What Smart Cities Could Look Like
Alphabet's Sidewalk Labs will be reimagining the modern digital city in their development of "Quayside," a 12-acre slice of waterfront in Toronto. Sidewalk Labs is Alphabet's urban innovation organization, and won the public Request for Proposal with a 196 page vision that transforms urban life across energy mobility, housing, social services, and shared public services.
An underlying goal of the project is to "serve as a model for sustainable neighborhoods around the world." Autonomous vehicles (provided by Waymo, another Alphabet Company) will serve as the primary motorized means of transit as it shuttles between some streets as parts of the neighborhood will prohibit non-emergency vehicles. Automated awnings and snow melters will ensure the usability year round of bike sharing stations, walking paths, and transit stops. The end results of the measures should enable "efficient alternatives to driving, all at lower costs than owning a car." Sustainability will be core to heating and disposal systems as well, with self-contained thermal grids transferring energy from fossil fuel free sources to cool and heat buildings. Buildings will be created with eco-friendly materials and will adapt to both industrial, retail and residential needs. Many of these goals and plans are familiar concepts, but Sidewalk Labs' digital ambitions aren't.
Sidewalk Labs has planned a data harvesting "digital layer" that provides a "single unified source of information about what is going on." The centralized platform will monitor incredibly details such as kitchen appliances, trash bins, park benches, noise levels, and air quality to inform urban planning. Although Sidewalk Labs has announced a $50 million, one-year investment towards the development of an execution plan but it and Toronto can still back out.
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