The movement toward smart cities has progressed slowly in recent years due to the complexity of not just building a completely new form of digital infrastructure but the political tensions surrounding turning a destination into a data extraction system.
It’s one thing for data on public utilities and traffic to be collected and accessed by government officials. It’s another for a private corporation to take the lead in developing a neighborhood to suit its vision of the future.
The master plan for Sidewalk Labs’ vision for Toronto’s waterfront was released last week, painting a picture of a multi-decade effort to build an innovation district that will not just revitalize the area but act as a model for future smart city projects built out of public-private partnerships. Sidewalk Labs falls under Alphabet, which is also the parent of Google. The project, though, has faced backlash from Toronto residents as it aims to transform a 12-acre lot into a testbed for the internet of things and new methods of data collection.
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