Sidewalk Labs – The Next Smart City?
What if your sidewalk could measure air quality, energy usage, waste output? What if that same sidewalk provided real time measurements of traffic flow, noise levels, and travel patterns? Suddenly, “what if” is not so distant when it comes to Toronto, Canada. Quayside is the name for the proposed 12-acre waterfront community where that venture is aimed to take pedestrianism into the future. Sidewalk Labs LLC, a company owned by Google parent Alphabet, is behind this pilot city and they are making headway on redefining how urban spaces are utilized. Sidewalk Labs is envisioning this community as a smart district, the stepping stone where information and data will categorically improve upon itself to answer urban issues directly and quicker than currently possible. Google will move its Toronto headquarters to the neighborhood, and once the company has proven out its concept it plans goal is to expand the district to a full 800-acre micro-city.
In a Bloomberg article, Dan Doctoroff, the CEO of Sidewalk Labs, shared remarks where he said “…how technology like autonomous transit, high-speed internet, embedded sensors and ride-sharing services could transform urban life.” Using technology and data, Quayside aims to disrupt the conventional and deliver a city based on efficiency to improve the lives of the residents and community. Streets of Quayside would be built with streets that are constructed in a manner curated by data information allowing for productive traffic. Streets devoted to self-driving cars and ride-sharing are included as an aim to maximize space for pedestrians and bikers instead of greenhouse-gas emitting automobiles.
Quayside community has plans to include other innovations, such as utilizing a newly developed housing concept known as Loft – this concept includes materializing units as amenable spaces to accommodate community needs on an as-needed basis. Bringing these units to fruition include experimenting with plastic, prefabricated modules, and using steel instead of timber. However, within the proposed futuristic community concerns have risen on issues of privacy; Sidewalk Labs have said they are working on a comprehensive privacy plan.
It is a plan not enveloped within itself either. Declaring to build a city of the future, Sidewalk Labs plans to build their microcosm as openly to all as possible. Wired reports that the company intends to collaborate for a year with the nearby community’s activists, policymakers, city leaders, and academics – all in an effort to effectively build a city in service to all.
It will be fascinating to witness this pilot district come to fruition. Lessons will be learned, for both Quayside and agencies everywhere as Sidewalk Labs helps communities close data gaps. Hopefully cities everywhere can benefit with latest information as they strive for more equitable communities that serve all populations. Learn more at sidewalklabs.com