toronto waterfront

by Joshua Whitney Allen

Toronto waterfront gets interconnected with IBM ‘smarter city’ platform

Published September 29, 2014


With its 2.6 million residents, Toronto is the centerpiece in a Canadian economy that, in terms of scale, ranks with the world’s most prosperous societies. Its GDP sized at $1.4 trillion, Canada steadily manages its vast geography to offer oil, timber, and minerals to international commodities markets. The nation uses its resources and political relationships—it is America’s most important trade partner—to operate an economy that matches other global cultures much larger than its own population of 35 million.

The country’s largest city, Toronto is home to institutions that are bedrocks to solvency and success in Canada. But while Canada’s media agencies, largest stock exchange, and manufacturing sectors—all located in and around Toronto—orient the economy to southern Ontario, the city also represents the willingness of Canadians to position technology as part of their future.

A prime example of this commitment is project Waterfront Toronto, “a 25-year mandate to transform 800 hectares (2,000 acres) of brownfield lands on the waterfront into beautiful, sustainable mixed-use communities and dynamic public spaces.” Central to this plan is an interconnected network, delivered by IBM and IBM Premier Business Partner Element Blue, which expresses the spirit and ambitions of the entire Waterfront Toronto concept.

The area of focus, edging along Lake Ontario, will be built, revised, linked, and serviced over the next 25 years. With much of the project in its planning phase, the redevelopment’s cost of $30 billion demands the support of both public and private sources. Plans include 40,000 new residential units, and the business footprint is set to span one million square meters.

As explained in a statement, Waterfront Toronto is launching the, a powerful community portal and platform, which includes IBM social collaboration tools that residents can use to easily connect with neighbors, businesses, and service providers in the surrounding area.

“We’re adding a digital layer on top of [the physical space] to future-proof the city,” says Kristina Verner, Director, Intelligent Communities at Waterfront Toronto. “This layer includes Canada’s first open access ultra-broadband network as well as the digital platform that we’ve worked very closely with IBM and Element Blue to build.

“[The platform] will allow us to integrate next-generation applications to help with quality of life issues such as home heating, public safety, how information is managed and delivered to residents, and merchant enablement [to build] a hyper-local sense of purchasing,” Verner continues. “We’ve created a living lab down in the Waterfront.”

Forward thinking is widespread throughout Canada, with various sectors thrilled to consider new ideas and methods. The government incentivizes alternate energy research; Ontario’s science museum has linked with Cisco to modernize the facility with interconnected services.

As the project’s website explains, the aim of the waterfront revitalization effort is to deliver economic and social benefits that can position Toronto to compete with other top tier global cities for investment, jobs, and residence. Waterfront Toronto brings together the most innovative approaches to sustainable development, urban design, real estate development, and advanced technology infrastructure.

“From an economic development perspective,” continues Verner, “we’re ensuring there’s a digital infrastructure that would interest companies in digital media and advanced visualization to come down and locate in the waterfront.”

The idea of futuristic cityscapes, where life is secure, informed, and free of complication, has captured the dreams of officials around the world. As reported in Insights, the United Arab Emirates is planning a $299 million connected city project called Silicon Park. With 20,000 square meters of residential space and set for completion in 2017, the city will include electric car transit, robotic services, smart app access, and renewable energy sources.

Amsterdam, too, is preparing itself for a time of new experiences and services. Amsterdam Smart City involves “more than 70 partners that are involved in a variety of projects focusing on energy transition and open connectivity. ASC is all about the total sum of testing innovative products and services, understanding the behavior of the residents and users of the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area and sustainable economic investments.”

As Toronto continues its turn to the future, the mass of data that interconnected populations can create will redefine how a global city rates itself. “We’re working now to define metrics,” says Verner, “because the typical measures are things like cost savings and cost avoidance—but this is a whole new area. Initially, we’ll be looking at some of the softer metrics—number of users, how many merchants are participating, how many companies are developing on the platform.”



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