Cisco Canada Blog

Canada: Smart City movement is Taking off

April 23, 2014

St. Albert Smart City Alliance

More and more Canadian communities are reaching for the Intelligent Community movement to provide them with means, tools, and governance that will help them capitalize on the rapidly changing world in which they are trying to compete and grow. The Smart City movement (or Intelligent Community, or Smart + Connected Community, or what you want to call it) is not new. Many Cities around the world have already embraced the intersection of governance, policy making, collaboration, innovation, and technology as en engine to help thrust their communities forward into ever-increasingly challenging times.

The movement now, however, has created such buzz that different branding insinuates different stages and progression in the Intelligent Community journey with which a municipality would be able to indicate how smart or intelligent they really are. All this hype and branding-banter is great, because I do believe it is accomplishing what the world needs: consideration of the opportunities that the Intelligent Community movement can provide to municipalities that want to grow, excel, differentiate, and provide an environment that is safe, healthy, and supports the highest quality of life to all its citizens, businesses, and other constituents.  

Despite the arguments of those that criticize technology firms that are trying to do their part in shaping the Intelligent Community journey, I believe that it is reasonably well understood that a Smart City does not equate to being ‘just’ very technologically advanced. In an Intelligent Community (and yes, I purposefully use the terms interchangeably as they really are the same) we see the optimized collaboration and interaction between people (and organizations), processes, data, and things leading to “a platform” or a culture that allows all municipal constituents to pursue personal, economic, social, and environmental opportunity and prosperity. In addition to connecting people and organizations together to be the foundation of a collaborate eco-system that will focus on the common goals for the community through innovation and transformation projects, the maturity of technology and the next generation of the Internet (the Internet of Everything) certainly will have a grand role to play in shaping the Intelligent Community journey.

Canadian Municipalities in Top 7 Intelligent Communities.

Canadian communities seem to be getting this. It is so exciting to see that communities and regions are rallying together to facilitate the conversation; start the journey; and mobilize its constituents to start capitalizing on the many untapped opportunities in front of us. The ICF–Intelligent Communities Forum (@NewCommunities) even recognized three Canadian communities to be among the seven most intelligent communities in the world: Winnipeg (MN), Toronto (ON), and Kingston (ON)–not because they have implemented the most advanced technology, but because they have adopted a culture of collaboration and co-operation in pursuit of prosperity and opportunity for all. Soon the jury will be deliberating as it has completed the site visits, and early June the #1 will be announced.

Cisco True Growth

It is not only the ones that receive recognition from ICF that are doing the right thing. Saint John (NB) and Halifax (NS) both have actively embraced “True Growth”–a Cisco-supported approach and set of recommendations for municipalities to capitalize on the local energy that focuses on innovation and community transformation. Once they recognized the role and motivations of all the players in their communities (the mapping phase of a simplified and effective 6-step journey), it proofed a lot more apparent as to where and how to focus the collective interests and show demonstrable results of the innovation that may previously not yet have been fully exploited in the community.

In Ontario, the Waterloo Smart Region Initiative–including Kitchener, Guelph–has already brought together governments, universities and institutions, and the private sector to tap into the collective appetite that drives the region forward through collaboration and innovation and to build upon the amazing existing “islands of innovation” in an effort to accelerate the joined interests and common goals of all stakeholders. Soon, the Initiative will complete its mapping exercise also, after which it is fully expected that initiatives and opportunities will take flight.

Smart Markham #SmartMkm

On April 11th, The City of Markham (ON) took its first official step to join its Canadian brethren in the Intelligent Community movement. I was honored to have been asked to help open the half-day inaugural event together with our partners Mansell Nelson from Rogers Communications (about connecting things to the Internet of Everything), Ted Maulluci from Tridel (on Smart and Connected Buildings), Jim Gragtmans from ET Group (about forming collaborative eco-systems), and John Longbottom from IBM (on ‘how to get started’). These series of inspiring presentations were flanked by confirming the vision and the commitment for being a Smart City by Mayor Scarpetti and hosting Councilor Howard Shore, as well as a great panel discussion with some of the beneficiaries of a Smart City movement: the company executives for Seneca College, Powerstream, and Stoufville Hospital. Also, the kick-start event invited Mayor Brad Woodside from Fredericton to share stories from his Smart City journey via Cisco TelePresence (..another Smart City move as Markham reduced cost, carbon footprint, while able to tap into the insight of a City leader across the country).

St. Albert, Cisco, IBM, NAIT and UofA sign MoU to found Smart City Alliance.

Press announcement: Smart City Alliance Launched.

A newcomer to this list of communities and regions that embraces the concept of Intelligent Communities is St. Albert in Alberta (home to future Rampart’s Avenir). On April 22nd, the four founding members–St. Albert (AB), Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), University of Alberta (UofA), Cisco, and IBM–signed an MoU that marked the beginning of a regional collaborative eco-system that will explore and pursue the benefits of being Smart or Intelligent, and build on the collective initiatives already in place by the various founding members throughout the area. The alliance has four distinct objectives: (1) incubate the development of a Smart City knowledge network and multi-sector collaboration in the Province of Alberta; (2) accelerate the identification, development, and application of Smart municipal solutions; (3) foster local and regional awareness of Smart City principles, applications, and available technologies, and (4) assist alliance members in aligning priorities, research, internal capacity, and data towards the application of Smart City solutions, demonstrations, or commercialization opportunities.

Ready, Set…Go.

These are just a few of the exciting initiatives throughout the Country. If you are a municipal leader, be sure to attend the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) Annual General Meeting in Niagara Falls this year, to learn more of these and other initiatives and to get guidance on how to start your own journey. Starting the conversation is a good beginning. Converting it into action is next.

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  1. This is great to hear. Look forward to more municipalities and cities joining in this transformational initiative