New York Times

Everybody Inhale

IN a crowded place like Manhattan, there are moments when a certain question flits across people’s minds.

It could happen on a weeknight at the Union Square Trader Joe’s, when the aisles are so packed that shopping for frozen edamame morphs into a full-contact sport. Or perhaps it’s on a Saturday in SoHo when Broadway is transformed into an obstacle course of tourists and jewelry peddlers. Maybe it’s on the No. 2 subway line at rush hour, where personal space — if any — can be measured with a micrometer.

And then you pass by a new high-rise under construction, and it’s only rational to wonder: Just how many people can Manhattan actually hold?

It’s not only grousing New Yorkers who think about this. Planners at City Hall constantly weigh population projections, subway capacity and building heights. Economists and urban theorists debate what-if scenarios that would render the skyline unrecognizable.

Even though the demand for New York real estate seems insatiable, it’s possible the city could grow so crowded it would turn off the likes of Cleo Stiller-Farrell, 25, who was born in Manhattan and works on the 54th floor of a Midtown office building for a biotech hedge fund.

“You just see yourself doing things that your mother would be ashamed of,” she confessed. One example: cutting off an elderly woman on the sidewalk and thinking to herself, “Your scooter is taking too long — outta my way, lady!”

Already wishing the city could cap the number of people moving to Manhattan, Ms. Stiller-Farrell says she dreads every new building she sees — her imagination immediately launches into an apocalyptic vision of skyscrapers and darkness worthy of science fiction.

“How many years does New York have before it starts to look like ‘Blade Runner?’ ” she asked.

Some perspective: As crowded as the city feels at times, the present-day Manhattan population, 1.6 million, is nowhere near what it once was. In 1910, a staggering 2.3 million people crowded the borough, mostly in tenement buildings. It was a time before zoning, when roughly 90,000 windowless rooms were available for rent, and a recent immigrant might share a few hundred square feet with as many as 10 people. At that time, the Lower East Side was one of the most crowded places on the planet, according to demographers. Even as recently as 1950, the Manhattan of “West Side Story” was denser than today, with a population of two million.

By 1980, with the subsequent flight to suburbia, the population fell to 1.4 million. Then crime dropped, the city strengthened economically, and real estate prices started a steady climb, defying broader downturns in the economy as any dip in the market came to be viewed as a buying opportunity.

But those numbers measure Manhattan at its sleepiest, literally. Census figures count only residents, neglecting, as E. B. White famously wrote, “the New York of the commuter, the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night.”

If a whole city can be created and destroyed in a day, Manhattan comes close. During the workday, the population effectively doubles, to 3.9 million, as shown in a new report by the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management of New York University. Day-trippers, hospital patients, tourists, students and, most of all, commuters, drain the suburbs and outer boroughs, filling streets and office space with life. Wednesday, it turns out, is the most populous day of the week, and special events, like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, push the total past five million, offering a glimpse of what an even more crowded Manhattan might feel like.

So if Manhattan’s slow but steady growth continues — and there’s no sign it won’t — how many people can it handle? Answers to this seemingly simple question could fill enough pages to pack a spacious studio apartment, but a quick helicopter tour of future scenarios for Manhattan’s growth shows a tangle of towers and trade-offs.

Manhattan Circa 2030

Two hundred and fifty people work in New York’s Department of City Planning, and its Population Division, using various methodologies, tallies births and deaths, and then fine-tunes projections based on census figures, to arrive at a best guess of what the city will look like. By 2030, they expect Manhattan will have 220,000 to 290,000 new residents — roughly one new neighbor for every six current residents. They also anticipate a much grayer population, as more retirees choose to stay in the city.

All these new people will surely alter the skyline, and create demand for growth in pockets of the city that still have room to be developed. Certain neighborhoods come up repeatedly in conversations with planners and developers: Chelsea; the unnamed neighborhood some call “Riverside Boulevard”; the area near Columbia University; 125th Street; that stretch of parking lots on the south side of Delancey Street near the Williamsburg Bridge; and of course the West Side, where more than 18,000 new apartments are expected to be built in the huge Hudson Yards project.

Of course, in a city as seductive and glittering as New York, those projections could always turn out to be too conservative. What if a lot more people want in?

Let 1,000 Towers Bloom

These days, Ed Glaeser, a Harvard economist, inevitably comes up in conversations about how cities should grow. In his recent book, “Triumph of the City,” he makes an argument — which many consider persuasive — that dense places are uniformly better and more interesting than emptier ones, and that they should be allowed to develop unfettered, even if it means building towers where brownstones once stood.

Affordability is the first reason. If you build up, he says, housing prices will fall and more people will be able to live in their own sliver of Manhattan sky. And that’s a good thing, Mr. Glaeser adds, since the energy of all those newcomers will fuel innovation and entrepreneurship, attracting talent and growth to create a virtuous circle. From energy-efficiency to life expectancy to finding a date or something to do on a Saturday night, Mr. Glaeser argues that denser places have the edge.

He’s all for sacrificing charming stretches of the city for more residential space. He favors preserving noteworthy architecture, but suggests a cap on the number of protected buildings at any one time. If you want to protect a new building, he says, another should come off the list.

“There are certainly individual buildings that I feel sentimental about,” Mr. Glaeser said, recalling the memory of watching snow fall on the brownstones and the old Magyar church across the street from his childhood apartment on 69th Street between First and Second Avenues. “Sure, I would feel a little bit sad if that was torn down, but the upside of having thousands more people getting to enjoy New York would outweigh my personal feelings.”

Mr. Glaeser thinks restricting building height is fundamentally unfair. He has proposed scrapping the city’s permitting process in favor of “impact fees” that developers would pay to cover the infrastructure costs associated with their buildings. So if somebody wanted to build a 50-story building, he or she would simply put up the money required to support its water, sewer, power and so forth.

It’s impossible to predict how Manhattan would change in response to looser restrictions. But what if you built a Manhattan that looked more like Hong Kong? Grafting the density of Hong Kong’s most crowded neighborhoods onto Manhattan’s area would inflate the population to 2.6 million people. Our apartments might be smaller and on higher floors, but our standard of living would not be radically different.

Could New York’s infrastructure support all those people? Water is one of the last resources the city is worried about. New Yorkers have actually been using less water (both per person and as a city) every single year for the past 20 years, thanks in part to a wildly successful 1994 program that offered rebates for people who installed more efficient toilets.

Power? Choose your experts. ConEd, which carefully monitors peak power usage, going so far as to conduct an “air-conditioner census,” says it’s on it. But Kate Ascher, who teaches at Columbia University and leads Happold Consulting’s American practice, says the city’s power system is frail and in serious need of new power plants and transmission lines.

Garbage? New York already ships its trash to a handful of states, including Pennsylvania, Virginia and Ohio, so more New Yorkers would just add to the thousands of tons of garbage hauled away from the city every day by truck and barge.

Sewage? Already a problem. Rain often overwhelms the system, sending raw sewage into waterways from flooded treatment plants.

Transportation, however, is where the average New Yorker feels the pain of crowding most acutely, especially on the subway.

“The system is at capacity all the time, except at night,” said Sarah Kaufman, a transportation and data expert who recently left the Metropolitan Transit Authority to conduct research at N.Y.U. Unless the authority builds more train lines, all it can do is run trains closer together by installing new computer systems.

But such problems are rarely insurmountable, said Ms. Ascher, whose 2005 book “The Works” anatomized New York’s infrastructure. For example, she notes that after the Great Blizzard of 1888 snapped power lines across Manhattan amid 20-foot snowdrifts, the borough was inspired to put them underground.

“This is a city that’s made do every time there’s some kind of cataclysmic disaster,” Ms. Ascher said. Almost no urban problem has an unimagined solution, she added. Cities have turned to desalination, waste-to-power plants, bus rapid-transit, even building an airport in the middle of a harbor.

“If we really felt we needed to do it,” she said, “we would build an incinerator on an island in a second.”

Build a New Backyard

“To the naked eye, Manhattan always looks like it’s fully grown,” said Vishaan Chakrabarti, the director of the Center for Urban Real Estate at Columbia University.

And that’s why, he added, so many people don’t want to see changes to building heights in their neighborhoods. He has a number of practical ideas for developing the city’s skyline, and to those who say, “not in my backyard,” he has an answer: let’s build a new backyard.

At Columbia University in January, in an Italianate room lined with red velvet curtains, Mr. Chakrabarti assembled a blue-ribbon panel of planners, developers, architects and technical experts. “We have to create more Manhattan,” he told them.

His plan for doing so is called “LoLo” or “Lower-Lower Manhattan” — a brand-new neighborhood, built from landfill in the harbor connecting Lower Manhattan to Governors Island and beyond, with blocks of skyscrapers, new subway lines, and waste-to-energy and desalination plants.

If that sounds far-fetched, keep in mind that much of the waterfront in today’s Manhattan was built this way, including Battery Park City. The LoLo that Mr. Chakrabarti proposes would add one square mile to Manhattan, with enough apartments and office buildings to accommodate 94,000 residents and 370,000 commuters.

The Most Crowded City?

Once a month, about 10 city planners, infrastructure experts and academics meet after work for a bull session called “Infradrinks,” and happy hour meets urban planning theory.

Before a recent gathering in Brooklyn at their usual watering hole, fittingly called Building on Bond, The New York Times posed a question to the group: is there a limit to how many people can live in Manhattan?

“The natural limits of density? That’s a subject that we don’t really think about at City Planning,” said Thaddeus Pawlowski, an urban designer for the city. Undaunted, the group took up the question, and traded rapid-fire theories about vertical farms and banning cars in Manhattan mixed in with “Jeopardy”-worthy facts. (A city in the United States denser than New York: What is Hoboken?)

In between pints of Lagunitas IPA and toasts to a land bridge, Frank Ruchala Jr., a city planner, pulled out a notebook page covered in math. He’d been working the numbers on the train.

“So, the highest-density spot ever measured on earth was Kowloon Walled City,” he said, referring to a regulatory no-man’s-land in the heart of Hong Kong claimed by both China and Britain, but ruled by neither. Roughly the size of five football fields, the district at its peak in the 1980s housed an estimated 35,000 people in a vertical thicket of chamber pots and darkness. It was demolished in 1994.

“You guys have to see this,” Mr. Ruchala said.

An iPhone was produced. A Wikipedia entry was summoned. A photo was passed around the table. Gasps. Profanity.

“It was basically a thick waffle of density,” Mr. Ruchala said.

“So this is just renegade?” someone asked.

“Pretty renegade,” Mr. Ruchala answered, “Yeah. But awesomely renegade.”

The night’s calculations revealed that packing Manhattan as tightly as Kowloon Walled City, river to river, would mean jamming in 65 million people. That’s if every surface was built on. If the current streets and parks were left intact? About half that many, or nearly the population of California.

Clearly, nobody wants to live in a claustrophobic warren of vertical slums. But what, ultimately, do New Yorkers want? To freeze the city as is? Grow slowly? Build higher and faster? Stretch Manhattan’s boundaries with landfill?

Planners and developers can generate dozens of projections, but underneath growing population numbers are hundreds of thousands of very personal decisions, weighing questions like: How much rent can I afford? Where do my friends live? Where’s the better job? Can I tolerate another roommate? Is there room in our school’s kindergarten class? Can I sit down on the train? Do I want a yard? A dog? A car? Or killer pork buns at 3 a.m.?

As much as determining Manhattan’s maximum capacity is about the art and science of urban planning, the question is in some sense much more about psychology. Given all the tradeoffs and rewards of living in this staggeringly complex, gloriously maddening city, there is no final accounting or projection. When it makes sense for our lives, we make do with less space. Like most things that are a matter of compromise and desire, it comes down to another simple question: Just how badly do you want what you want?

New York Times

March 3, 2012

Mission Control, Built for Cities

NOT far from Copacabana Beach here is a control room that looks straight out of NASA.

City employees in white jumpsuits work quietly in front of a giant wall of screens — a sort of virtual Rio, rendered in real time. Video streams in from subway stations and major intersections. A sophisticated weather program predicts rainfall across the city. A map glows with the locations of car accidents, power failures and other problems.

The order and precision seem out of place in this easygoing Brazilian city, which on this February day was preparing for the controlled chaos that is Carnaval. But what is happening here reflects a bold and potentially lucrative experiment that could shape the future of cities around the world.

This building is the Operations Center of the City of Rio, and its system was designed by I.B.M. at the request of Rio’s mayor, Eduardo Paes. There is nothing quite like it in the world’s other major cities. I.B.M. has created similar data centers elsewhere for single agencies like police departments. But never before has it built a citywide system integrating data from some 30 agencies, all under a single roof. It is the handiwork of an I.B.M. unit called Smarter Cities and, if all goes according to plan, it could lay the groundwork for a multibillion-dollar business.

On this February day, Guru Banavar, an I.B.M. executive, stood on the balcony above the control room, watching the scene.

“I have seen better infrastructure in individual departments in other cities,” said Mr. Banavar, I.B.M.’s chief technology officer of the global public sector. “But I haven’t seen this level of integration in other cities.”

For I.B.M., Rio is a crucible. By 2050, roughly 75 percent of the world’s population is expected to live in cities. Many metropolitan areas already use data-collection systems like sensors, video cameras and GPS devices. But advances in computing power and data analysis now make it possible for companies like I.B.M. to collate all this data and, using computer algorithms, to identify patterns and trends. Mr. Banavar calls it “sense-making software.”

Running a big city, particularly one as varied as Rio, makes running many companies seem easy. No wonder the market to supply cities with “smart” systems is expected to reach $57 billion by 2014, according to IDC Government Insights, a market research firm.

I.B.M. wants a piece of that. It is expanding into the local government market as part of a plan to raise its annual revenue to $150 billion or more, Mr. Banavar said. In 2011, the company’s revenue was nearly $107 billion.

The Rio operations center, which opened at the end of 2010, is part of an effort to gain a toehold in a market with more established players like Cisco Systems. (Cisco calls its local government initiative “Smart+Connected Communities.” The company is heavily involved in the Songdo International Business District, a new city in South Korea, where Cisco’s network technologies help commercial buildings control energy consumption, for example.)

But even for a company like I.B.M., Rio represents a grand challenge. A horizontal city sprawled between mountains and the Atlantic Ocean, it is at once a boomtown, a beach town, a paradise, an eyesore, a research center and a construction site. Oil-industry giants like Halliburton and Schlumberger have been rushing to build research centers here to help develop massive oil and gas fields off the coast.

Special police units have moved into about 20 slums, called favelas, in an effort to assert government control and combat crime. Rio is also reconstructing major arenas and building a rapid-bus system ahead of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.

This is a city where some of the rich live in gated communities while some of the poor in the favelas pirate electricity from the grid. And where disasters, natural and otherwise, sometimes strike. Rainstorms can cause deadly landslides. Last year, a historic streetcar derailed, killing five people. Earlier this year, three buildings collapsed downtown, killing at least 17.

The complex conditions create a kind of hothouse for I.B.M. to expand its local government business. If the company can remake Rio as a smarter city, it can remake anywhere.

“Smart is all about information,” Mr. Banavar said. “Once you have the information and understand it and know what to do with it, you are halfway to smart.”

AT 45, Mr. Banavar is the unofficial ambassador for Smarter Cities. He flies around the world, listening to mayors’ predicaments and overseeing the I.B.M. teams whose job is to produce the solutions. Since its start in 2010, Smarter Cities has become involved in several thousand projects.

That Mr. Banavar was raised in Bangalore, India, now lives in New York and is married to a woman from Skopje, Macedonia, only bolsters I.B.M.’s global urban cred. It also helps that he embeds himself as he sizes up each city.

One day last month, he stood at the central Praça da Bandeira intersection, a knot of streets and highway overpasses that connect northern Rio with the southern beach zone.

“Imagine this intersection with a meter or two of water,” Mr. Banavar said. An overhead camera was streaming video to the operations center. “This becomes like a pond.”

The catalyst for the operations center was a torrential summer storm here nearly two years ago. Around 4 that morning, Mayor Paes started receiving alarming reports. There were landslides in some favelas, with the risk of many more. There were flash floods. Cars and trucks were stuck in rising water. But Rio did not have a predetermined location from which the mayor could monitor the situation and oversee a response.

“By then, I realized we were very weak,” Mr. Paes recounted in a phone interview. “That also made me mad.”

So he improvised. He had lived in Connecticut as a teenager and remembered how some American cities declared snow days so they could clear the streets. In the wee hours, he began calling television stations, radio stations and newspapers, declaring an emergency and urging people to stay home.

“We had no plans for that, but it worked,” Mr. Paes said.

In the city, 68 people died as a result of the floods and landslides, but the toll might have been worse if he hadn’t issued the warning, he said.

Mayor Paes decided that Rio could do better. A month later, he met with Mr. Banavar and a team from I.B.M. Like a corporate chief executive, the mayor wanted to knock down silos among his departments and combine each one’s data to help the whole enterprise.

“We used to have all of this information.” Mr. Paes said. “But we could not put it together to use in a smart, intelligent way.”

He wanted his new operations center to open as soon as possible.

PREVIOUSLY, I.B.M. developed crime control centers for Madrid and New York City, along with a traffic congestion fee system for Stockholm. But creating a citywide, interdepartmental system for Rio was a far bigger task. I.B.M. approached the challenge like a general contractor, managing the overall project while farming out some of the work. Local companies handled construction and telecommunications. Cisco provided network infrastructure and the videoconferencing system that links the operations center to the mayor’s house. The digital screens are from Samsung.

“We coordinated everything,” Mr. Banavar said. “In our terminology, we call it being the ‘master integrator.’ ”

I.B.M. incorporated its hardware, software, analytics and research. It created manuals so that the center’s employees could classify problems into four categories: events, incidents, emergencies and crises. A loud party, for instance, is an event. People beating up each other at a party is an incident. A party that becomes a riot is an emergency. If someone dies in the riot, it’s a crisis. The manuals also lay out step-by-step procedures for how departments should handle pressing situations like floods and rockslides.

I.B.M. also installed a virtual operations platform that acts as a Web-based clearinghouse, integrating information that comes in via phone, radio, e-mail and text message. When city employees log on, they can enter information from, say, an accident scene, or see how many ambulances have been dispatched. They can also analyze historical information to determine, for instance, where car accidents tend to occur. In addition, I.B.M. developed a custom flood forecast system for the city. Mr. Banavar even recommended that the mayor create the position of chief operating officer to oversee the operations center, and the mayor agreed.

The project cost Rio about $14 million, Mayor Paes said. If it all works according to plan, it could make Rio a model of data-driven city management.

“We want to put Rio ahead of every city in the world concerning operations of daily life and emergency response,” the mayor said. But, he said, the challenge will be to make the city run more efficiently without watering down the brio that makes Rio Rio. “We don’t want to be Lausanne or Zurich.”

ONE evening in late January, a 20-story office building downtown next to the municipal theater collapsed, taking two other buildings along with it. Panic ensued. The operations center sprang into action.

A city employee happened to be having a beer near the scene and alerted Carlos Roberto Osório, the city’s secretary of public works and conservation.

“We gained one minute by luck,” Mr. Osório said. “But the system worked very well.”

At the operations center, employees alerted the fire and civil defense departments and then asked the gas and electric companies to shut down service around the scene. Others temporarily closed the subway underneath the site, blocked off the street, dispatched ambulances, alerted hospitals, sent in heavy equipment to remove the rubble and activated civil guards to evacuate nearby buildings and secure the accident site. The operations center’s Twitter feed alerted followers about blocked streets and alternate routes. Mr. Osório himself sped to the scene, from which he posted photos to his own Twitter and Facebook accounts.

At least 17 people died in the collapse, and city officials said later that construction work inside the 20-story building might have knocked out load-bearing walls. Still, the city’s coordinated response was a victory for the operations center. “We were never able to react so quickly before,” Mr. Osório said.

In early February, Mr. Osório was standing in the noonday heat in the middle of the Sambadrome stadium, overseeing the reconstruction of the samba school parade grounds two weeks before Carnaval. The city had promised to widen the space and add thousands of seats for the Olympics. Mr. Osório wanted the work finished on time.

Many other sites here are under construction. That is because, after decades of neglect, the government and private companies are heavily investing in upgrading infrastructure and services like transportation. This includes a $4.5 billion waterfront revitalization project to remake the port area as a combination residential, business and tourism zone.

“There is a barrage of problems and needs,” Mr. Osório said. “We are doing too many things at once, all necessary.”

Amid such changes, officials view the operations center as a stabilizing influence — and a selling point. Mr. Osório says officials are using the operations center to try to minimize inconveniences as well as to attract investment.

Consider Carnaval. The biggest challenges for the city are the street performances, which involve about 425 mobile samba bands performing over four weekends at 350 different sites, Mr. Osório said. Several million people attend. With the operations center in place, the city now coordinates planning across 18 different agencies. Together, those departments assign time slots to the street bands and map their routes, as well as plan for security, street cleaning, crowd control and other needs.

“In the past, each of them would do their planning separately and without talking to each other,” Mr. Osório said.

Rio officials, meanwhile, have adopted Mr. Banavar as an honorary Carioca — a Rio native. Last year, Mayor Paes invited several I.B.M. executives and their wives to watch the samba schools from the mayor’s box at the Sambadrome. The Banavars sambaed until 6 a.m.

ONE evening last month, a fire broke out on Visconde de Pirajá, an upscale shopping street in the Ipanema district.

Some Cariocas got out their smartphones and took pictures. Just before 7 p.m., Pitty Webo, an actress who lives nearby, began alerting her Twitter followers. A few minutes later, the operations center’s Twitter feed — @operaçõesrio — reported that traffic was being diverted.

Luiza Amoedo, an event planner, joined the crowd gawking at flames in an adjacent square. Glass panes cracked and crashed into the street. Fire trucks arrived and a red helicopter dropped firefighters onto the roof.

Down below, it was chaos. Nobody had cordoned off the square or moved onlookers out of the hail of glass. One end of the street was closed to traffic, but on the other side, a traffic officer redirected cars around the crowd.

“Rio is too far from being prepared. Nothing works,” Ms. Amoedo sighed. “It’s ridiculous. It’s the year 2012. This should not be happening.”

The operations center has received a lot of publicity here and abroad. (Last week, Mayor Paes attended a TED conference in Long Beach, Calif., where he participated in a panel about cities.) The center even has an on-site press room from which the Globo television network broadcasts traffic and weather reports. And yet many inhabitants have never heard of the center or, if they have, they’re not really sure what it does.

Some wonder if it is all for show, to reassure Olympic officials and foreign investors. Some worry that it will benefit well-off neighborhoods more than the favelas. Others fear that all this surveillance has the potential to curb freedoms or invade privacy. Still others view the center as a stopgap that does not address underlying infrastructure problems.

At least that was the prevailing view one Sunday afternoon in Armazém Saõ Thiago, an old bar in Santa Teresa, a historic neighborhood of cobblestone streets and colonial-style houses. For more than a century, the neighborhood’s signature attraction had been its bright yellow streetcars. But last year a trolley derailed, killing five people. The transportation department for the state of Rio de Janeiro, not the city, was responsible for maintenance and has halted the trams. Above the marble bar, a poster protesting the move depicted a streetcar crying a big white tear.

“The system the mayor created will resolve a problem when it happens, but it does not resolve infrastructure problems,” said Alexandre Hartz, a health insurance risk assessor who was sharing a beer with some friends. “The culture of Rio is reactionary. It is not preventive.”

Try telling that to Márcio Motta, the city’s hyper-vigilant subsecretary of civil defense. Since the landslides two years ago, Rio has installed sirens, wirelessly linked to the operations center, in 66 favelas. It has also staged numerous practice drills in which volunteers have helped evacuate residents.

In real flood conditions, the operations center decides when to set off the sirens. That decision is based on I.B.M.’s system, which uses computer algorithms to predict how much rain will fall in a given square kilometer — a far more precise forecast than standard weather systems provide. When the program predicts heavy rain, the center sends out text messages to different departments so they can prepare.

But it’s difficult for the public to appreciate when a crisis has been averted, Mayor Paes said.

“It’s not what people feel every day,” he said. “It’s the problems that could happen that don’t happen every day.”

CAN I.B.M. turn small government into big business? You could think of Rio as a high-level science project from the same company that built Watson, the computer that plays “Jeopardy.” It is certainly good P.R. Seven years after I.B.M. stopped selling personal computers, such projects might help keep the company in the popular psyche.

But I.B.M. is hoping that mayors the world over will develop Rio envy. To that end, the company has just introduced a product called the I.B.M. Intelligent Operations Center, which combines a number of the systems that were designed for Rio into a single product.

Think of it as a smart city in a box.

“Previously, you’d have to buy 12 different pieces and get services to integrate it,” Mr. Banavar explained. “Now you can do it in one shot.”

Some cities are already interested. Late last month, I.B.M. said Zhenjiang, a city of about three million people in eastern China, had bought the new system to manage public transportation. It also bought a custom analytics program to help predict and alleviate traffic jams along bus routes.

And it is not just cities: the Miami Dolphins football team just bought the packaged product to manage visitor traffic at its 75,000-seat Sun Life Stadium.

I.B.M. expects its Smarter Planet unit, which includes the Smarter Cities business, to have revenue of $10 billion by 2015.

IT was 11:30 p.m. on a Tuesday at Carioca da Gema, a popular samba bar in the Lapa neighborhood here. Mr. Banavar’s Brazilian colleagues from the local I.B.M. office had gone home, but he wasn’t yet ready to turn in. Sitting in the balcony overlooking the dance floor, he was dissecting the bands he had just heard.

Like a city or a multinational corporation, a samba band involves a lot of moving parts: musicians, singers, instruments, equipment, compositions, lyrics, improvisations — not to mention its audience. In Mr. Banavar’s view, the warm-up band had been in sync, but the singers in the headline band seemed out of whack.

To this I.B.M.-er, everything could use a better system, even a samba band. And, the more complex the problem, the more valuable the solution.

“I come from I.B.M. research. I’m attracted to large, complex systems,” Mr. Banavar said. “Can you think of a system that is more complex than a city?”