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Smart Cities in Canada Are Entering a Critical Phase

Ryan Citron
Sep 19, 2019

Connected City 4

Canadian cities recently received a boost from the national government to help spur ambitious smart city programs. The winners of Canada’s Smart Cities Challenge program were announced in May 2019. Montreal took the top prize for its plan to innovate around mobility and access to food. The federal funding will help the winning cities create bold and concrete plans to improve the lives of their residents through innovation, data, and connected technologies. These projects will also serve as test beds for projects that could eventually be replicated in other Canadian cities.

The winning cities by prize category are as follows:

  • C$50 million prize: Montreal, Quebec
  • C$10 million prize: Guelph and Wellington County, Ontario
  • C$10 million prize: Nunavut Communities, Nunavut
  • C$5 million prize: Bridgewater, Nova Scotia
What About Toronto?

While Toronto struck out on the opportunity for national government funding, Canada’s largest city is taking a different approach to city innovation. Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Google's parent company Alphabet, has partnered with Waterfront Toronto to potentially create a new 12-acre development called Quayside. Primary applications are expected to be automated shuttles, smart buildings, intelligent traffic signals, and robotic delivery systems among myriad other digital technology solutions. Sidewalk Labs recently presented its Master Innovation and Development Plan (MIDP) for the Quayside project. The company claims that successful execution of the MIDP would result in the most innovative district in the world, while generating over 44,000 direct jobs (93,000 total) and C$4.3 billion in annual tax revenue.

Next Steps Are Crucial to Success

Between the federal Smart Cities Challenge and Sidewalk Toronto, momentum around smart cities in Canada is accelerating and moving into an important phase of development. Results from the Smart City Challenge must show how taxpayer dollars to support citywide deployments of new solutions can have a meaningful impact on urban challenges and improve quality of life outcomes in critical areas. It is also important to demonstrate how successful approaches can be replicated across Canadian cities to address common challenges.

In Toronto, the Quayside project has become a contentious testing ground for discussions about data privacy and boundaries between public and private responsibility in such projects. If Waterfront Toronto and the Toronto City Council decide to move forward with the MIDP, the project could not only serve as an innovative testing ground for new technologies, but it could also become a high profile example of whether technology companies can be trustworthy handling personal data.

Upcoming Key Conference: Intelligent Cities Summit

For the latest on the current state and future trends of the smart cities industry in Canada and around the world, connect with me at the 4th Annual Intelligent Cities Summit in Toronto, taking place on October 7 and 8. Municipal leaders and technology experts from over 10 countries will gather to discuss how new technology can make our cities more efficient, liveable, and sustainable.