Markham’s Bid to Become the Smartest City in Canada

It seems like large cities are always in a rush to integrate new smart programs and features, so it’s refreshing to see initiatives from some of the largest companies in Canada target somewhere besides Toronto.

The City of Markham has announced the launch of a new Smart City Accelerator Research Program in partnership with Bell. Markham—a city of 328,000 northeast of Toronto’s downtown core—will launch Bell’s Smart City platform consisting of IoT networks in a bid to improve how the city’s municipal operations run.

“Markham will serve as a living lab and an incubator for innovation,” said Frank Scarpitti, Mayor of Markham. “By embracing smart city technologies, we will continue to deliver exceptional services to our residents at lower costs and improve the quality of life. This partnership with Bell speaks to Markham’s commitment to leveraging the latest digital tools and assets; keeping us connected in an age of great transformation while reinforcing Markham’s position as a municipal leader in the heart of Canada’s innovation corridor.”

The goal is to create a “frictionless city,” which means bringing digital innovation to the services most used by Markham residents. Bell will work to test various sensor technologies throughout the city that will have an influence on several distinct business areas, such as remotely tracking and managing city assets and equipment.

Other areas the new smart program will affect include sensors on water mains to guard against water leak detection, sensors on manholes and near rivers to manage water levels, temperature and humidity sensors to guide decisions on city management techniques, and devices to track overall energy consumption in municipal buildings.

Markham is also working with IBM Canada to aggregate all of the data taken in by the sensors and create a consolidated management dashboard. Municipal workers can analyze the data in real time with the dashboard and then communicate to change or deliver fixes to certain areas in the city.

“This integration between IBM’s technology and Bell’s pervasive broadband networks and IoT applications brings the best of these two industry leaders in delivering the Markham Smart City program to the City,” said Nathalie Le Prohon, IBM Canada’s telecommunications leader.

Many smart city programs have been criticized for intruding upon private citizen data—with Sidewalk Labs’ Quayside project facing the harshest of the claims—but Scarpitti is confident none of those problems will come to Markham, as these sensors only track municipal infrastructure assets and not private information.

The six-month smart city program will begin on May 1 and cost around $200,000 to fully roll out.