Laura Bliss at CityLab: “A data-driven “neighborhood of the future” masterminded by a Google corporate sibling, the Quayside project could be a milestone in digital-age city-building. But after a year of scandal in Silicon Valley, questions about privacy and security remain…
Everything from pedestrian traffic and energy use to the fill-height of a public trash bin and the occupancy of an apartment building could be counted, geo-tagged, and put to use by a wifi-connected “digital layer” undergirding the neighborhood’s physical elements. It would sense movement, gather data, and send information back to a centralized map of the neighborhood. “With heightened ability to measure the neighborhood comes better ways to manage it,” stated the winning document. “Sidewalk expects Quayside to become the most measurable community in the world.”
“Smart cities are largely an invention of the private sector—an effort to create a market within government,” Wylie wrote in Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper in December 2017. “The business opportunities are clear. The risks inherent to residents, less so.” A month later, at a Toronto City Council meeting, Wylie gave a deputation asking officials to “ensure that the data and data infrastructure of this project are the property of the city of Toronto and its residents.”
In this case, the unwary Trojans would be Waterfront Toronto, the nonprofit corporation appointed by three levels of Canadian government to own, manage, and build on the Port Lands, 800 largely undeveloped acres between downtown and Lake Ontario. When Waterfront Toronto gave Sidewalk Labs a green light for Quayside in October, the startup committed $50 million to a one-year consultation, which was recently extended by several months. The plan is to submit a final “Master Innovation and Development Plan” by the end of this year.