Technology has changed our lives and now it is changing our cities. The smart city of the future is being built now. And Innisfil is at the forefront.
The town is pursuing a project called The Orbit. The idea is to create a new neighbourhood centered around a Go Station that would connect directly to downtown Toronto. They are working with a local developer to create housing and commercial spaces that encourages walking over cars. The town is getting as much input from residents as possible. And they’ve been reaching out to some of the people who have been thinking a lot about what a smart city could be. Over the next few episodes we will meet some of those people.
One of them is Francois Bedard. He’s the founder of Plan B Development Inc. He works with companies and governments to develop a roadmap to the future city.
But What’s a Smart City?
The term Smart City is everywhere these days. But very few people know what that means. That question can be a tricky to answer. That’s because there are so many potential answers.
“My end goal is always to think about digital services that can enable new services into a territory with the proper infrastructure,” said Bedard.
“Sadly, they are using the expressions smart cities for economic development and are trying to bring technology providers, without paying much attention to citizens.”
Better Connectivity and Communication
Connectivity is still an issue in Canada. Smart cities are more efficient. They solve the problem of communication and bring the government and the public on a single platform. The pandemic has shown the importance of being connected. We have seen how bad some of the procedures are. The situation has highlighted some major issues including deficiencies. We live around legacy systems that slow things down. By going smart, we’ll be able to jump over these hurdles and get more done in less time.
What’s the Benefit?
The Smart City Initiative allows people to look at things from a different perspective. By putting 3D versions of towns and cities online, we allow municipalities to come up with better and more reliable solutions to solve day-to-day problems like water shortages or trash removal. According to Bedard, smart cities will be easier to operate. One can look at different systems and decide what to do. They are equipped to solve every problem, from how to install water pipes to how to build homes.
Yet There Are Problems
Despite the benefits, it’s not easy to go smart. According to Bedard, smart homes and smart buildings would exist, but getting citizens on the same platform can be difficult. You cannot make the system efficient without data and you need citizens to provide the data and information that you need. Merely having a system can never be enough, one should make it efficient. It is important to engage all stakeholders to get the best results but sadly, it’s easier said than done.
We Can’t Stop The Change
It doesn’t matter how we look at technology, we can’t stop it from evolving.
“The land won’t change. The tools would evolve,” predicts Bedard while highlighting how things have changed over the years. We went from walking miles to traveling in electric vehicles. Back in the day, evolution took centuries but now new technologies are being produced daily.
Others Are Trying
The good thing is that governments appear to be working on getting people on board. A good example is The Sidewalk Labs project in Toronto, which was funded and fueled by Google. Big corporations have jumped the bandwagon as they look at smart cities from the perspective of image and profit building.
“At the end of the day, it’s always a financial situation,” Bedard explains.
Cities have to get corporations on board to ensure financial needs are met. Governments aren’t only transforming cities, they’re also building cities and that requires even more funds.
A Matter of Trust
People don’t have trust in the concept of smart cities. They’re scared of providing data or how data might get used by people. Some experts argue that implementing the concept of smart cities in the US and Canada isn’t as easy as implementing it in countries like China and Saudi Arabia where governments don’t always put citizens first. Bedard highlighted the example of San Francisco when the city decided to ban any technology with the ability to enhance facial recognition tools.
To ensure good behaviour citizens in China are given “social credit” points. Things like community service and donating to charities will win you points. But playing loud music or jaywalking will cost you. Lose to many points and you will be added to a national black list. And that will prevent you from getting jobs, going to school or even buying airline tickets.
Convince Citizens First
Most companies or cities are too late to win trust.
“You got to create the framework that will ensure that the citizens believe that you’ve got their best interests at heart before you start to implement your plans,”
Failing to win citizens can result in a strong pushback. innisifl is getting as much input from residents as possible. And they’ve been reaching out to some of the people who have been thinking a lot about what a smart city could be. Over the next few episodes we will meet some of those people
To learn more about how they are working to create the neighbourhood of the future go to InnisfilAccelerates.ca