• smart cities
  • Smart Lighting
  • Urban Innovation
  • Smart Infrastructure

Small Canadian Cities Are Getting Smarter

Ryan Citron
Nov 05, 2019

Smart Building 3

While big cities get the headlines, small cities have smart city momentum. At the Fourth Annual Intelligent Cities Summit in Toronto, Canada, a key emergent trend is the increased smart city activity among cities that are smaller or fly under the radar. Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal tend to capture most of the attention around smart cities in Canada, though a number of smaller cities are making progress toward technology innovation, service improvements, and infrastructure investments.

Key Conference Examples
  • Kitchener, Ontario: After Kitchener deployed a smart street lighting network, the city decided to use about C$300,000 from its electricity savings (the use of adaptive controls saves the city C$75,000 annually) to pilot additional smart city projects. Using its supplier partner’s (CIMCON Lighting) NearSky platform and traffic analytics solution, Kitchener is developing data-driven transportation strategies for bicycle lane expansions through camera-based tracking of bicycle counts. The city is looking to expand its smart city efforts into additional use cases, such as environmental and weather sensors, smart parking, asset tracking, and advanced metering infrastructure. Kitchener has deployed a narrowband Internet of Things network across the entire city to provide connectivity for its smart city projects.
  • Mississauga, Ontario: While Mississauga is not technically a small city (population of 830,000), it certainly flies under the radar compared to Toronto, its technology-hub neighbor. At the conference, Mississauga’s mayor, Bonnie Crombie, spoke of how the city uses sensors and other information and communications technology to improve quality of life for its citizens. Mississauga has over 700 sensors on city vehicles. Of the city’s intersections, 740 are equipped with advanced traffic management systems enabling traffic signal timing to change in real-time based on traffic levels. It also has deployed a number of air quality sensors that allow citizens to look up air quality conditions through the city application. Mississauga has also embraced open data (over 250 open datasets online), hosts an annual tech-a-thon, has over 750 km of city-owned fiber optic cable, and has drafted a smart city master plan which it describes as people-centered and neighborhood-focused.
Federal Smart Cities Challenge Also Supporting Small Cities

The winners of Canada’s Smart Cities Challenge program were announced in May 2019, with Montreal taking the top C$50 million prize for its plan to innovate around mobility and access to food. However, smaller cities also received funding to help improve the lives of their residents through innovation, data, and connected technologies. Winning small cities and their summary proposals are:

  • C$10 million prize: Guelph and Wellington County, Ontario (proposal to create a circular food economy)
  • C$10 million prize: Nunavut Communities, Nunavut (technology-based approach to suicide prevention)
  • C$5 million prize: Bridgewater, Nova Scotia (proposal to reduce energy poverty)
Small Cities Have Advantages Big Cities Don’t

Globally, a wide range of large and small cities are pushing forward with smart and sustainable programs. While big cities have the budgets and name recognition to drive large-scale projects with high levels of visibility, they also face more public scrutiny and pressure over project implementation. Smaller cities have fewer resources, but they can generate significant smart city activity through local advantages. These advantages generally include fewer departmental siloes and more alignment on local priorities compared to larger, more complex city governments.