It has been four years since Waterfront Toronto first approached Sidewalk Labs for the revitalization of the Quayside in 2016. The next year, Waterfront Toronto submitted a formal request for proposals looking for an “innovation and funding partner” to use the eastern waterfront as a test site for Sidewalk’s city of the future. And by June of last year, Sidewalk released the 1500-page Master Innovation and Development Plan (MIDP) sharing the exciting ideas and details the city might make Toronto apprehensive like the proposed extensive use of timber. Waterfront Toronto vehemently opposed the ideas of what makes a city successful according to the MIDP.
It’s not all raincoats and smart streets when it comes to Sidewalk’s exceptionally experimental ideas for its smart city in Toronto. The new Smart City will probably bring about complicated issues that no city has had to experience along with its futuristic, eco-friendly goals.
The Good: Everything to Heal the Environment
The purpose of a smart city in Toronto is the development of an entirely technology-run city that follows Sidewalk Lab’s mandate to essentially, “build a city that was safer, cheaper, more sustainable, more equitable and more fun than the ones we currently live in,” as Toronto Life writer, Jason McBride put it.
- Every part of the city will be built to the highest environmental standards with 30-story high rise towers made of timber. City buildings will be modular and prefabricated at the on-site factory.
- There will be an underground robot-maintained waste system to eliminate 80% of waste that will be recycled or composted.
- The city will heavily rely on green-power sources through solar to geothermal technology.
- Living in the new smart city is meant to improve the quality of life for its residents with its innovative methods to manage population growth – included getting across the city with heated tunnels, bike lanes, and public transit friendly options.
The Debatable: Uncharted Territory
Urban planning experts have shared their concerns around the ambitious proposals that will have no way to accurately predict the results when implemented.
Sidewalk’s venturesome ideas enter both literal and theoretical uncharted territory such as:
- Sidewalk’s proposed “IDEA district” that will expand the original 12-acres to 350 acres.
- The unpredictable results of the proposed layering of many experimental building elements and technologies.
- The timber buildings that raise practical issues due to the need for very specific experience and skill sets.
- And the detail that causes the most concern the data privacy legal complications that will come as a result from 24/7 surveillance of city and resident activity using sensors to track and measure data.
Is a Smart City in Toronto a Blessing or a Prison?
From one perspective, a smart city can grow Toronto’s tech industry based in innovative and eco-friendly population growth management. From the other side, a corporate-funded experimental smart city may reap the monetary benefits from the vast amount of data that will be collected that will then increase the tension with the local government over the revision of outdated city regulations.