Smart Home? Toronto Moves to Create a Smart Neighborhood

We've heard of smart homes, but how about smart neighborhoods? That's exactly what Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Google parent Alphabet, is building on the Eastern waterfront in Toronto.

The community, called Quayside, "will combine forward-thinking urban design and new digital technology" and offer "precedent-setting levels of sustainability, affordability, mobility, and economic opportunity," the company said in a statement.

Sidewalk Labs explored opportunities all over the world, but ultimately committed $50 million to Waterfront Toronto's initial planning and testing phase.

At a press conference today, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he's been talking with Alphabet Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt about collaborating on this project "for a few years." This effort will transform the area into a "thriving hub for innovation and create good, well-paying jobs," he said.

Rumors of Sidewalk Labs' city building ambitions first emerged last year, at which point Sidewalk Labs was reportedly putting the finishing touches on a proposal for new, smarter houses, offices, and retail spaces within existing cities.

The Toronto project (which you can check out here) looks to revitalize the entire 800-acre Port Lands area, which Sidewalk Labs said is one of North America's largest areas of underdeveloped urban land.

"The district will become a place for tens of thousands of people to live, work, learn, and play—and to create and advance new ideas that improve city life, from climate-positive energy systems that can deliver a new standard in sustainability, to self-driving transit that makes streets safer, to new construction techniques that can lower housing costs," Sidewalk Labs said.

Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto will be working over the next year to plan the project. They aim improve the infrastructure and transportation system, as well as create new affordable housing and retail spaces. The process will kick off with a community Town Hall on Nov. 1.

Alphabet is also planning to relocate Google's Canadian headquarters to the Eastern waterfront to anchor the new community.

"Successful cities around the world are wrestling with the same challenges of growth, from rising costs of living that price out the middle class, to congestion and ever-longer commutes, to the challenges of climate change," Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff said in a statement. "Sidewalk Labs scoured the globe for the perfect place to create a district focused on solutions to these pressing challenges, and we found it on Toronto's Eastern waterfront."

He went on to say that "this will not be a place where we deploy technology for its own sake, but rather one where we use emerging digital tools and the latest in urban design to solve big urban challenges in ways that we hope will inspire cities around the world."

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