How we think about privacy today might not be the best way to deal with data collection in a smart city.
The L-shaped parcel of land on Toronto's eastern waterfront known as Quayside isn't much to look at. There's a sprawling parking lot for dry-docked boats opposite aging post-industrial space, where Parliament Street becomes Queens Quay. To its south is one of the saddest stretches of the Martin Goodman trail, an otherwise pleasant running and biking route that spans the city east to west.
But before long, Quayside may be one of the most sensor-laden neighbourhoods in North America, thanks to Alphabet's Sidewalk Labs, which has been working on a plan to redevelop the area from the ground up into a test bed for smart city technology.
It's being imagined as the sort of place where garbage cans and recycling bins can keep track of when and how often they're used, environmental probes can measure noise and pollution over time and cameras can collect data to model and improve the flow of cars, people, buses and bikes throughout the day.
Generally speaking, the idea is that all of this data — and the newfound insights its analysis could yield — will help cities run more efficiently and innovate at a faster pace than they do today.
The effort is one of a handful of broad initiatives underway across the world in places such as Dublin, London, Dubai and Seattle. The Canadian government is soliciting pitches for more smart cities across the country, and has promised up to $80 million to communities competing in its Smart Cities Challenge prize.