Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Alphabet, is about to build a smart city in the quayside in Toronto, Canada. This project, if successful, will reshape the way we live, work and play in urban communities.

The city of Toronto’s waterfront is located in the eastern part of the city, adjacent to Lake Ontario, on a vast expanse of land filled with reinforced concrete buildings. There are pipelines and power supply stores, parking lots and winter docks. There was also a barn that was built in 1943 to store soybeans, the remains of a former shipping port in the area.

In the mouth of the people of Toronto, the area was abandoned, underutilized, but polluted. Now, Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs hopes to transform it into one of the world’s most innovative urban communities. In the company’s vision, autopilot buses are used to replace private cars; traffic lights here automatically track the movement of pedestrians, bicycles and vehicles; robots here transport mail and rubbish through underground tunnels; buildings here can pass Expand the module to suit the growth of the company or family.

In the early 21st century, the so-called concept of a smart city was all the rage. This concept of urban renewal has drawn widespread public interest. This smart city concept aims to harness technology to reduce energy consumption and pollution, improve transport efficiency and attract affluent tenants, and employers from several countries, including South Korea and the United Arab Emirates, have transformed vast areas of land into such innovative cities community.

But no one has made a smart city a reality. Founded in 2015, Sidewalk Labs is a Subsidiary of Alphabet, which aims to develop technologies to alleviate urban problems. The company believes that urban issues can be solved by working closely with the community and tailoring technologies to local needs. “For more than 100 years, people have been committed to building the city of the future,” said Rit Aggarwala, director of urban systems planning at Sidewalk Labs. “But what we really want is to tap the existing Urban vitality and personality. ”

In the mouth of the people of Toronto, the area was abandoned, underutilized, but polluted. Now, Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs hopes to transform it into one of the world’s most innovative urban communities. In the company’s vision, autopilot buses are used to replace private cars; traffic lights here automatically track the movement of pedestrians, bicycles and vehicles; robots here transport mail and rubbish through underground tunnels; buildings here can pass Expand the module to suit the growth of the company or family.

In the early 21st century, the so-called concept of a smart city was all the rage. This concept of urban renewal has drawn widespread public interest. This smart city concept aims to harness technology to reduce energy consumption and pollution, improve transport efficiency and attract affluent tenants, and employers from several countries, including South Korea and the United Arab Emirates, have transformed vast areas of land into such innovative cities community.

But no one has made a smart city a reality. Founded in 2015, Sidewalk Labs is a Subsidiary of Alphabet, which aims to develop technologies to alleviate urban problems. The company believes that urban issues can be solved by working closely with the community and tailoring technologies to local needs. “For more than 100 years, people have been committed to building the city of the future,” said Rit Aggarwala, director of urban systems planning at Sidewalk Labs. “But what we really want is to tap the existing Urban vitality and personality. ”

Sidewalk Labs said the sensor information will also support long-term planning. The data collected will drive the refinement of Quayside’s virtual model, which city planners can use to quickly and cost-effectively test infrastructure adjustments without affecting residents. It is stored in a shared database so that entrepreneurs and companies can use it to develop their own products and services for the Quayside model.

Waterfront Toronto, a developer, announced its partner needs in March 2017 and announced in October that Sidewalk Labs will be a partner. The two companies now have a year to decide which technologies to deploy and which companies, aside from Sidewalk Labs, will provide these technologies and how to raise funds for the project. Sidewalk Labs has pledged to invest 50 million U.S. dollars in the first phase of the plan. At present, the plan has been started. The pilot test plan will start later this year and will be officially launched next year.

“If the wharf area succeeds, cities in Canada and elsewhere will emulate the case because it will have a huge positive impact on the sustainability of cities and the quality of life,” said Christopher, Director of Urban and Regional Planning at Ryerson University in Toronto Christopher De Sousa said.

Think of the city as a smartphone

For a company such as Sidewalk Labs, which is partly made up of technology experts, it’s no surprise that smart cities are more like smartphones. It sees itself as a platform vendor, providing basic tools (such as software that identifies available parking spaces and services that monitor the exact location of delivery robots, etc.) just as Google does for its smart-phone operating system, Android. Details on building a smart city are still under discussion, but Sidewalk Labs plans to introduce third-party access to data and develop technology just as developers can use Google and Apple’s software tools to develop applications.

In fact, Sidewalk Labs predicts that 80% of the dockside area will involve third-party jobs. Some are likely to be other companies under Alphabet, such as Waymo, a self-driving car maker, but Sidewalk Labs has said rivals such as taxi service provider Lyft will also be able to operate in the terminal area.

This will help Sidewalk Labs replicate its products to cities around the world. Agadava said: “If you think the city is a platform, and can be as fast as a custom iPhone design change, then it can make it a reality, because it considers more than just a centralized planning it also considered People who live and work there. ”

Ubiquitous sensor

The difference between Sidewalk Labs and Google and Android is its profitability model. The startup’s business model is still being explored, but it said it expects to license the technology developed for the quayside to other cities instead of analyzing consumer data for advertising. However, given the data that the quayside plans to collect, many are concerned about privacy issues. In recent months, Canadian newspapers and bloggers have published many articles that raise questions about the business model and data governance practices of Sidewalk Labs.

A major public concern relates to the company’s plans to install a large number of sensors in the dock area to detect all information, from building occupancy to sewage flow to the frequency of public bins. The company is also developing a system that provides quick payment methods and access to services for residents and workers in the quayside, similar to the way people buy products from Amazon or get and pay for Uber taxi services with just one click cost of.

While Sidewalk Labs has repeatedly emphasized that the data will be used for public purposes, such as providing discounted traffic to low-income residents, regulating building temperatures, or preventing trash cans from spilling, not everyone is openly accepted. David Roberts, an expert on urban issues at the University of Toronto, said: “Is there absolutely any question whether Sidewalk Labs will make money by tracking people’s day-to-day interactions? What are the data that Sidewalk Labs will collect? High? How do they use these data? And who will be able to use the data? ”

Agadava said Sidewalk Lab will only collect the data needed to solve the existing problems. If a company wants to analyze pedestrian patterns in the dock area, it uses LIDAR devices to detect objects, either from very low resolution cameras or from devices that only count pedestrians but do not acquire images. “So you can capture the information you need without involving information that goes back to the individual,” he said. “I think people feel comfortable if we can do that and show how to improve urban living. And give us permission. ”

Waterfront Toronto said it will let the Sidewalk Lab be responsible for explaining to the public the personal data collected, its purpose and how to keep the information secure. This will require that the data must be stored in Canada. The agency also said Sidewalk Lab will not automatically share wharf data with Google even though Google may provide technical support for the project through its maps or cloud computing services.

To win the support of residents, Sidewalk Lab and Waterfront Toronto held a Town Hall Hearing in November and will host community discussions, expert roundtables and design competitions in the coming months. Only by convincing the people of Toronto to accept a solution to the city’s problems will the project be likely to succeed. It is estimated that Toronto’s urban population will double in the next 20 years to nearly 500,000.

Will Fleissig, head of Waterfront Toronto, said: “The quayside should not be exclusive or independent technology corridors for the rich, which should be where anyone wants work, relaxation and life. ”

It now appears that Sidewalk Lab seems to dispel some doubts. But if it can prove that data collection does improve urban life, it can provide a smart model for smart cities around the world. Matti Siemiatycki, a geographer and planning expert at the University of Toronto, said: “Interestingly, the existence of these people makes the sky the limits of imagination, dream size, and resources.”