After the failure, the delays or the full expectations of some ‘smart cities,’ comes the new concept of the city of the future: the sensitive town, full of sensors.
What? Alphabet’s Sidewalk labs plan to create an ultra-technological neighborhood to rethink how we build and manage cities.
Why? Smart cities could make urban areas more affordable, livable and ecological.
Who? The laboratories Sidewalk, Waterfront Toronto.
When? The project was announced in October 2017 and construction could begin in 2019.
Many smart cities projects have been postponed, others have reduced their aggressive initial objectives, and some have caused panic with their exorbitant prices.
But Quayside, a new initiative in Toronto (Canada), hopes to be able to change this pattern of failures. To do this, it will redesign an urban neighborhood from scratch to rebuild it again, around the latest digital technologies.
Alphabet’s Sidewalk laboratories, based in New York (USA), are collaborating with the Canadian government on the Toronto industrial pier project to turn it into a high-tech one.
One of the objectives is that decisions about design, politics, and technology are made based on the information gathered by an extensive network of sensors that monitor everything from air quality to noise levels and activity of the people.
The plan requires that all vehicles be autonomous and shared. The robots will travel the city underground to do tasks such as delivering mail.
Sidewalk Labs will open access to the software and systems they are creating so that other companies can build services on them, just as there are people who develop applications for mobile phones.
The company intends, and this has generated concerns about data control and privacy. But Sidewalk labs believe they can work with the community and the local government to alleviate these concerns.
Rit Aggarwala, head of urban systems planning for Sidewalk laboratories, says: “The highlight of our Quayside project is not only how extraordinarily ambitious it is, but it also has a certain humility.” This humility can help Quayside avoid the problems that have risen in other initiatives to create smart cities.
There are already several cities that have shown interest in being next on the list of Sidewalk laboratories, according to Waterfront Toronto, the public agency that oversees the development of Quayside.
“San Francisco, Denver, Los Angeles and Boston [all of them in the US] have already requested a presentation,” says agency general director Will Fleissig.
If you want to know more about the Sensible City, do not miss our article Sensitive cities to fulfill the false promises of the ‘smart city.’