Why Toronto could be the smart city HQ for Alphabet's Sidewalk Labs

Google parent company Alphabet is one of the companies being considered for a development project on Toronto's waterfront.

How 'smart cities' is enabling governments to embrace digital transformation

Toronto could be the future home of Alphabet subsidiary Sidewalk Labs, as part of a development deal for the city's waterfront, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Alphabet, which is also Google's parent company, has positioned Sidewalk Labs as a smart city organization working on "the city of the future."

Sidewalks Labs works on smart city solutions to address problems in urban areas. Leveraging better connectivity and new innovations, the organization looks to address issues such as high rent costs, long commute times, and lack of opportunity.

Alphabet initially applied to develop a 12-acre piece of land in the city's downtown area back in May 2017. According to a Bloomberg report at the time, the original goal was to create a connected smart city sector from scratch.

SEE: IT leader's guide to the rise of smart cities, volume 2 (Tech Pro Research)

If the Toronto deal were to materialize, Sidewalk Labs would be looking to build a 3 million-square-foot hub, rivaling the size of the Empire State Building, the Wall Street Journal reported. While the approval is not yet final, it is expected to come this month, the report said.

The cost of the building is not yet final, either. However, the Wall Street Journal reported that that it could hit $1 billion or more. But, people familiar with the matter told the Wall Street Journal that Alphabet had made the most compelling bid to work on the waterfront project in Toronto.

While there is initial value in investing in Toronto, the deal could lead to further expansion of an adjacent plot of land that is around 750 acres. There, Alphabet could create an even bigger smart district where it could test Internet of Things (IoT) and self-driving car efforts, among other things, the report said.

Sidewalk Labs' most well-known project, perhaps, is LinkNYC. The project is an ongoing effort to replace 7,500 pay phones across in New York City with units called Links that provide free public Wi-Fi. Additionally, each of these Links also provides free phone calls, device charging, and access to city services.

The growth of smart cities could help many major metros improve public safety, boost efficiency, and potentially eliminate some of the challenges that come with living in a dense, urban environment. These efforts will also help their host cities embrace digital transformation, New York City CTO Miguel Gamino has said.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Alphabet, Google's parent company, is in the final stages of a bid to develop the waterfront area of downtown Toronto with its Sidewalk Labs company.
  2. Sidewalk Labs would aim to build a connect smart city hub in a 12-acre area that would span some 3 million square feet and could cost more than $1 billion.
  3. Sidewalk Labs, and other smart city initiatives, is working to improve public safety, make traffic more efficient, and more.
Image: iStockphoto/william87