The Toronto real estate market is buzzing with the news that after much discussion and a fair share of controversy, Google will be allowed to proceed with building it’s much-heralded “smart city” albeit in a much smaller section of the city than originally discussed. According to a BBC report, Google’s Sidewalk Labs will only be able to develop 12 acres as opposed to the 190 they originally proposed.
According to the Toronto Sun, one of the reasons Sidewalk Labs faced so much opposition was due to their proposals for data storage and usage. Another article in Toronto Life quoted Professor Shoshana Zuboff as calling the project “surveillance capitalism”, while other critics said the project does not present enough opportunities for Canadian businesses. However, the project is also expected to bring a lot of money to the city as well as a lot of new jobs, all of which could be good news for local real estate market.
What is a “smart city”?
Among the ideas Sidewalk Labs looks to implement are a thermal grid to lower power consumption, as well as traffic signals that will use data to prioritize pedestrians than need more time to cross the road. A new light rail connecting the GTA to the waterfront was also part of the proposal.
Not final yet
While the proposal may have conditional approval, it remains to be seen if the project is indeed in the cards for Toronto. According to reports, the Waterfront Toronto board will only make its final decision in March 2020, and it will be subject to further discussions and public consultation. Notably, strict provisions are being put on the kind of data Sidewalk Labs can collect from citizens, with the worry being that it could be used for commercial projects, advertising, or shared with other companies, an increasing concern in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica Scandal.