Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Google’s parent company Alphabet, is pulling the plug on its plans to create a smart city district in Toronto, CEO Daniel L. Doctoroff said in a Medium post Thursday (May 7).
For more than two years, Sidewalk Labs worked with Waterfront Toronto to generate plans for Quayside, a smart city district that would tap technology and the latest urban design to be both sustainable and affordable. But economic collapse and the plummeting Toronto real estate market triggered by the worldwide pandemic has made the project no longer financially viable.
Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto had a shared vision to develop “a truly inclusive, sustainable community,” Doctoroff said. But now, in light of the economic fallout and overall state of the world, the 12-acre project will no longer make financial sense “without sacrificing core parts of the plan.”
The New York-headquartered Sidewalk Labs was committed to the project, Doctoroff said, investing in “time, people and resources” and establishing a 30-person satellite office on the Toronto waterfront.
“The Quayside project was important to us, and this decision was a difficult one,” he said, adding that the company was initially drawn to Toronto due to its diversity, growth and the opportunities it had to offer.
That view was “strengthened at every step along the way” Doctoroff said, calling Toronto among the world’s “great centers of technological innovation.” It is still planning to maintain a presence in Toronto.
Doctoroff said that even though the project is now dead, the pandemic has cemented the company’s view of “reimagining cities for the future.” He ascertains that the work put into the planning of Quayside will contribute to how urban issues are approached.
“This is a vital societal endeavor, and Sidewalk Labs will continue our work to contribute to it,” Doctoroff said.
Sidewalk Lab’s involvement with the Quayside project began in October 2017 after it answered a request for proposals by Waterfront Toronto, according to a press release. After being chosen for the project, the Alphabet subsidiary committed $50 million to a first phase of joint planning and pilot project testing.
Sidewalk Labs was created to explore how new technologies can solve big urban challenges and improve the quality of life in cities.
Governments and institutions in Europe, India and the United States are experimenting with Internet of Things (IoT) solutions to enhance city life, and the technology is expected to create between $4 trillion to $11 trillion in value over the next several years, according to a previous PYMNTS report.
Vikas Butaney, vice president of product management for technology and software solutions provider Cisco, discussed with PYMNTS how managing these data flows is just one part of smart city development.
Every network involved must be able to instantly, safely and securely connect and share information, he explained, and Cisco works with city governments to cultivate transparency and speed.