After several years of planning, Toronto’s showcase waterfront redevelopment community for thousands of people is slowly rising and with it the hopes that it will be an intelligent community attracting leading edge businesses.
On Wednesday another plank in the plan was nailed down with the debut of a community portal built by a Houston-based developer using IBM software.
Called NewBlueEdge.ca, (named after the redevelopment area’s marketing logo) it’s a combination news and social media hub it is hoped residents and businesses to talk to each other. But its also linked to IBM’s IntelligentOperationsCenter that will eventually connect to area utilities for a number of capabilities, such as flashing alerts of a broken water main.
“What we’ve done is the just first step” to drive data through the hub, Anthony Bernal, CTO of Element Blue, the portal developer that specializes in smart city solutions, said in an interview at the launch of the site.
“The vision is we can pull data from all kinds of sources from different domains across the city or industry or weather people might be. You’d have community data, 311, water, energy … and get a holistic view of what’s going on.”
The community is being built on 20,000 acres of city-owned reclaimed industrial land that will see 40,000 residential units and 10 million square feet of office space built over 30 years.
The first residential condo opened in the spring.
One of ways people will be lured to the area is the promise of ultra-fast Internet that will be capable of delivering a range of services.
Waterfront Toronto, the city-owned planner of the project, awarded a network infrastructure contract in 2011 to Beanfield Metroconnect to install fibre optic lines to all facilities.
The contract specified Beanfield has to offer Internet speeds and pricing that are among the top seven communities in the world for 10 years (as ranked by intelligentcommunities.org), and the network be open to any provider that wants to connect (for a fee).
The network initially offers 100 Mbps up and down, although it is built to handle 1 Gbps.
Every building has a Cisco Systems Inc. Catalyst 4500 switch in the basement, from which the fibre goes to each unit/business. Each room has at least one Ethernet outlet.
In the near future Beanfield will also provide a free Cisco-based 802.11ac Wi-Fi network for public areas (including parks, building lobbies and parking garages) for residents and guests.
Creation of the community portal was specified in the contract. Beanfield hired Element Blue to do the development work.
IBM and Cisco are among a number of big IT companies that are into the so-called smart cities business, hoping to take advantage of the expected demand to connect almost everything in municipalities — from stop lights to water meters — to the Internet. The resulting masses of data will need analytics processing.
IBM notes that by 2030, 60 per cent of the world’s population will live in cities.
In a corporate background paper, Element Blue cites a research report forecasting the smart cities technology market will be worth $20 billion a year by 2020.
John Longbottom, leader of IBM Canada’s smarter cities initiative, who was also at the launch, agreed in an interview that intelligent cities are a good business opportunity for his company. But it also has the potential to have a big impact in municipalities, he said..
So far, he added, globally IBM [NYSE: IBM] is putting more into the market by funding small projects to help cities develop an intelligent city plan than it is getting revenue through software and hardware sales.
But, he added, the market is still young. “We have to have projects like this to demonstrate the power and potential of our smarter cities capabilities.”
Waterfront Toronto CEO John Campbell told the launch that one of the goals is to create a “living laboratory” for an intelligent community power by a high speed network.
“We want to make it a connected neighborhood that will draw people jobs and investment to the waterfront. We’re using technology to enhance the quality of life for the residents and create economic opportunity for businesses.”