Imagine no longer sitting in hours of traffic because your city deployed sensors at major intersections to improve traffic flows. Imagine no congestion at Lake Shore and Spadina.

Imagine enjoying an efficient commute with public transportation because smart traffic lights respond to buses and streetcars.

Imagine not worrying about losing battery on your phone while on the go because there are USB charging stations at every TTC stop.

Imagine checking your email or making a phone call on your morning commute hundreds of feet underground on the subway because there is connectivity available in all public areas and on all public transportation systems: GO Trains, the Union Express, the entire TTC system.

Fortunately, with the emergence of “smart cities,” you no longer need to just imagine such realities. Many cities, such as Singapore, Barcelona, and London, have integrated technology into their infrastructures in ways that benefit the municipalities, citizens, and visitors.

Are Smart Cities Actually Beneficial?

More and more city officials are discovering that incorporating technology and data into their municipalities can improve the economy, safety, health, and efficiency in their cities.

In Barcelona, the implementation of smart technology and the Internet of Things into city infrastructure led to many beneficial results. Their use of technology to reduce the consumption of energy and water helped the city save an estimated $58 million on water. Smart LED streetlights, which are only activated when they detect movement, led to energy savings of 30%. Barcelona’s smart parking initiatives increased parking revenues by roughly $50 million. Notably, the implementation of numerous smart technology systems resulted in 47,000 new jobs since smart city initiatives began in 2012.

As cities become committed to further technological integration, it leads to great opportunities for collaboration between the government and the private sector. For example, in London, Mayor Sadiq Khan announced last June a £1.6 million cleantech incubator that will help 100 London small businesses “tackle the causes and effects of climate change.” Additionally in London, the introduction of contactless payments in the public transportation system has saved customers a total of £123 million. Impressed with the initiative in London, New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority is rolling out a contactless fare system based on the one developed by Transport for London.

By utilizing smart technologies, municipalities are better equipped to empower citizens, anticipate problems, and optimize their infrastructure. In Singapore, thousands of cameras and sensors have been installed to increase public safety and reduce crime. Singapore’s strong broadband network has allowed the government of Singapore to make efficient use of their numerous sensors. Singapore’s status as a pioneer of the smart cities industry, coupled with having the highest ranking of broadband globally, indicates the importance of network connectivity in developing a smart city.

Toronto is Becoming a Smarter City

Many cities are now striving to join the smart cities global market, which is predicted to reach US$1.2 trillion by 2020. Recognizing the importance of becoming a smarter city, in 2017 Toronto created a Civic Innovation Office. This office is tasked with using technology and data to solve problems and meet residents’ needs. “Toronto is home to a large population of innovators, startups and tech companies who can help the City deliver better services to the public, while promoting a new approach to problem solving within government,” Mayor John Tory stated when announcing the Civic Innovation Office.

The City of Toronto has launched multiple projects that aim to harness the power of cutting-edge technology to better serve its residents. These initiatives include the launch of two smart traffic pilot projects that respond to real time traffic patterns with the aim of reducing traffic congestion.

Indicating a substantial step towards technological adoption in the city’s infrastructure, Waterfront Toronto has partnered with Sidewalk Labs to build a “mini smart city” on the waterfront. This smart neighbourhood will “combine forward-thinking urban design and new digital technology to create people-centred neighbourhoods that achieve precedent-setting levels of sustainability, affordability, mobility, and economic opportunity.”

Connecting Toronto to the Future

Toronto has taken a large step towards becoming an even smarter city with the recent completion of a wireless communications network throughout the city. TTC riders can now take advantage of the Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity available at all 75 TTC subway stations to initiate projects that will improve life in the city.

PRESTO, the TTC’s new electronic fare payment system, was made possible in the subway by the network connectivity. Safety related issues are being tackled in new and innovative ways, by the TTC through the SafeTTC app, which is supported over BAI’s network. Additionally, passengers are able to better plan their commutes with in-station information screens at each station platform, utilizing BAI Canada’s wireless network.

“There are massive opportunities to use digital technology to improve transit planning, or integrate fare payment systems, or deliver real-time safety information. But in this era of constant connectivity, what people expect is the ability to stay connected wirelessly on their mobile devices through all parts of their public transit journey,” wrote Ken Ranger, the Chief Executive Officer of BAI Canada, in the Globe and Mail earlier this year.

The new wireless communications network provides people more than just access to wireless connectivity while navigating Toronto. There are now countless opportunities to work on revolutionary improvements within the city in both the public and private spheres. With the availability of wireless connectivity, projects such as the NYC Subway Library, in which free e-books were available for all 1.8 billion NYC passengers via the Wi-Fi network, can become possible for those in Toronto.

This state of the art wireless network will continue to move Toronto forward as a top smart city globally. A connected and smarter Toronto will make what’s been previously imagined a reality for Torontonians.