How Buenos Aires Deploys The Internet Of Things To Prevent Disaster

Nick Quin

In 2013, a catastrophic flood killed nearly 100 people in Buenos Aires. Citizens spent days wading through waist-high floodwaters. The city spent millions to restore order.

Rebuilding the city’s drainage infrastructure was not an option. An innovative solution was required. Utilizing Industry 4.0 technology, that solution was found: Buenos Aires would become a smart city.

This upgrade has since set a benchmark for innovative disaster management. By understanding it, we can prevent future disaster.

To understand this upgrade to the drainage of Buenos Aires, we must understand what caused the catastrophic 2013 floods. To understand the floods, we must examine the history of Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires was founded by the banks of The Rio de la Plata, in an area which sits above nine other rivers. Because of this extensive river network, over a million residents live in areas which are prone to flooding.

Despite this threat of flooding, Buenos Aires failed to update its aging drainage system. This was a result of the city’s paper-based bureaucracy. This legacy system led to slow maintenance, repeated blockages, and increasing development on floodplains.

Until 2013, citizens simply accepted this flooding as a fact of life. Following the disastrous floods, the city undertook a strategy of innovation. Rodrigo Silvosa, general director of Control Management for the Environment in Buenos Aires, accelerated the city’s partnership with our business. Together, they implemented an innovative solution.To mitigate future flooding, the city installed IoT-enabled sensors in over 30’000 storm drains. These measure the speed, level, and direction of water-flow within the drains. This data is then sent to their technology platform that generates a real-time map of potential blockages.

Prior to this, the city could not prepare maintenance crews in time to prevent catastrophe. Their paper-based system slowed down deployment times, delaying life-saving maintenance. Now, the network of sensors ensure the city only has to practice predictive maintenance at critical moments.

In addition to this, the city’s maintenance crews were once managed across multiple silos. This restricted their ability to assign commands quickly. Now, Buenos Aires can easily track and manage maintenance crews in real-time through their cloud-based system.

It was fortunate that these upgrades were carried out in 2013, as the city recorded some of the heaviest rainfall in its history in 2014. The severe storms of 2014 almost pushed Buenos Aires to the brink. Thankfully, the new system alerted the city to which sewers required attention. By deploying maintenance crews to these sewers through the cloud, the city was able to prevent flooding. These systems have seen the city through severe weather each year since.

If flood-prone cities do not upgrade their infrastructure, The World Bank forecasts that global flood losses will reach $1 trillion per year. As an advocate of smart cities with a desire to work with purpose, I’m proud to see SAP using innovation to change this forecast. By establishing systems like those in Buenos Aires, we can keep our cities safe in our increasingly unpredictable environment.

For more on smart cities, see Focus On Big Data Analysis To Make Public Service Helpful.


Nick Quin

About Nick Quin

Nick Quin is Regional Manager, Southern Region for SAP New Zealand based in Wellington. Nick has been involved in the transformation of organisations across Asia Pacific for over 25 years, with a passion for leading & developing teams, who are committed to deliver the business outcomes sought by our customers.