Countries around the world are currently competing to promote their cities as the smartest, and this latest in the series of Around the world in IoT takes us to a real competition: Infrastructure Canada’s Smart Cities Challenge. We’ve previously covered Barcelona and we’ve touched on Toronto’s collaboration with Sidewalk Labs, and now we’ll look at another innovative Canadian city – Montreal.
Montreal is the second most populous city in Canada, after Toronto, so using technology to improve the lives of city dwellers has been a top priority for the city. In fact, in 2016 the Greater Montreal area was named as one of the seven smartest communities in the world. Last year, Montreal was awarded one of the top prizes in Infrastructure Canada’s Smart Cities Challenge – a $50 million grant to improve the city.
So, what exactly made their proposal award-winning?
The proponents of Montreal’s proposal recognised both the importance of data and the danger of keeping that data in silos. Although various organisations within Montreal have access to a vast amount of data, this is rarely shared, preventing analysts from noticing wider and related trends.
In order to properly collate this data, Montreal will build two new data hubs. This will bring together all of the data generated from organisations around the city, enabling data analysts to make informed decisions for the long term and in real time.
Like many other cities, Montreal is concentrating on the movement of people in step one of its smart city approach. Traffic is a big problem, so the city aims to use technology to reduce citizens’ dependence on cars. The first part of this solution will be familiar to Londoners – the creation of an app which includes multi-modal trip planning and transport options, which also allows for a simplified pricing model.
City planners want mobility to act as a driver of social cohesion and collective action, and one of the over-arching aims for Montreal is to build a more inclusive society. So, this city-wide infrastructure will be supported with local mobility solutions, with particular consideration of the elderly population.
Part of building an inclusive and diverse society is ensuring that everyone has access to fresh, local, high-quality food. Montreal highlights this as a particular need for more vulnerable populations.
Using technology, the city will build a new platform to manage the inventory, sales, food donations and deliveries of community organisations. The aim is to increase their collective buyer power, reduce food waste and lower the operating and delivery costs.
As part of this initiative, Montreal will also install urban greenhouses, which will not only provide communities with locally grown fruit and vegetables, but will also recover the industrial waste heat from a landfill site and create a youth employment program.
An appetite for collaboration
Throughout each stage of the proposal, it is evident that Montreal citizens’ desire to work together was paramount in creating the winning bid. City planners began by canvassing the opinions of citizens to determine the points most important to them; the tech hubs enable further collaboration; and as the city moves forward with its plans, changes to governance to better include citizens have already been considered.
When creating plans for a smart city which are based on social drivers, city planners must secure the buy-in of residents and work holistically to build solutions – a theme which is beginning to recur as we investigate the world’s smart cities. Montreal aims to be an example to other cities around the world; it is its preference for collaboration that cities should attempt to replicate.
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