Brazil embraces the digital age with an ambitious Internet of Things strategy

Brazil promises to be an exciting new landscape for IoT and Artificial Intelligence-related projects as it works to grow its internet and digital networks. The Brazilian government recently launched a plan to focus on expanding the Internet of Things in the country.

Under the umbrella of Brazil’s strategy “The Internet of Things: an action plan for Brazil,”, new partnerships, higher education programs, and innovators will flourish to make the most of new opportunities in Brazil’s expanding digital market. URBAN HUB checks out the status.

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Brazil – ready to expand the connection

At first glance, Latin America doesn’t seem like a hotbed of IoT activity. Trends show that only 7% of Latin American companies regularly use IoT and many sectors are still just dipping their toes in the water. Brazil, however, breaks away from the pack. In recent years, 60% of Brazilian companies have invested in IoT-related research and development.

Brazil’s market is certainly ripe for the digital age. According to recent statistics, 58% of Brazil’s population are online, and over 100 million people connect via their smartphones. The IoT juggernaut – fueled by a government initiative encouraging new partnerships, young innovators, and higher-learning institutes – is now rolling into the country.

The goal? To give Brazil’s economy a shot of adrenaline. The government predicts that IoT-related projects will add 132 billion USD to the economy by 2025. While boosting the economy remains a key focus, the strategy will also bring about positive changes in ensuring data security and creating a regulatory landscape that is more open to facilitating new innovations.

A plan of action

In 2017, the Brazilian government announced a strategy to accelerate its deployment of the Internet of Things. The goal is to enable a modernization of private and public services through IoT innovations and to foster entrepreneurship and new business.

IoT technologies offer great potential to leverage growth in the Brazilian economy. The strategy focuses on four core verticals: Smart Cities, Healthcare, Agribusiness, and Manufacturing. New developments will already be rolled out between 2018 and 2022. Some of the improvements that IoT can instigate include:

  • Healthcare: increase in efficiency and cost reduction in hospitals; prevention of epidemics.
  • Agribusiness: efficient use of natural resources, inputs and machinery
  • Manufacturing: improving processes, promoting business models that incorporate IoT and the development of new products.

And smart cities? Brazil is no stranger to the concept. From huge metropolises like São Paulo to smaller historic centers like Olinda, many cities have already implemented their own smart city strategies and goals.  Smart city IoT projects stemming from the government’s strategy will prioritize mobility, public safety, and utilities. 

 

Brazil’s strategy for IoT impacts all sectors

Tech companies get in on the plan

The major tech companies have had their ear to the ground for some time in Brazil, especially once Brazil successfully brought 1Mbps broadband access to all regions in 2010. In the last two years, several tech industries have opened shop locally to best harness the potential of Brazil’s strategic investments in IoT.

Facebook recently opened its first innovation center to foster entrepreneurs and help train young Brazilians to launch start-ups. Oracle also opened an innovation lab in 2017 to focus on Internet of Things and AI projects.

Probably the biggest investor is Qualcomm, who signed an agreement with the government of São Paulo to open a factory to manufacture processors geared at IoT applications. It also opened an R&D center to foster public-private partnerships that forward the development of an IoT ecosystem.

Microsoft also recently announced investments in Brazil, particularly in areas that deploy real applications of artificial intelligence to enable the development of mobility solutions in Brazil.

Brazil has its fair share of tech companies already producing IoT solutions. Exati, based in Curitiba, is developing a platform for a street lighting management system. Also in Curitiba, Hi Technologies is testing diagnostic equipment that uses the cloud to speed up Zika test processing and results.

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Brazil will increasingly use innovations like MAX, an elevator with a predictive-maintenance solution created by thyssenkrupp Elevator together with Microsoft.

Putting heads together for new innovations in Brazil

Tech companies, however, don’t have the corner on the market for innovations. Brazil also is home to a growing number of communities and institutes of higher learning that find inspiration in the new digital age. In fact, one aspect of Brazil’s IoT strategy is to encourage all stakeholders to put their heads together.

The National Telecommunications Institute (INATEL) is located in the so-called Electronic Valley in the south of Minas Gerais. It launched a graduate program focused solely on IoT, which dovetails nicely with another graduate program it offers for Smart Cities. INTAEL also started an exchange program with South Korea to jointly develop innovations for IoT.

Embarcados, a web community for embedded systems, seeks ways to challenge the ecosystem, for example with IoT innovations. A recent contest brought together inventive IoT-based solutions from a walking stick for the visually impaired that uses embedded technology to wireless communication for smart meters. 

There is certainly no shortage of ideas in Brazil. This was evidenced when the first Brazilian and Latin American Congress of the IoT was held in São Paulo in 2016. Last year’s conference hosted over twenty leading global tech innovators, solidifying Brazil’s reputation as a growing hub for IoT developments

A strategy already bearing fruit

So, will it be all talk and no action? The reception to a number of initiatives proves just the opposite. One pilot project gaining momentum is “Hospital 4.0” that aims to reduce waiting times for hospital services. In agribusiness, “Fazenda Tropical 4.0” is increasing crop productivity by enabling the monitoring of biological assets.

Across the country, Brazil is expanding its smart metering of utilities to improve services to customers. Overall, digital-driven customer services benefit from a robust IoT infrastructure, and Brazil will increasingly use innovations like MAX, an elevator with a predictive-maintenance solution created by thyssenkrupp Elevator together with Microsoft. Over 100 MAX connected elevator units have already been running in Brazil since early this year.

Most of Brazil’s population is urban, and smart city solutions will play a large role in mitigating problems ranging from mobility to crime. Many think-tanks and start-ups have already been working on IoT projects. Some inspiring examples include:

  • The city of Fortaleza uses Big Data to minimize bus delays and traffic jams. It has got a working partnership with the University of Arizona to develop solutions.
  • Curitiba, Brazil, is developing its IoT infrastructure to offer an accessible and robust e-government platform, among other things.
  • Rio de Janeiro’s Center of Operations (COR) is using Big Data to improve resilience to climate change, natural disasters, mobility, and public safety challenges.

The future is connected

Many have welcomed Brazil’s strategy to encourage the development of the entire IoT ecosystem and regulatory environment. While it may not be able to compete with established IoT giants like the United Kingdom or South Korea, Brazil can still leverage IoT innovations to build up its domestic products and strengthen export trade as well as public infrastructures.

In the last several years, the FAPESP Innovative Research in Small Businesses (PIPE) has seen a significant rise in the number of projects involving IoT. Just one indicator that the market is hopping, and that Brazil is home to many innovators ready to make their mark with new products and services.

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