Preview: Transformative Technologies for Smart Canadian Cities

By 25 September 2019 No Comments

What are the necessary and sufficient conditions for a city or technology to be “smart”? As researchers and policymakers explore Smart Cities, particularly in a Canadian context with a vast landscape of rural and remote areas, the need to begin tackling this question is apparent.

As part of a multi-year study on Smart Cities in Canada, ICTC will be releasing a preliminary brief on Transformative Technologies for Smart Canadian Cities. It proposes a framework for thinking about the kinds of vendors and public-private partnerships that will emerge as cities across the country start to use integrated technologies, IoT, digital infrastructure, and deliver “smart-city” style services.

One thing we’ve heard again and again as we embark on this work is that smart cities must be outcome-driven. A city full of app-summoned self-driving vending machines may not quite fit the bill—rather, a smart city uses its resources, including but not limited to information and communications technology to communicate with citizens, collect and analyze data in a secure manner, and deliver long-lasting, evidence-based services for all. Smart cities emphasize accessibility, effectiveness, and sustainability, in terms of both longevity and environmental friendliness. Common resources and services are supported by digital interconnectedness and vice-versa, where people, governments, companies, and the environment around them are able to exchange mutually intelligible information, form plans, and make decisions.

What, then, is a clear and outcome-driven way to think about the technologies that we will need in our smart cities?

     1. Communication

From universal broadband allowing people across Canada to find new opportunities for education and work, to IoT devices that will alert a traffic management centre to a car accident, technologies that support communications infrastructure and data collection & dissemination have the potential to be useful for smart cities, if implemented appropriately.

     2. Analysis

The value of collecting unstructured data may be limited if the process of using it for analysis isn’t streamlined. While something like a traffic management centre may best use human analysis and decision-making, big data platforms can help, and applications for technologies in data cleaning and organization are on the rise.

     3. Security and Privacy

A perennial smart cities concern is that public information may be dealt with poorly or unethically. Several technologies can help secure data making it less susceptible to compromise, while others have the potential to give individuals control over their own data and levels of disclosure.

     4. Service-Delivery

The much-discussed pillar of “efficiency” is a significant part of the smart cities conversation. Smart cities shouldn’t just be black holes of personal data: their ultimate goal is to turn insights into action and provide residents with accessible public services. New tech for transportation (such as shared autonomous and/or electric vehicles) and others have the potential to vastly improve quality of life.

     5. Longevity & Environmental Friendliness

Waste-reduction is achieved both through smart planning and “clean” or “green” technologies. Smart cities can leverage both sustainable urban planning and technologies for environmental efficiency to help shrink their carbon footprints and encourage long-lasting, shared resources and infrastructure.

Do you have expertise in the field of Smart Cities in Canada? Connect with us to learn more about this ongoing study and avenues for contribution, and keep an eye out for ICTC’s upcoming policy briefs.