On the 11th of June, the city of Rio de Janeiro received a tool that allows mobile access and real-time information about bus lines and routes, as well as attractions. Through QR Code technology and Near Field Communication (NFC), users point their smartphone devices towards adhesive signs installed in five thousand points on the fleet of city buses. The users of this new technology will have access to information in Portuguese, English and Spanish. The municipal program Smart City Rio is intended to make life easier, but users are still divided as to the usefulness of the resource.
Recently, history teacher Barbara Romano was at a bus stop in the center city, but had not noticed the sticker. "I think it's an exclusive new development, because you need internet to access it," she says. For her, the tool can help a portion of the population, but the ideal would be to have points with stationary signs and "offline" information - as in some parts of the South and Central Zone, where the Bus Rapid System (BRS) system stickers are on available lines.
Eduardo Damm, 37, agrees; "I think it will cater to the tourists who are in town at the time of the World Cup. To own a smartphone is not something as accessible for many of us Brazilians," says the musician. He, like many others, did not know what the sticker was, nor did he know about the QR Code technology.
The lack of knowledge about the technology was pointed out by Daniel Ferreira as an obstacle to Smart City Rio. For example, of the nine people at a bus stop on Rua Barata Ribeiro in Copacabana, none had heard of the technology. For Ferreira, however, the feature can be useful, especially for tourists, if it is publicized more and expanded to more locations. According to the Municipal Bureau of Science and Technology, the distribution of stickers around the city was homogeneous: 1,000 stickers in the West Zone, 1,500 in the North Zone , 1,500 in South and Central Zone, and 1,000 in Tijuca.
For Paula Jardim, 28, the new tool will be useful – as an inhabitant of Niterói, she has often gotten lost on the network of city buses. "Right now I want to go to Ipanema and I need to find out which bus passes through here. I think the app will help me to walk by the river,” says the manager.
Wilson France, the Coordinator of Social Communication of the Municipal Office of Science and Technology, says that the release of information about the new tool was massive. "There were mentions in almost all newspapers, radio and TV channels," he says. However, he states that communication will be enhanced by placing explanatory posters and campaigns on the buses themselves.
As for City Hall spending money on the new technology, Wilson ensures that did not actually occur. "It did not cost anything. The use of technology is a right that was won by the city for hosting the Global Living Labs Awards in 2012, a competition between cities in search of solutions to major urban problems," he says. The application is compatible with Android, iOS and Windows Phone systems, and should gain new uses in the future as the connection expands to the Call Center 1746 and Procon services.
Do you think the Smart City Rio program will become a model for other cities around the world?
Original article, originally published in Portuguese, here.
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.