ICCC, have been at the focal point of many smart city discourse since they promote technologies that are integrated with the urban infrastructure to enable a data-driven management system (Gaffney & Robertson, 2016; Praharaj, 2020). Even for institutions, such as the Inter-American Development Bank, these centres represent one of the main technological components and ideal nerve centres for the operations and services provision for smart cities (Bouskela et al, 2016). Following this conception, the idea of smartness is intrinsically correlated to the way in which digital devices can collect data, generate data stream and how databases can be integrated (Batty et al., 2012; Batty, 2013).

8The ICCC is technological and physical infrastructure where different government agencies and service providers collaborate to address specific urban issues (Bouskela et al, 2016). In Rio de Janeiro, the centre is responsible for guaranteeing social defence actions. The ICCC is connected to the city in real time through sensors and digital devices distributed all over the urban territory. At the same time the data collected is integrated with the databases of public institutions and analysed in order to handle emergencies and take decisions. Within this system the real time information based on evidence and the database integration is fundamental for a new urban understanding and the implementation of policies.

9The main assumption of the paper is that the notion of space is transformed by the permanent exchange between physical and digital spheres. Thus, the technologization process creates smart spaces that are ideally more efficient and transparent simply because they are driven by data and evidence. With the purpose to explore these technology-mediated spaces, we intend to make it visible and tangible through the case study analysis, introducing topics for debate about contemporary urban reality and looking at its social implications.

10Since this emerging space might be subject to inequalities in terms of access, participation, transparency and ownership, we should adopt a social sciences approach rather than merely techno-scientific. In order to do that, the first part of the article theoretically conceptualize what a smart space would be in order to see how it applies to the technical architecture and management system of the ICCC. In the section 2, the analysis will focus on its technical arrangements in order to reveal changing power relations based on information management. The article aims to reveal important questions raise about the power imbalances caused by governance through data within the smart city framework, especially in a city marked by tremendous socio-spatial inequalities and overly violent policing strategies. To do so, we analysed official documents published by the Brazilian government and related to the ICCC (ESMES, 2015; ESMES, 2015a; ICCB, 2018; Planning Secretary of Rio de Janeiro, 2014; Presidency of the Republic, 2011), and carried out one site visit and interviews with sergeant majors of the integrated management departments in 2020. We managed to do few interviews because the Centre has access restrictions which have been intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Technology and smart urban spaces

11When we deal with smart cities, we can observe an interdependent relation between technology and urban space. We can understand this association since ICTs are a technology that is able to broaden the reach and speed of information which is as intrinsic component of urban space. The information that is produced, collected, analysed and generated is clearly a pillar of the smart city strategy and it is evocated by multilateral agencies, firms and government as a way to optimize urban performance and the public decision-making process. As a result, there is a growing importance of information and data flows as an intrinsic component of several systems and structures of urban life. Consequently, smart technologies have the power to transform the nature and essence of the urban space and the way people experience it since information and all sorts of flows are intrinsic components of space (Aurigi & De Cindio, 2008; Cuff, 2003; Duarte, 2005; Duarte and Firmino, 2009; Santos, 2008a; 2008b; Weiser, 1991). This would create what we define as smart spaces.

12 The smart space, resulting from the combination of materiality and immateriality, can be defined as technical-scientific-informational (Santos, 2008a; 2008b), augmented (Aurigi and De Cindio, 2008; Duarte and Firmino, 2009; Manovich, 2003) and ubiquitous (Cuff, 2003; Weiser, 1991).

13Firstly, this space becomes technical-scientific-informational (2008a). In general, the Command and Control Centres encourages a type of urbanism with a strongly technological component where the technical functioning is based on scientific knowledge, including the information and telecommunication sciences. It is the result of growing investments in smart and technological solutions for urban problems as well as for public management. For Milton Santos (2008a; 2008b) the process of scientifization and technicization is closely associated with another relevant process that is the informationalization. It means that the objects (fixed), which constitute the materiality of space, and the actions (flows), which attribute meaning to objects, are permeated by information. In the ICCC, for example, the use of technical objects, such as cameras or smartphones, are fuelled by information and produce information that drive the action and response to specific events. Thus, information is instrumental to technical and scientific systems that control the territorial organization and the spatial dynamics.

14Beside that, the smart space is characterized by a complex amplification of spatial possibilities, since it is “the physical space overlaid with dynamically changing information” (Manovich, 2003: 220). The space is then augmented. This process is intermediated by the technology when it extracts data from, or delivers data to, the physical space. Video surveillance systems, for example, collect data in public and private physical spaces by tracking or monitoring people and any point in space. At the same time, mobile devices or computers display and deliver data from elsewhere. As a result, the physical space has new dimensions which results in augmenting the whole space of life as well as the spatial experience.

15Another important factor is the condition of ubiquitousness. The presence of ICTs in everyday life, including their insertion into urban infrastructure and into the public sector, underpin the emergence of smart spaces. From cell phones to urban sensors, smart buildings to applications, video surveillance systems to social media, an invisible computational infrastructure is now well integrated with the urban environment.

16This process is boosted by ICTs that become smaller, more invisible and consequently more infiltrated (Duarte, 2005; Duarte and Firmino, 2009). Today almost everything can have a microchip, making possible a symbiosis between electronic and objects making technology indistinguishable from everyday life. According to Weiser´s definition of ubiquitous computing, computers vanish into the background in a truly pervasive manner and most of them are invisible to common awareness (Weiser, 1991).

17Weiser (1991) makes a distinction between virtual reality and embodied virtuality. While the first is a sort of world simulation inside the computer, the embodied reality is the spatial embodiment of computers since there is a shift from a computing system based on desktop machines towards smaller devices scattered throughout the space. The virtuality becomes then part of the physical world as it is blended with every aspect of daily life. It is not a simulation but an embodiment that enhances the world that already exists.

18Today the phenomenon of ubiquitous computing and virtual embodiment totally manifests itself when technologies, for example, like Internet of Things (IoT), apply to urban environments as part of the development of smart cities. This urban model uses connectivity, sensors and computerized management systems in the provision of public services, the organization of urban settings and public management (Bouskela et al, 2016). It represents the most profound spatial manifestations of technology that we have ever experienced.

19All these processes contribute to create and expand the spatial opportunities by defining a technical, augmented and ubiquitous space. It is essential to see the composition of this space as a political and social issue rather than just technological since it challenges some of our fundamental ideas about visibility, privacy and transparency, as well as the distinction between private and public. From a sociological perspective, technical artefacts have political qualities (Latour, 2004; Winner, 1980). They materialize previous political schemes and, at the same time, their design has unexpected consequences that might create new possibilities, restriction, opportunities and threats. For this reason, this article focuses on an analysis of the technical dimensions and functioning of the ICCC, by looking at how the space becomes smart, in order to understand some of the socio-political dimensions involved.

The Integrated Command and Control Centre of Rio de Janeiro

20The decree n. 44.698 of April 02 2014 sees the creation of the Integrated Command and Control Centre of Rio de Janeiro (Planning Secretary of Rio de Janeiro, 2014). It was one of the centres of the Integrated Command and Control System (ICCS) that was responsible for the planning and operation of public security during the World Cup 2014. The entire system was composed of a National Integrated Command and Control Centre in Brasilia, an alternative National Integrated Command and Control Centre in Rio de Janeiro and twelve Regional Integrated Command and Control Centres in each World Cup host city (ESMES, 2015). Today the centres operate as a network only very occasionally.

21The domain focus of the control centres may vary worldwide, however urban mobility and public security are the most common. Our interviews revealed that in Rio de Janeiro the centre focuses on civil defense which is more extensive than public security embracing also climate and emergency management.

22The centre was initially subordinated and financed by the Extraordinary Secretary for Mega-Event Security (ESMES) of the Ministry of Justice, which was subsequently abolished in 2017 (Presidency of the Republic, 2011). The initial agreement was that the centre would be under the responsibility of the public security secretariat of the State of Rio de Janeiro. Since this secretariat was extinguished at the beginning of the Wilson Witzel mandate in 2019, the Military Police of the State of Rio de Janeiro is currently responsible for its administration.

  • 2 Civil, military and federal highway police forces; operational control centre of the military and c (...)

23The centre has a typical smart city setup. The centre is composed of 18 agencies of the public security and civil defense sector2. The agencies operate as focal points which means that they may have representatives who work in the centre or just a channel for sharing information. These agencies work under the authorities of either local state or federal government resulting in a complex system of institutional mandates. At the same time, although the centre is a state-level institution, apparently its range of action does not extend beyond the boundaries of the city.

24During the visits the centre has been presented as a pyramidal structure. The first level is the Integrated Centre of Social Defense (Centro Integrado de Operações de Defesa Social) that operates 24 hours a day and whose core is the emergency call centre (line 190, 192, 193 and 197). The call centres identify events and gather information before defining the level of urgency and dispatching within a specific protocol. All the agencies might be involved in gathering and checking information in their own databases, such as criminal records or vehicle registration plates.

25After that, the military police, fire brigade and the ambulance service are the principal actors involved in the dispatch, in order to respond to emergencies. These agencies are placed at the computer terminals in the control room that faces a large wall of video screen where data are displayed in a centralized urban monitoring system. Other agencies have their own room.

26The second level of the centre is the Integrated Operations Centre (Centro integrado de operações coordenadas) that is responsible for collaborative response to critical emergency situations and for specific events such as mega sporting events or pandemic crises such as COVID-19. The top of the pyramid is the Crisis Management Council (Gabinete de gestão de crise) where key political stakeholders define how to deal with unexpected events.

27Officially, the integrated system was pitched as a response to the need for public security thanks to real-time information that would allow the authorities to gain insight and react to specific events. In the interviews, the centre is proudly presented as an efficient, effective and prompt data-driven system. However, a more critical review suggests the risk of enhancing strategies of surveillance.

28Security is often the rationale for the implementation of control and monitoring systems, particularly since September 11th. Since then, the military doctrine of C² (command and control) inspires security policies during mega-events with high investments in technologies. As Cardoso (2018) states, among the enterprises that received public funds from the Extraordinary Secretariat for the Security of Mega-Events (ESMES) there are many ICT companies such as Aceco TI S.A., Aeromot, Agora telecomunicações, Unisys Brasil, comtext telecomunicações and Medidata Informática. Command and control centres represent then an important technical-scientific-informational arrangement that is influenced by globalized market conditions.

Smart layers

29In order to investigate the smart space in Rio de Janeiro, we consider the management of the information flow of the ICCC and how it is technically supported by interdependent layers of hardware, software and urban infrastructures. It is a centre based on technicization and informationalization processes where the physical dimension is blended with information. This new space can be synthesised as in figure I as a four-layer technical architecture that replicate somehow some of the official configuration of smart cities (Praharaj, 2020), revealing an amplification of spatial possibilities.

Figure I – Integrated Command and Control Centre´s smart space

Figure I – Integrated Command and Control Centre´s smart space

Source: author´s own elaboration based on field research

30In the figure the urban infrastructure and device layers illustrate the ubiquitous insertion of technology in urban infrastructure and the gathering of information about the ambient city conditions. However, the fact of collecting a massive quantity of data is not relevant in itself. Data integration and analytics tools are needed in order to transform a massive volume of sensor-collected data into valuable information. For this reason, the integration layer is where the application programming interfaces synchronize and the different streams of data converge. Finally, the platform and analytic layer include platforms and analytic approaches in order to process data and define concrete responses to specific events. All theses layers will be analysed to point out reflections on potential power imbalances in the city.

The urban Infrastructure and device layers

31There is an ongoing process of urban space transformation considering that the computational system is totally integrated with the urban environment and the urban dimension is provided with information intentionality. This represents the augmented and ubiquitous computing dimensions of urban space. If, on one hand, computers have become smaller and potentially invisible; on the other hand, while computers were initially used to access external resources, due to their processing power, today they are also employed to sense change and collect data (Batty, 2013). The inner logic of an integrated command and control system exploits these new technological advances as long as it is a data-driven decision-making system.

32Big data can be generated by various forms of sensors that are distributed and embedded into objects, including ourselves, as well as in any feature and object of the urban space. In this sense, any device can be embedded with chips to connect to vast networks of other devices and data centres.

33In the ICCC the digital devices range from personal devices to sensor-equipped urban infrastructure. This technological infrastructure is made up of: radio, smartphone and tablet of the ICCC´s operators and mobile centres; phone and emergency lines; 4000 cameras throughout the city, including the transit cameras of Rio’s Operations Centre (Centro das Operações do Rio - COR); private cameras; the monitoring system of the Metro and Rio-Niteroi ferry; ankle bracelets; GPS and video monitoring in police cars and helicopters; sensors, alert and firearm detection systems3 (Gaffney and Robertson, 2016). Moreover, the monitoring system might expand since, for example, the proposition of the law 723/2019 proposes to integrate private cameras into the Rio de Janeiro State monitoring system and the recent Smart Luz consortium plans to install 10.000 cameras by 2022. There are also other sources of data flow from private and government databases. The integrated databases include, for example, civil and criminal identification, plate numbers, criminal’s DNA and criminal records.

34This represents the immanent and ubiquitous stage of technologies. The whole urban infrastructure can be self-monitored and controlled by digital networks since the city has become deployed with applications and devices that collect data and codify all possible aspects of contemporary urban life (Firmino & Duarte, 2015). In the ICCC vast streams of data are produced automatically and routinely on a broad range of subjects, such as people and vehicle movements, gunfire and geo-referred locations. Many aspects of urban life are now quantified through a process of “datafication” (Cukier and Mayer-Schoenberger, 2013). For example, all the police locations and movements can be datafied, as well as the urban mobility.

35Embedding technology and the role of big data make a shift as long as the datafied everydayness becomes a strategic component of organizational and institutional life (Constantiou & Kallinikos, 2014). But, a the same time, the pervasive and continuous recording of data occurs in a context of formal indifference to the population and in the absence of consent (Zuboff, 2015). As Shoshana Zuboff (2015:79) argues “extraction is a one-way process, not a relationship. Extraction connotes a ‘taking from’ rather than either a ‘giving to’ or a reciprocity of ‘give and take’”. The system is then based on a passive and indifferent citizenship.

36The notion of public space is also completely transformed. On one hand, pervasive technologies allows to measure and quantify aspect of the urban life that were not previously measurable and knowable. But, on the other hand, even if they operate spatially, they are invisible part of everyday life (Cuff, 2003; Weiser, 1991). In other words, what makes visible the invisible is unseen since there is no one single point of observation but a distributed ubiquitous system. Consequently, the urban space becomes a place where the visibility of the urban life is matched by the invisibility of the point of control (Morozov, 2014).

The Integration layer

37The ICCC is based on an integrated information and communication system which provides the technical infrastructure capable of coordinating and linking data (Praharaj, 2020; Coli, 2011). This reflects the technical-scientific-informational dimension of urban space. Specifically, data integration is the critical issue for any kind of smart urban model and integrated systems provide the technological infrastructure to implement it. Integration means efficiency. Not surprisingly for private companies such as IBM the idea of smartness if founded upon an “efficiently integrated system of systems” (Gaffney and Robertson, 2016).

38In the ICCC the coordination can be analysed looking at the network and support layer. The former is related to data circulation and sharing. The ICCC is technically equipped with an internal Integrated Solution Project (Projeto Solução Integradora – PSI) that includes technical devices, but also a secured network in order to gather data from the application and device layers, then communicate to wi-fi services and finally display devices (ESMES, 2015a). The dispatch system, for instance, is an integrated platform that gathers information from the device layer, particularly the call centre and the alarms, then processes and forwards information. Another example of integration can be seen when the video-wall materialises the data collected by giving visibility to it with very meaningful and geo-referenced information. The big screen is made up of 98 monitors that are connected to cameras, television, maps and digital devices in the city (ESMES, 2015a). The decision of what is shown on the monitors is defined in the daily briefing. At the time of the visits, the video wall was switched off, although all the agencies monitoring systems were working.

39It is important to highlight that this level of integration mainly works for the devices and data system of the military police since there is not an integration platform that involves all the other agencies. In this last case, the logic of integration means that the agencies are merely consulted in order to have access and check useful information before dispatch. The same might happen with external institutions, such as the Public Prosecutor, and database, such as private Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras. The principal purpose of integration seems more a one-way strategy of accessing information for the military police than a multi stakeholder strategy of coordination, as advocated in many official documents (Planning Secretary of Rio de Janeiro, 2014; CIOB, 2018; ESMES, 2015a).

40The whole system would not work without a proper support layer, which is the urban data storage. On one hand, the ICCC has a data centre of the digital and non-digital information of the military police, including all the images and video recorded through cameras. On the other hand, all the agencies of centre have their own databases that are accessed on request. These are the big urban brains and archive of urban knowledge that are not accessible as part of a military institution.

41The integration system of the ICCC reveals a new government technique (Angelidou, 2017; Hirata & Cardoso, 2016; Meijer and Bolivar, 2016). The data integration system represents a new institutional design based on coordination that guides how the public administration work and govern. It represents a socio-technical arrangement based on a hierarchical integration and a centralized control of information.

42The ICCC is one headquarter of the military police and the integration with the other agencies takes place merely in order to share and check information that might make the emergency response more efficient. Thus, it is a hierarchical integration. Even if the computation has followed a path of decentralization and smaller computers have decentralized the process of communication, the command and control system centralize power and decision making by centralizing the data management system.

43Moreover, this data system represents a “hermetically enclosed and purified security sphere” since it is not accessible or open to the population (Klauser, 2010). This is in contrast with the idea of a transparent and a participative smart city. Instead, it reflects the ‘tyranny of information’ whose control by a limited number of actors allows new forms of despotic power. This urban sphere of “security” is built, following the official discourse, in order to guarantee public security and protect the population. The emotional sphere of fear legitimizes the construction of material or immaterial fortressed spaces in the contemporary fortress city (Klauser, 2010).

The Analytic and application layer

44Ideally, these command centres aim at using data to support real-time and predictive analysis about urban conditions. However, the ICCC of Rio de Janeiro does not use such analytical technology, because it would require a common data sharing platform that does not exist. In general, we could say that in this layer the data generated are applied for a specific urban management purpose which is improving emergency responses.

45The connected objects, that are embedded in the urban physical infrastructure, and the “constellation of instruments” across the layers transform the planning and urban management (Kitchin, 2014). There is an inherent risk in the notion that technologies are crucial to overcome security challenges. This might reflect a technocratic approach and instrumental rationality that explain the city through data and computation as if a data-driven knowledge was able to represent the urban reality and lead to better interventions in the urban context (Kitchin, 2015; Townsend, 2013). The creation of the ICCC in Rio de Janeiro is part of this new wave of technocratic idealism that contributes for a production of space that is functional, efficient and safe, rather than participatory, sustainable and transparent, as explained below.

46The functionality permeates the technological design of the ICCC since it follows parameters that come from the private sector. The main feature of the centre, as stated in the decree n. 44.698 (Planning Secretary of Rio de Janeiro, 2014), is the capability to optimize resources and time for a better decision making. It follows the business normativity that prioritizes functionality and efficiency criterions. The dispatch system, for instance, defines the behaviour the agency operators would perform by establishing the protocols to be followed. The objective is to achieve public safety solutions that are based on readiness, promptness, efficiency, preparedness, time to action improvement and response.

47It is safer and more efficient because technology and data collection would allow social problems to be overcome by offering evidence to explain reality. Social problems are presented simply as a matter of asymmetric information thus informational solutions, and not political routes, are the strategy to tackle them. The smartness principle relies then on the management of all relevant information and data towards more efficient public security and safety policies.

48The faith in technology reflects a “smart mentality” that guarantees an adherence to a technocratic urban model (Vanolo, 2014). This mentality is sponsored worldwide by a flourishing technology industry that pressures local governments to embrace a specific smart city path to solve urban problems. In Brazil, the pursuit of mega-events has been fundamental for the process of technologization of urban systems (Gaffney, 2010; Cardoso, 2013). The ICCC itself was developed as part of Brazil’s World Cup contractual obligations to FIFA with the involvement of enterprises, such as IBM, OI, Siemens, Omron, Dell, Aceco TI and Liebert Gaffney and Robertson, 2016; ESMES, 2015a).

49Mega-events represent the entry point to installing large security technology systems into the public management structure. Today these complexes are considered a strategic solution for safety and security issues. For this reason, for example, the state law 8.550 of 3 October 2019 established the creation of an integrated command and control centre in the Baixada Fluminense, one of the most violent parts of the metropolitan region of Rio de Janeiro.

50Although the prominent element of the implementation of smart technological solutions is participation, sustainability and transparency, the ICCC system contradicts these principles. Regarding the principle of participation, the population provides most of the data by using the panic button or calling the emergency centre, as well as when they drive a car, walk in the street or use social networks. Most of the time the population is not aware of it and formal indifference marks the extraction and analysis of data (Zuboff, 2015). The population is the source of data and the ultimate target of the data-driven interventions. The ICCC and its system of monitoring and control produces knowledge of human behaviour and actions independently of consent. This defines a social contract where authority is replaced by technique and trust by surveillance.

51Moreover, since the implementation of the ICCC was a precondition for hosting mega-events, the complex was used to guarantee the economic and financial gains associated with major events and to control any kind of interference, including popular manifestations. The protests of 2013 and 2014 were considered one of the main “natural disasters” in the pre-World Cup security agenda and the ICCC played a key role in its contention. Once again, the inclusion of the population seems to represent an obstacle when the smart technology infrastructure is employed against those who confront these projects.

52The second contradictory factor is related to the principle of sustainability. Firstly, algorithms, such as the facial recognition system in the cameras, operate within a logic that mitigates effects and neglects the causes. If the data collected are simply used to manage interventions, they explain what and not why (Morozov, 2018). Neglecting the causes of social phenomena leads toward the field of post-politics that makes urban issues and the city a target for actions, without any deep political discussion about the cause. Another important factor is that the systems like the one implemented in the ICCC are labelled as “smart” and are sold to municipalities all around the world which means that they are applied blindly without consideration to the local socio-spatial context. For firms like IBM the territory is seen as a mere receptacle where glamourous smart solutions are implemented.

53The last consideration about sustainability is that big data is shifting the emphasis from long-term urban planning to short-term (Batty, 2013; Gaffney & Robertson, 2016). The smart narrative requires a simple technological implementation in order to become more efficient and competitive at the expense of more complicated long-term goals, such as poverty reduction or educational improvements. Furthermore, the data of the ICCC are not used in a systematic way to inform long-term planning. All the data collected in the ICCC might be useful for long-term planning rather than merely observation and emergency intervention. In this case, it would be a proactive system rather than a merely reactive.

54With regards to transparency, there are two important elements to consider. The first refers to the “openness” of the ICCC since the administration in the hands of the military police creates a restricted and sealed urban management complex. All the data collected are confidential and the centre has not even a website. It looks like a big system of surveillance more than a public service institution.

55The second element has to do with the technology as a black box since data-driven systems pretend to represent the urban reality in an objective and totalizing way (Kitchin, 2015). However, technology has political ramifications and the ICCC “can be accurately judged not only for their contributions of efficiency and productivity […] but also for the ways in which they can embody specific forms of power and authority” (Winner, 1980: 121). This eventually mystifies any idea of objectiveness and completeness. Faith in technology, for instance, relies on a belief in the exhaustiveness of big data, but, even if the data stored in the ICCC is massive, it is a selective sample. The CCTV cameras, for example, are installed in selected locations in order to provide information on security and safety, but they might not be representatives of a depiction of city-wide urban safety.

56The distribution of devices within the city, including the use of call centre lines, is fundamental to understand the kind of urban security strategy that is built around this hybrid space. If the technology is deployed in a limited area, here will be concentrated the intervention of the city managers. This might aggravate the socioeconomic divides and spatial fragmentation since in Rio de Janeiro the process of technologization and security operations are concentrated around tourist areas and key infrastructure (Gaffney, 2012, 2015; Bianchi 2014).

57Moreover, technology is not bias-free. For this reason, it is relevant, not only where the data is collected, but also the type of data and the way it is recorded, processed and visualised. The ICCC performs as a complex technoscientific system where a vast universe of technologies mediates and orchestrates the provision of services. Codes and algorithms, for example, detect emergencies, classify priorities and define actions. Most of the time the algorithmic logic is not transparent, accessible and might reflect contradictions that already exist in society (Silveira, 2017) as well as reproduce pre-existing inequalities in service provision (Agyeman and McLaren, 2014). During the carnival of 2020, for example, a facial recognition program was launched in the Copacabana district and mistakes have already been reported. The use of such software is quite controversial since it allows the monitoring of people's activity and its accuracy is questioned because algorithms can fail and can be discriminatory towards minorities. The lack of transparency is exacerbated when the technology is private. The facial recognition program is the result of a partnership between the ICCC and the OI enterprise where the public sector turns out to be a mere user of a technology system that works in a proprietary regime.


58The ICCC is presented as a technical and informational system that reveal a new urban space. It reveals the attributes of an urban paradigm that is here presented through an analysis of the spatial dynamics of the augmented four layers architecture. The four layers division allows us to visualize a smart space that is characterized by the exchange between physical and digital space. The space is augmented and, consequently, the spatial experience too, which implicates in power imbalances due to a new data governance. Notably, research shows a technical arrangement where ubiquitous technologies operate without any consent and awareness of the population. Being observed and datafied by invisible technologies and unknown authorities denies the idea of public space. At the same time, the integration principle if, on one hand, might improve emergency response, on the other hand, seems to mainly facilitate the access to information by the military police by centralizing its power. The risk is that the ICCC turns into a technical-scientific-informational space where a monitoring and vigilance system is implemented more than a service provision system. In fact, the ICCC accumulates information in a hierarchical data ownership regime and this data system creates closed and fortified spaces. Diverse access and control over data could be strategic for cities in order to build a common knowledge of urban conditions, to build better services and public policies. To conclude, in the ICCC technological determinism creates unequal relations when the principle of efficiency superimposes over principles of participation, sustainability and transparency by revealing a smart space that is essentially opaque and not just. The ICCC fails then to go beyond a mere technocratic strategy, proving that unquestionable ability of technology to promote more livable and just cities can be demystified. The potential of technology for increasing the urban quality of life need a multiple institutional arrangements in order to elaborate and implement public policies that would establish technological sovereignty and a public control over the technological dimension, including civil society participation. This is a necessary condition for avoiding authoritarian and undemocratic use of technology, especially by the military police, in a city that has a long history of police violence and repression. The city should be protagonist in the definition of the use of technology that becomes an instrument and not an end, including the data governance and ownership regime. This would be able to transform technological investments towards more equal urban spaces.

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1 Portal da Copa. Centro Integrado de Comando e Controle Nacional coordena ações de segurança durante a Copa, 2014. <>. Acesso em: 19 jun. 2019.

2 Civil, military and federal highway police forces; operational control centre of the military and civil police; integrated centre of public security (Centro Integrado de Segurança Pública); ambulance service (SAMU); state fire brigade; state secretariat of prison administration (Secretaria de Estado de Administração Penitenciária - SEAP); civil police general ombudsman (Ouvidoria geral da polícia civil - OGP); State general comptroller (Controladoria Geral do Estado); state centre for monitoring and natural disaster alerts (Centro Estadual de Monitoramento e Alertas de Desastres Naturais do Estado do Rio de Janeiro - CEMADEN-RJ); state environmental institute; Rio´s operations centre (Centro de Operações do Rio - COR); state transportation agency (Agência estadual de transporte - AGETRANSP); Rio security program (Programa Segurança Presente).

3 Portal da Copa. <>; <>. Acesso em: 19 jun. 2019

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Título Figure I – Integrated Command and Control Centre´s smart space
Créditos Source: author´s own elaboration based on field research
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Referência eletrónica

Lalita Kraus, Fabiola de Cássia Freitas Neves e Aldenilson dos Santos Vitorino Costa, «Unequal smart spaces: the Command and Control Centre of Rio de Janeiro»Espaço e Economia [Online], 23 | 2022, posto online no dia 18 julho 2022, consultado o 06 dezembro 2023. URL:; DOI:

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Lalita Kraus

Professora Adjunta do Instituto de Pesquisa e Planejamento Urbano e Regional (IPPUR) da Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro.


Fabiola de Cássia Freitas Neves

Doutoranda do Instituto de Pesquisa e Planejamento Urbano e Regional (IPPUR) da Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro.


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Aldenilson dos Santos Vitorino Costa

Professor adjunto do Departamento de Administração Pública da Universidade Federal Rural do Rio de Janeiro .


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Apenas o texto pode ser utilizado sob licença CC BY-NC-SA 4.0. Outros elementos (ilustrações, anexos importados) são "Todos os direitos reservados", à exceção de indicação em contrário.

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