Smart City Concept Gets New Boost From Google Parent

Smart Cities Gets Boost From Google Parent

Behold the rise of the smart city — a development that will have significant impact on payments and commerce, at least according to current plans.

The latest development comes courtesy of Google parent company Alphabet. According to CNBC, “the first buildings in Alphabet’s first smart city project could open as soon as 2023, the project’s lead said Wednesday at the Collision Conference in Toronto.”

The news comes after Toronto development officials signed a development agreement involving a “smart city” concept backed by Alphabet and its Sidewalk Labs unit. A government-created organization called Waterfront Toronto, which focuses on the renewal of the city’s waterfront, is also involved in the project. According to reports last year, the two entities call for the “revitalization of Quayside, located at Lake Shore Boulevard East and Parliament Street in Toronto.”

Sidewalk Labs’ role is to bring smart-city technology to the mixed-use development – enhancements such as robotic garbage collection and self-driving vehicles, as well as sensors to monitor when pedestrians want to cross streets. If the development proves to be successful, it could provide a model for sustainable urban neighborhoods, as well as showcase how Alphabet and its technology can bring that aim to fruition.

The project faces opposition, though. Among the concerns? Some city residents and officials worry about all the data that will be collected, stored and analyzed for the operation of the automobiles and the smart city – privacy and security concerns that are gaining more attention from consumers and lawmakers.

The global market for smart city technology will reach an estimated $774.8 billion in 2021, up from $342.4 billion in 2016, according to BCC Research. North America will account for 42 percent of that spending in 2021.

As PYMNTS research has documented, the rapid rise of smart cities promises to connect citizens with a wide range of municipal services. By some accounts, approximately 70 percent of the world’s population will reside in smart cities by 2050. Citizens in this type of environment will find a host of connected devices designed to enhance their daily routines, such as smart parking meters that help drivers find and pay for parking. Smart trash receptacles are already being used to alert sanitation crews where trash collection services are needed, allowing them to adjust their routes and operate in a cost-effective manner.

The growth of smart cities means citizens will be able to quickly connect with a host of services, including health, public transportation and public works. For citizens to engage with these services and trust them, seamless and secure digital identity tools will be essential – underscoring the challenges and opportunities for providers of digital payments and commerce services.

Not only that, but the rise of the smart city will also tie into the emerging connected vehicle ecosystem, according to observers. And it’s not just large metro areas that are working toward a connected vehicle/smart city future.

Two years ago, for instance, Columbus, Ohio won a $40 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge — a program that launched in December of 2015 to encourage mid-sized municipalities “to develop ideas for an integrated, first-of-its-kind smart transportation system.”

Now, Columbus has released a plan detailing its vision, which includes technology for some 1,800 vehicles operated by city workers and volunteers, enabling all of those cars and trucks to communicate with each other and with the 113 roadside sensors that are also part of the overall system.

The data collected by the system, along with the communication technology, will enable such traffic signal prioritization, the distribution of emergency brake warnings and other road management tasks. Columbus said it expects to seek bids in early 2019 for hardware and software to support its connected transportation and smart city goals, with testing tentatively scheduled for summer 2020.

Similar activity is happening in Tampa Bay.

The city recently signed an agreement with transportation experts at the University of South Florida that calls for joint work on smart transportation projects with the goal of winning entry into the MetroLab Network, a collaborative group that includes 35 city-university partnerships.

Already, Tampa Bay is creating a small traffic management center at the university, which, despite its name, is located in that city. The city’s Tampa Connected Vehicle Pilot is outfitting “some 1,600 private vehicles with devices that take into account speed, braking distance and other driving data to determine, for example, when a motorist should break when coming to the end of a freeway off-ramp, given the car’s speed and number of cars ahead,” according to a recent report. To gain participants for the study, the local tollway authority is offering a 30 percent rebate on expressway tools for drivers who take part.

Smart cities are coming – and as the news out of Canada indicates, probably sooner rather than later.


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