October 19, 2017
By the year 2000, the world was supposed to be a mirror image of the Jetsons. Flying cars were going to be the norm, artificially intelligent robots were going to clean up after us while making humorous quips about our hygiene, and cities were going to be suspended above the toxic wasteland that had become sea level.
However, with crumbling infrastructure and sputtering economies, the cities of 2017 are indecipherable from those in the early 50’s, save a few taller buildings and a cellular tower here and there. Fortunately, change might be right around the corner thanks to everyone’s favorite tech giant: Google.
Sidewalk Labs, one of dozens of subsidiaries, including Google, that falls within the Alphabet conglomerate, announced on Tuesday that they would be launching a project that would see the redevelopment 12 acres of southeastern waterfront in Toronto. Let the Google-fication of cities begin!
The plan, according to the announcement, is to turn these 12 acres of industrialized buildings and parking lots into a hi-tech community that will be home to the tech giant’s relocated Toronto headquarters. Sidewalk Labs has already dedicated $50 million to the city, which will be named Quayside.
“This project offers unprecedented opportunities for Canadian innovators and will create thousands of good, middle class jobs,” said Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada during the announcement.
While 12 acres doesn’t sound like much of a smart city, Google plans to expand the project to the entire 800 acre waterfront once they have proven the ideas has legs. And compared to similar projects from tech giants, that’s a lotta acres.
There’s no denying that Google has been waiting in the wings for its chance to change the physical world in the same way it’s changed the digital one. However, there is more to this project than the opportunity to innovate.
“We are making a bold bet that innovation technology and forward-thinking urban design can make fundamental improvements in city life,” said Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Alphabet.
Yes, if they succeed, it could be the first step in establishing smart cities around the world, an admirable accolade, even for one of the most decorated companies ever. But, as per their unofficial slogan, Google’s goal is to not be evil. Can’t we suppress suspicion for a day and just assume that this effort to reinvent Toronto is noble and not a mad grab at what could be the most lucrative market in recent history?
Not the First
If this news sounds familiar to you, it’s because Facebook announced something similar just a few short months ago: a “mixed-use village” that houses “a grocery store, pharmacy and additional community-facing retail” to make life for employees a bit easier. However, Facebook’s village was never expected to exceed 25 acres and sat across the street from their Menlo Park headquarters, which makes Google’s plan a little more ambitious:
“The world’s first neighborhood built from the internet up.”
Read more about what Google is up to on TechCo
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