Vancouver-Surrey initiative provides glimpse of future urban development

Vancouver-Surrey initiative provides glimpse of future urban development

Vancouver-Surrey initiative provides glimpse of future urban development

It is increasingly clear that the development of smart cities is coming, and the only question that remains is when?

Two days ago in Vancouver, a panel shed light on the answer to that question. The cities of Vancouver and Surrey are together exploring what kind of smart city features will benefit their respective corridors and improve the lives of residents. They have both invited companies from all over the world to submit applications, with the winner receiving $50 million to bring their visions to fruition on the West Coast.

Jessie Adcock, the City of Vancouver’s chief technology officer, told that the ultimate goal of the cities’ initiative is to improve citizens’ safety, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and collisions while ameliorating mobility.

“We provided the physical characteristics in each city’s corridor and asked the industry how their technology projects will solve particular problems. We had over 172 proposals come in from all over the world that represent hundreds of projects, and we managed to shortlist them down to 55 vendors and 81 projects.”

It’s still early in the process, so there’s no clear-cut integrative model, meaning the city will take those reins, at least temporarily, while an integration hub is created.

“Intelligent traffic systems, censors, data collection and systems, and applications that enable real time response,” is what Vancouver is looking for, said Adcock, adding that there could also be autonomous vehicle shuttles and last-mile mobility vehicles.

It is difficult to imagine an ambitious project like this succeeding without considerable resident input and Adcock says that’s exactly what happened.

“We engaged residents, businesses and stakeholders,” she said. “Originally, Infrastructure Canada gave us six themes we could craft a proposal around, and then we went out and built a proposal with a citizen ideation campaign.”

The campaign received north of 150,000 interactions based on how the community would like to see itself evolve in the years ahead.  Using mobility and safety as its springboard, ideas poured in.

Perhaps most importantly, the Vancouver-Surrey initiative elucidates how imperative smart city technology is for the future vibrancy of any city’s economy.

“By having a strong technology backbone, you’re preparing for a new economy,” said Adcock, “because you provide a backdrop for people to innovate and learn new skills through having these new technologies. In cities that have advanced connectivity like 5G, it opens up a whole new paradigm of what people can do, and that generates economic activity for everybody. As the world shifts, we want to make sure that our cities are advancing as well, especially given the impact that automation will have on our economies. We need to stay current on technology and how we manage our cities. Cities that are run efficiently are better for their local economies, in general.”