Why cities need to invest in “smart city” infrastructure

On March 13th, I was a speaker at a conference organized by Library and Archives Canada and the University of Ottawa to discuss the importance of investing in “smart city” infrastructure. I was joined by industry leaders including John Smit, acting director of economic development for the City of Ottawa, and Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin, the mayor of Gatineau.

Though major Canadian cities have made great strides in embracing smart infrastructure, places like our nation’s capital are still struggling to keep up with the increasing need and demand for smart solutions. Without embracing smart city investments, cities will end up disappointing their residents and businesses, falling behind on a national and global scale.   

In the near future, it should be possible for the majority of residents in Canadian cities to work and receive health care and educational services from home. Not only will this improve convenience and productivity, it will cause less wear and tear on the roads and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.   

Improving broadband connectivity can help municipalities save time and money. For example, in Barcelona, Spain, they have sensors in their public garbage bins, so the bins are only visited and emptied when they need to be. Being smart is about being more efficient, and the benefits spread throughout the population.

By 2020, Intel predicts that 50 billion sensors will be deployed worldwide. Just look at how quickly autonomous cars are making their way onto the roads. Every major city will need sensors included in road infrastructure to create a safe environment for people with autonomous cars. It’s possible that cities without these sensors won’t be visited or travelled through as frequently.  

It’s no longer a matter of making our cities more futuristic, we now need to catch up to the future. Without significant investments in fiber optic infrastructure our cities will be delayed in catching up to the future. Smart cities begin with ubiquitous connectivity and their evolution depends on continuously upgrading this smart city infrastructure.

Campbell Patterson