When the City of Toronto and the governments of Ontario and Canada decided to invest a collective $1.5 billion in revitalizing Toronto’s former shipping port, they knew they had a unique opportunity to make the area a prime example of how municipalities could look and operate in the future.
Recognizing that the world is increasingly looking to online sources for local news, event information and social engagement, city planners turned to the latest in technology for improving community collaboration and quality of life. Years later, a sophisticated sensor network, data analysis and a Community Hubs portal are making the Toronto Waterfront project a model for future urban revitalization.
During the physical infrastructure building stage of the waterfront project, an elaborate sensor network was installed to measure and monitor environmental conditions. That sensor array unleashes an incredible volume and variety of unstructured data that Element Blue harnessed in a dashboard format to give a complete, real-time picture of what’s happening at the waterfront, from weather to events to ongoing infrastructure projects.
At Element blue, we’re also aggregating energy-use data so residents, including students at the nearby University of Toronto, can analyze their personal usage and adjust their behaviors to conserve energy and save money.
The ability to have all of this information readily available in one place makes life easier and more efficient for the thousands of people who live and work on the waterfront.
Another area where the Toronto Waterfront project makes use of cutting-edge data collection, analysis and visualization technology is the Community Hubs portal. Seeing the need for an industry solutions IT expert with the experience to implement such a sophisticated system, project managers approached Element Blue to help guide the process of creating an online portal where residents could seamlessly learn about social events in their area and work collaboratively to address problems and improve their collective quality of life.
In order for that to happen, the project needed to integrate real-time intelligence and operations capabilities into its data-analysis system. And for people to understand what they were looking at, and how to act on the information they were given, the collaborative portal also needed a great user experience.
Community Hubs provide both in spades. Today, waterfront residents can engage in online forums focused on everything from fixing potholes to upcoming community-improvement volunteer opportunities. The result is a community that is more connected, and consequently more invested in what’s happening in its neighborhoods. Individuals benefit from closer social ties to their neighbors, and cities benefit because citizens bring potential issues to their attention before they come full-blown (and expensive) problems.
While we may have a tendency to see our increasing reliance on technology as leading to more social isolation, the Toronto Waterfront project is a perfect example of how we can apply technology in city planning to create more connected and vital communities. Giving people the right tools to engage with what’s going on in their neighborhoods should be a goal for every city looking to improve operational efficiency and quality of life for residents.