How would it be if Toronto were to be reimagined into a Smart City of the future? Exciting don’t you think? The sentiment is driving backers of the ambitious (some say overtly ambitious) venture of Sidewalk Labs which is owned by Alphabet Inc. which in turn, owns Google. In fact, there were several polls conducted by multiple agencies and opinions sought by industry experts from the general public and there seems to be an overwhelming majority around 50-60% who are backing the project for the transformation of Toronto, creation of new job opportunities and a boost to the overall housing market in the city.
After all the rigmarole about the plans that would be unveiled by Sidewalk Labs and a flurry of other aspects, the company has finally unveiled its smart city proposal officially for Toronto. This has however been welcomed with open arms by a large section of the public and authorities while some have raised concerns relating to vital aspects like surveillance and also privacy levels. Sidewalk Labs is the urban design outfit under Alphabet which is the Google parent as mentioned before. It has now unveiled the official proposal for completely overhauling the eastern waterfront in Toronto with a high-tech community.
Key details about the proposed Smart City and other intricate nuances
This smart city will be called Sidewalk Toronto and experts are already anticipating a massive boost for the profile of the city and also for the real estate and construction industry here. Here are some key aspects you need to be aware of:
- Sidewalk Toronto has been engineered to be a path-breaking and revolutionary development.
- The smart city proposal claims that every aspect of urban living will be changed by this project including sustainability, mobility aspects, buildings, public areas and also innovation that happens digitally.
- This will be the first community built completely from mass timber. There will be dynamically engineered streets which can evolved as per the evolving requirements of residents.
- There will be systems for weather mitigation in place along with a cooling and heating thermal grid.
- The project claims to endeavour to build a model which can be replicated globally for fusing high-tech innovation and innovative urban design for superior quality of life.
- Project development will encompass the neighbourhoods of Villiers West and Quayside.
- Sidewalk Labs has anticipated an investment of $3.9 billion for meeting costs in this initial phase and it will invest $900 million of its own funds for this purpose.
- The project may then expand to surrounding areas on the waterfront in Toronto.
- The entire waterfront zone has been labelled as the IDEA district by Sidewalk Labs.
- The proposal has been created for more than 18 months and covers a whopping 1,500 pages as per reports.
- Leaders of the administration in Toronto still exhibit concern relating to surveillance and privacy among other issues.
- There are some components of the blueprint which highlight the different visions of Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto as per experts.
- This has been corroborated in an open letter by Stephen Diamond, the chairman of the board at Waterfront Toronto.
- This covers the initial proposals made by Sidewalk Labs for collecting and using data along with digital governance aspects.
Other key information relating to the project
Waterfront Toronto is the public organization which collaborated with Sidewalk Labs in the initial research phase for this mega project. Diamond has made it clear that Waterfront Toronto has no contribution in the making of the proposal or MIDP (Master Innovation and Development Plan) draft which has already been unveiled by Sidewalk Labs. This MIDP will require approval from the board at Waterfront Toronto along with the Toronto City Council. It will only gain traction thereafter once the approvals are obtained.
Several advisers to the Sidewalk Toronto venture have also resigned over concerns linked to data collection. These advisers included the ex-Information and Privacy Commissioner, Ontario, Ann Cavoukian. Sidewalk Labs has come up with a solution to the data collection conundrum by proposing a government sanctioned and independent body named the Urban Data Trust for holding stewardship of all data which holds public interest and this will help bring more innovation to the forefront. Sidewalk Labs has also proposed a more responsible procedure of data usage with checks and reviews in place.
These are solutions that may win the approval of the authorities in the mid-term in case they are backed by examples. Sidewalk Labs has clarified that no personal information will be sold to third parties or kept by it for advertising requirements. It will remain fully committed towards ensuring complete non-disclosure of personal details towards third parties and other companies owned by Alphabet Inc. without garnering consent explicitly from users. The Sidewalk Labs proposal also contains clarification on principles of governing data and the need to have an extensive approach towards tackling future hurdles while enabling the growth of technological innovation at the same time.
There are four key components for the holistic view of digital innovation taken by Sidewalk Labs through this project. Responsible usage of data is one aspect which covers open digital infrastructure maintenance. Other aspects include core digital solutions and services, security of data and also open data standards. Sidewalk Labs has also proposed an ambitious future network for internet connectivity through Super-PON which is futuristic technology. The company has proposed the setting up of physical mounts across the project which could function as revolutionary urban USB ports. This will enable the city to easily operate digital systems including sensors for measuring air quality and also Wi-Fi systems.
Sidewalk Labs has also proposed an underground tunnel that will link buildings, enabling the easy movement of self-driving dollies for delivery which will be a highly advanced feature indeed. Time will tell how this proposal will pan out though Toronto will certainly be transformed with the establishment of this mega development not just from a real estate perspective but also from smart living and technological innovation viewpoints.