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Ambitious Sidewalk Labs Toronto Project is Slowly Taking Shape

a look at the Toronto skyline at dusk

Toronto, Canada is set to become the first city built from the internet up starting in 2020.

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sidewalk labs smart city project toronto infographic

In a follow-up to Bold  Business’ exclusive interview with Dan Doctoroff, the timeline for the ambitious project that will transform Toronto’s Quayside Development area into a community for tens of thousands using innovative smart city solutions was announced recently by Alphabet Inc, an urban tech company from New York and Google’s mother company.

Alphabet’s Urban Tech subsidiary, Sidewalk Labs will also be testing how to make real-life searchable via its initial phase of the project which will be  completed by Summer 2018. The project covers an area of more than 800 acres in Quayside,in Toronto and Ontario. It is expected to increase land efficiency, cut costs, and conserve energy. It will also become a community for tens of thousands using innovative smart city solutions.

Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff said in a Reuters interview that they expect the Sidewalk and Waterfront Toronto Boards to approve the development by the end of 2018. If schedules push through the first residents of the new smart city will be able to move in by 2022. He noted that the schedule is dependent on government approvals and processes which would be worked out by 2019.

“Quayside will be a prototype for a broader opportunity,” Doctoroff said in the interview: “What we’re trying to do, no one has really succeeded in doing. Thus far, I’ve been thrilled with the way things have gone … but I’m not sanguine about the challenges. Other smart city projects have largely failed because of budgets, the involvement of too many parties, and the use of public resources on development with no immediate benefits for the broader population.”

Sidewalk’s initial investment of $50 million will be used for testing and engagement this 2018. The company will also be leasing a new office at the waterfront in summer to showcase some of the technologies which will be part of the new community.

Building from the Ground Up

Sidewalk’s Smart City is a community that will be built with the internet as its core.  The smart city initiatives will be using new technology from big data and will cover air quality, traffic, as well as mobility. It will also use sensors to gather data about noise, air quality, weather, trash collection systems, as well as the power grid. The bold idea is to make real-life searchable, similar to how the company has made digital searchable.

CCTV cameras will also be used for various uses such as intersection and traffic light control. The project will also be the most comprehensive data gathering and analytics sub-system for any smart city initiative.

The Sidewalk user experience is Google Search, Maps, Waze, Google+, and more all rolled into one, but with a different container. Whereas Google uses its data to provide a user experience on the browser and in Android, the Sidewalk user experience will be felt in real life, with some help from smartphone apps.

The aim is to give residents a superior quality of life with all the comforts of digital conveniences. Private cars will be replaced by autonomous vehicles while streets are kept pedestrian-friendly.

Soon There Will be More Smart Cities

Sidewalks Labs was chosen by Waterfront Toronto in October 2017 to develop what includes industrial wasteland on the eastern side of the city’s downtown on Lake Ontario. Sidewalk presented a proposal that relied heavily on a thermal grid that doesn’t run on fossil fuels, low-cost modular buildings for mix use, robotic delivery and waste management systems as well as sensors and autonomous vehicles.

Doctoroff says Sidewalk Labs has been approached by other areas for similar development projects. He stressed, however, that Toronto is their only focus for now.

The interest in the possibilities associated with Toronto’s Smart City project only shows that communities are more than ready for a digital makeover. Sidewalk Labs could very well become the architect of the mega smart cities of the future.


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