Posted By Raj Singh on 02/14/2018 in Economy

Are Smart Cities the Future of Canada?

Are Smart Cities the Future of Canada?

Canada’s Smart City Future Is Slowly Becoming a Reality

A smart city is an urban area that uses different types of electronic data collection sensors to supply information which is used to manage assets and resources efficiently – This definition is from Wikipedia. 

Featured Picture in this article comes from the Courtesy of BBVA

Smart cities are becoming a big deal across the world. Following the positive reception of smart devices and the internet of things, smart cities are also becoming more than just the theory they once were. Some of the world’s major cities have embarked on major renovations to create a smarter version of themselves while others have set aside space and built smart cities from the ground up. Canada has long been poised as one of the next countries to develop a smart city, and this is steadily becoming a reality.

A November announcement from Canada’s minister of infrastructure and communities Hon Amarjeet Sohi made this even clearer. The minister was announcing the start of the “Smart Cities Challenge”, which he described as a ‘pan-Canadian competition encouraging competition of all sizes to develop smart city ideas and initiatives that will improve citizens’ quality of life through innovation, data and connected technology’. 

The winning community will take home a $50m prize when the challenge is completed in 2019. According to the minister, the winning project will then be put in motion in whichever region will have been chosen.

This revelation highlights one major point of interest: that Canada is officially on its way to fully embracing the idea of fully developed smart cities. The country has long shown interest in the idea, if any past brushes with it are to go by. Some Canadian cities have already jumped on the smart city bandwagon, such as Mississauga, which already incorporated smart transport options (like the smart bus).

Mississauga also has embraced a city wide internet-of-things integration scheme and improved its citywide Wi-Fi coverage. In Kitchener, the Kitchener Digital Strategy was set up to prepare the city for its integration with smart city technologies. It’s recently spawned incubators, better public transit systems and improved citywide Wi-Fi connectivity.

The country’s capital is no stranger to these developments either.  Toronto has in the past years increased its reliance on the internet-of-things to improve its public transit system and, like its neighbours, improve connectivity and access to city data.

Most recently, it made headlines as the city of choice for Google’s smart city project Sidewalk Labs, which will see Google develop a previously underdeveloped waterside area of Toronto to build a small model smart city from scratch. The tech giant is planning to invest over $50m in the project, which will take a number of years.

Other tech giants such as Facebook have previously created offices in Toronto, which further boosts the idea that it is soon becoming a tech hub of sorts – all the more reason to become a smart city.

Experts are firm in believing that a smart city will come with hoards of benefits for Canadian cities, which explains why Google’s proposal for Sidewalks Labs met a positive reception from officials. They believe smart cities will reduce pollution, noise, traffic and possibly some forms of crime. But the challenges that come with developing a smart city are greater than most experts care to admit.

Besides the wildly high funds required, cities will have to lose part of their identity in the process, and that can hurt tourism. Smart cities around the world haven’t been met with positive responses in general either, such as South Korea’s Siogdo, a problem that could be replicated here.

But for Canada, now’s not the time to worry.

Canada was once an onlooker at the smart city party. Now, with projects such as the Smart Cities Challenge, the North American country is marking its place at the table and joining the dance of adventure full throttle. The future cannot come any sooner!