Toronto To Be Home To Alphabets Biggest Smart City Project Yet

Sidewalk Labs, the smart city subsidiary of Alphabet (the parent company of Google) with the stated goal of “reimagining cities from the Internet up,” now has a very big sandbox in which to conduct its high-tech experiments:

That’s obviously an ambitious project, but some of the groundwork is already being laid: Alphabet’s Google will be the flagship tenant for the new neighbourhood, anchoring the easter waterfront, to be called “Quayside,” and Sidewalk Labs has committed $50 million to kick off pilot testing and planning in partnership with the City of Toronto. Sidewalk Labs won the contract through its response to a Request for Proposals issues by Waterfront Toronto, and organization created by the Canadian federal government, the Ontario provincial government and the City of Toronto together to foster development of Toronto’s lakefront areas in ways that address urban sprawl while respecting the realities of climate change and taking into account the ability of the city’s residents to get around efficiently. The area involved in the RFP that Sidewalk Labs will work with the government coalition to develop spans around 800 acres (though 12 acres are specified for the initial project), and is one of the largest underdeveloped urban areas in any North American city, making it a good target for Sidewalk’s ambitious vision, which involves building smart cities holistically from the very start. Ultimately, the partners hope to turn the area into a “place for tens of thousands of people to live, work, learn and play — and to create and advance new ideas that improve city life,” according to a release from Sidewalk.

Now being from Toronto, I should be happy about this. But to be honest I am not sure about this. Sidewalk Labs thinks it can use new technology and great reams of data to create a neighbourhood that demonstrates innovative solutions to problems that cities like Toronto suffer. I’d be interested to know what else Sidewalks Labs will do with that data besides building a smart city. After all, Alphabet AKA Google makes piles of cash from data. That’s why I will reserve judgement on this for now and take a wait and see approach.

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