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Sidewalk Labs may build a smart city hub in Toronto

The Alphabet division, which has aspirations to build a digital city testing ground, just made moves on 12 acres


The city of the future may start to take shape in Toronto.

According to an article in Bloomberg, Sidewalk Labs LLC, the urban innovation unit of Alphabet Inc., recently made a bid to develop a 12-acre stretch of the Canadian city’s downtown. While the article doesn’t get into specifics, sources suggest this fits in with the company’s much-hyped plans to build a digital downtown from scratch.

Led by former New York City deputy mayor Dan Doctoroff, Sidewalk Labs, among the first independent units of Google before it turned into the Alphabet holding company, develops smart city technology. The company was involved in the roll out of New York City’s new LinkNYC digital billboards, and announced last June that it would be working with the non-profit Transportation for America (T4A) to develop connected streets, with the goal of creating connected roadways and other transportation hubs that can lead to more efficient, multimodal transportation and data-driven decision making.

The LinkNYC digital billboards in New York

Doctoroff has also mentioned interest in the way emerging smart city technology, including autonomous vehicles, embedded smart sensors, ride-sharing, and high-tech zoning, can improve urban life.

In a speech last week at the Smart Cities NYC conference, Doctoroff said the firm is exploring development of a "large-scale district." According to Bloomberg, the company had looked at sites in Denver and Detroit before settling on Toronto.

Canadian officials set up Waterfront Toronto, a public corporation tasked with reimagining 2,000 acres of downtown, in 2001, and earlier this year, called for proposals for an area called Quayside, a community that would be developed with an "innovation and funding partner" and serve as “a testbed for emerging technologies, materials and processes that will address these challenges and advance solutions that can be replicated in cities worldwide.”