Sidewalk Labs walking away from Toronto smart city project

The Quayside neighbourhood in Toronto is no longer being developed into a futuristic smart city.

Alphabet-owned Sidewalk Labs was working in conjunction with Waterfront Toronto to turn the underutilized Quayside area in the Toronto east-end into a smart city project that would become a touchstone for smart cities in the future. Alphabet is Google’s parent company.

Over the last two years, there have been dreams of giant wooden buildings, heated streets with hexagon tiles and many other strange but exciting changes to the typical city layout and design. However, as things progressed, people began to look at Sidewalk Labs with more scrutiny, especially when it came to data collection and storage.

The technology/real-estate development company cites economic uncertainty around the world and Toronto’s real-estate market as reasons for cancelling the project.

“It has become too difficult to make the 12-acre project financially viable without sacrificing core parts of the plan we had developed together with Waterfront Toronto to build a truly inclusive, sustainable community,” Sidewalk Labs’ CEO Dan Doctoroff stated in a letter.

The company submitted a few plans to the city to kickstart the project. However, the project was repeatedly pushed back as more amendments were made regarding data collection and ownership, facial recognition rules and other tech-related privacy issues.

Other plans were delayed because people felt that Sidewalk Labs was overreaching in what it wanted and originally agreed to. It seemed at every turn there was something to stop Sidewalk Labs from proceeding. This is likely for the best since data privacy is an important issue, especially in the context of a smart city.

Source: Sidewalk Labs