"Smart cities" use surveillance, big data processing and interactive technologies to reshape urban life. Transit riders can see the bus coming on a map on their phones. Cities can measure and analyze the garbage collected from every household. Businesses can track individuals' movements and precisely target advertisements.
Google's failed Sidewalk Labs proposal in Toronto, which drew sharp criticism over surveillance and privacy concerns, is just one of the many smart city projects which have been proposed or are underway in Canada. Iqaluit, Edmonton, Guelph, Montreal and other cities and towns are all grappling with how to use these technologies. Some cities have quickly partnered with digital giants like Uber, Bell and IBM. Others have kept their distance. Big tech companies are hard at work recruiting customers and shaping — sometimes making — public policy on data collection and privacy.
Smart Cities for Canada: Digital Dreams, Corporate Designs is the first book on smart cities in Canada. In this collection, experts from across the country investigate what this new approach means for the problems cities face, and expose the larger issues about urban planning and democracy raised by smart city technology. This is a valuable, timely, independent-minded book for Canadians.
MARIANA VALVERDE is a Professor in the University of Toronto Centre for Criminology & Socioecology Studies. She has written several books about law and urban governance and is currently researching smart cities and public-private partnerships. She lives in Toronto.
ALEXANDRA FLYNN is an Assistant Professor at the Peter A. Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia, specializing in municipal law and governance. Her current research project focuses on indigenous-municipal relationships in the land use planning process, including in Nunavut. She lives in Vancouver.