Quayside : When Google creates its first Smart City in Toronto

Smart City a competition

While competition surrounding smart cities is rife all over the world, with major cities such as Mexico City and Singapore competing for advertising effects to demonstrate their advances in hyper-connectivity and big data, Alphabet (Google’s parent company) is taking up the challenge by looking at things in reverse. For the visionaries of this American firm, it is better to start from scratch and build an intelligent city from the ground up, rather than trying to make today’s cities (and thus cities of the past) “smart”.

But which state, which country would accept the idea that a private enterprise could build a city at the beginning of the 21st century?

Google may have become “our friend”, but it is considered the big bad wolf when it comes to exploiting the personal data of all the individuals who use its many services. For a few months now, Alphabet has been trying to seduce some 15 Western governments with the merits and originality of its project. The question that was running through social networks: who would say yes to the big data ogre?

Toronto: Land of Asylum for Alphabet

We now know that Toronto will host this monumental project. The overall investment is close to a billion dollars, while the city would only contribute about forty million. And, above all, getting the “Google” label to launch a smart city is a guarantee of unequalled global visibility. It is easy to understand why this argument prompted Canadians to roll out a red carpet to their cousins. Sidewalk Labs, the name of this city-wide laboratory, will settle in Ontario and give life to a city named Quayside. Everything will be developed in hyper-connection, with free broadband Wi-fi, intelligent energy management, and this on a potential ground area of 325 hectares.

Quayside, la ville du futur est-elle aussi sécurisée ?

Alphabet promises the future citizens of Quayside, among which are the employees of Google headquarters (moved for the occasion to Toronto), a cleaner and smarter city, which is more pleasant and easy to live in. This raises the eternal question of the security of citizens and also of the data they continuously transmit. Alphabet explains to those who want to settle there that transparency and Open Data are the order of the day and will guarantee the greatest freedom for all.

Would the best guarantee be to include the inhabitants of the future city in the decision-making bodies?

In any case, the American giant and the local authorities see in this project the opportunity to test and validate all the problems related to data security both in their collection and in their transmission via connected objects. Work on Quayside is due to begin in 2020, and the Smart City could be out of the ground within four or five years, with

  • buildings constructed using purely ecological materials,
  • an automated and underground waste collection system,
  • autonomous vehicles or bicycles as the sole means of transport,
  • and without forgetting cameras to analyse traffic and activity.

 

Will Alphabet be able to stem the criticism linked to its dominant position with its open and responsible laboratory city?