Read how the city of Toronto's Quayside project, in partnership with Google's Sidewalk Labs, will serve as a testing ground for smart cities by turning part of Toronto's waterfront area into a smart neighborhood with new technology, sustainable architecture and urban design.
Forget your previous concept of what a smart city can do. Google is now attempting to create the world’s first smart neighborhood that’s “built from the internet up”—promising futuristic technologies and urban development that’s unlike anywhere else in the world.
It all started in October 2017 when Sidewalk Labs, a Google subsidiary, announced its radical plans to make urban life more streamlined, economical and energy-efficient within 12 acres of waterfront property—an area known as Quayside—in Toronto, Canada. Working with the city of Toronto, the project called “Sidewalk Toronto” aims to use innovation to address common city problems, such as traffic congestion and a shortage of affordable housing.
This high-tech neighborhood will be a testbed for new technologies and new ideas, which is right in Google’s wheelhouse. Among other cool ideas, Sidewalk Labs plans to build an “advanced microgrid” to power electric cars, design “mixed-use” spaces to lower housing costs, and employ “sensor-enabled waste separation” to facilitate recycling and use IoT data to improve public services.
Modular buildings promoting versatility
Quayside will feature a new kind of modular building with a spin on traditional lofts, which can be quickly and easily reconfigured based on the needs of the occupant. Loft buildings will have a strong shell and minimalistic interior, making them long-lasting and also easy to adapt for changing needs and floor-plan preferences.
With modular components, families could subdivide rooms to accommodate guests, or reconfigure floor plans to accommodate changing space needs. Or a company could reconfigure a workspace to accommodate a temporary training seminar, then reconvert it back to offices or smaller conference rooms when the event is over.
A climate-controlled city
Google will even attempt to make the weather feel nicer, by introducing systems that automatically manage the effects of wind, sun and rain. For example, plans for Quayside will feature retractable awnings that block rain, physical structures that block wind in the winter but not during the summer, and sun shades that optimize daylight hours and create the optimal temperature for city dwellers. It will even test the idea of heated bike and pedestrian paths that can melt snow.
New technologies—from traffic to trash
The project also aims to use technology solve other urban problems. For example, Sidewalk Labs is working on an adaptive traffic light system that could detect pedestrians, cyclists, cars and transit vehicles to facilitate safety in congested urban intersections. Quayside will also be the ideal place for robotic garbage collectors and self-driving vehicle tests.
If the project is a success, the company wants to expand its vision to the adjacent Port Lands, a valuable 800-acre tract of industrial waterfront.
Curious to learn more about Quayside? On the Sidewalk Labs website is a 200-page document explaining its vision for the smart neighborhood in Toronto.
Smart cities: An opportunity for you?
As Google’s experiment in Toronto continues, other cities around the world are also implementing IoT technologies to make themselves smarter, safer and more efficient. And that trend won’t be changing anytime soon.
According to McKinsey research, the smart city industry is projected to be a $400 billion market by 2020, with 600 cities worldwide, and these cities are expected to generate 60% of the world’s GDP by 2025.
To learn more about smart cities—and the smart technologies powering them—check out the public sector playbook or contact your account representative today.