Ultra urban

Ultra urban

Alphabet’s urban innovation unit Sidewalk Labs – which has plans to ‘accelerate urban innovation’ to build super smart cities – is looking to develop a 12-acre area in downtown Toronto. The move follows development agency Waterfront Toronto’s recent call for help in building a waterfront community, Quayside, which it wants to establish as a testbed for emerging technologies and materials.

Rather ambitiously, the agency is looking to create a globally significant demonstration project to advance a ‘new market model for climate-positive urban developments’. It sees wealth being generated by continuing to build the emerging technology-based economic hubs already on the waterfront to include firms in the green technology, film and TV production, digital media and IT sectors.

Waterfront Toronto has said that is looking for a partner which will help create and realise an ‘unparalleled vision’ for Quayside, and to materially contribute to project funding.

Alphabet – formerly known as Google – fits the bill on both fronts and Sidewalk Labs said only last week that it was looking to develop a large-scale project that would serve as a living laboratory for urban innovation technologies.

“The future of cities lies in the way these urban experiences fit together and improve quality of life for everyone living, working and growing up in cities across the world,” Dan Doctoroff, Sidewalk Labs' CEO, said at the Smart Cities NYC event. “Yet there is not a single city today that can stand as a model – or even close – for our urban future.”

The outfit quite naturally views transportation as a core component of such a future, with Doctoroff calling for a solution that involves a mix of ridesharing, public transit, driverless cars, walking and cycling. And, of course, he is very keen on deploying those self-driving vehicles, which together with other technologies, could double the amount of public space per capita, he reckons.

Sidewalk Labs big thought is the question ‘what would a city look like if you started from scratch in the Internet era  – if you built a city from the Internet up?’ The answer so far? It’s got a lot to do with the Net and Big Data.

This far, the most in-your-face project is LinkNYC, a network of Wi-Fi kiosks dotted throughout New York City and run by Intersection, a company in which Sidewalk Labs is an investor.

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