An ICTC Overview

Overview | Smart Developments at Home and Abroad

Smart Cities Monitoring Report 2019–2020

Dec 3, 2020 · 7 min read

Access the brief here.


This report looks at six Canadian and international examples of smart city initiatives conceived or implemented between March 2019 and March 2020.

These initiatives are discussed in the context of benefits to municipalities and citizens, labour market implications, and ethical considerations.

The following initiatives are discussed:

  1. Smart Energy/Environment — blockchain-powered “Kultur-Token” currency in Vienna, Austria, rewarding environmentally friendly city travel
  2. Smart Infrastructure — the world’s first AI-based concrete strength prediction engine to speed construction and improve efficiencies at the London City Airport
  3. Smart Mobility — smartphone public transit app to increase the convenience and efficiency in Calgary, Alberta
  4. Smart Government — blockchain for referendums, government services, and incentivizing positive citizen behaviour in Seoul, Korea
  5. Smart Regulation — ethical considerations and public oversight of closed-circuit television (CCTV) and emerging facial recognition technology in Toronto, Ontario
  6. Smart Health/Wellbeing — medical supply deliveries by drone to the Moose Cree First Nation

The Projects

These case studies of human-centric design principles applied to communities are intended as examples and not an exhaustive catalogue of global initiatives.

This report also does not investigate the impacts of COVID-19 on these initiatives.

Vienna, Austria, is piloting the use of arts and culture rewards to incentivize non-car transportation to reduce traffic congestion and achieve the city’s carbon-neutral aspirations.

  • The “Kultur-Token” blockchain-mediated project tracks participant travel by type and duration
  • Participants earn credit tokens for walking, cycling, and public transport use, instead of cars
  • Credits can then be exchanged for theatre and museum tickets

The technology utilizes a mixture of hardware (motion tracking sensors), smartphone software and blockchain ledger technology to manage collected and anonymized participant travel data and carbon-saving tokens (token per 20 kilograms of CO2 savings — the equivalent of about two weeks of car-free commuting).

Benefits: Beyond environmental and health benefits, social benefits include wider access to art events for low-income residents, increased participation in cultural activities, and potentially a greater sense of civic pride and engagement.

The city hopes to leverage the pilot for wider blockchain adoption in projects that require openness, transparency, and authenticity of city data.

Labour Market Implications: Wider blockchain adoption of blockchain could increase the demand for privacy and security staff, including:

  • Data protection officers
  • Data analysts
  • Privacy officers
  • IT technicians.

More data collection may increase the demand for urban planning roles, industrial engineers, and behavioural economics policymakers (to incentivize behavioural outcomes).

London City Airport has deployed the world’s first AI-based concrete-strength prediction system in its expansion project to speed construction and reduce costs.

  • Traditional strength tests involve lab analysis of samples, which are costly and time-consuming
  • AI-based concrete prediction involves the use of hundreds of wireless sensors embedded in poured concrete
  • Sensor data is transmitted to the Cloud for processing, based on concrete performance datasets from over 200 concrete projects

When a concrete section reaches target strength, the system informs engineers which locations are ready for subsequent stages of construction.

Benefits: A proactive understanding of concrete strength performance allows for improved project management efficiency.

Highly accurate predictions (to a 10-minute window) allows for crane movement efficiencies, just-in-time material and equipment supply deliveries, equipment use optimization, and environmental efficiencies (reduced concrete wastage and better predictions of infrastructure maintenance intervals).

Labour Market Implications: With increased digitization of construction, additional AI-related roles such as software developers and data analysts will be need.

  • Construction and utilities workers may need to up-skill or retrain
  • New efficiencies and reduced construction costs could spur more construction, creating additional construction labour demand

To improve the convenience and efficiency of its public transit system, the City of Calgary is upgrading to a smartphone ticketing app that allows commuters to buy, display, and validate transit passes on their phones.

  • The MyFare app allows for the purchase of monthly passes as well as single-trip tickets
  • As the first step in the department’s modernization project, Calgary Transit also plans to add partially subsidized passes for low-income Calgarians, senior citizens, and university students

Project hardware requirements include the installation of 1050 validators and additional mobile validating equipment for proof of fare purchase. (The pilot involves 250 customers on four bus routes.)

Benefits: This convenient solution for purchasing fares and providing digital proof of payment also ensures payment compliance and protects against fraud.

  • Digital systems also scale better
  • More robust data analytics for urban planning and future transportation investment

Labour Market Implications: Upgrading of Calgary’s public transit system will require more technicians to install sensors and fare-validating hardware.

  • Transit staff will require additional training on the technology
  • The in-house development of the app by the City of Calgary and data collection will require more software developers, data analysts, and software engineers

Leveraging the collected data could require additional technical city administrative roles.

Photo by Ryunosuke Kikuno on Unsplash

Seoul, Korea, is pioneering the use of blockchain for city services. Blockchain adoption and a transition to digital government has been part of the city’s strategy over the last several years. Many of these initiatives are tied to a municipal “S-coin” token, which integrates transportation services, municipal services, taxes, and public opinion polls.

  • The token also ties to document filing and an identity system for citizens
  • As a form of “digital currency,” S-coin aim is to reward residents for participating in social activities, charity work, health-oriented physical activity, completing surveys or providing feedback on municipal proposals

S-Coin blockchain integrates into “ZeroPay,” a citywide QR code network that allows citizens to pay for services and merchandise using their smart phones, with no charge to merchants

Benefits: Digitized citizen identity and digitized administration of municipal services is expected to increase efficiency and reduce friction points.

  • Blockchain-enabled services and identification can reduce the risk of fraud and abuse
  • Digital tokens and a digital municipal currency can help promote civic engagement and incentivize the positive citizen behaviour
  • Blockchain technology for voting could eliminate voter fraud and help improve civic engagement

Labour Market Implications: Wider blockchain use entails more blockchain developers and cybersecurity support roles, software developers, and hardware roles (sensors or network installation). Increased use of digital systems will likely necessitate more management and analysis of the collected data. Further digital skills training and blockchain fundamentals will also be needed.

Technology researchers have identified Toronto as Canada’s “most surveilled” city. Toronto’s use of facial recognition technology and closed-circuit television (CCTV) in response to gun crime raises questions of public oversight and regulation.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has noted the proliferation of surveillance (in part due to cheaper devices) and the need for effective regulatory guidelines for using this technology.

Benefits and Concerns: Facial recognition software and CCTV surveillance has been adopted by many jurisdictions globally with the goal of improving public safety.

  • Facial recognition is sometimes used in conjunction with other tools to match identifying documents in issues of fraud
  • Other uses include helping locate missing children or disoriented adults

Critics raise concerns over privacy and violations of civil liberties. They argue these technologies may not actually reduce crime but displace it to less surveilled neighbourhoods. Increased recording and reporting of crimes may also only create the perception that crime is on the increase.

Labour Market Implications: Increased surveillance is likely to require additional equipment technicians and regulators and planners to ensure safe applications.

  • Installation technicians will need higher level of digital skills training, given the networked nature of Internet of Things (IoT) devices
  • Surveillance and facial recognition technologies will require more cybersecurity and IT network workers to manage the infrastructure

The contentious nature of this technology will like call upon more senior leadership expertise (chief privacy officers at the municipal level) and support roles (freedom of information and privacy analysts, information security officers, and data privacy officers).

Rural and remote Canadian communities often face challenges due to their distance from large city centres. Moose Cree First Nation, for example, is located on an island on the Moose River by James Bay in Ontario.

The river can be crossed by boat in summer and ice road in winter, but travel becomes more hazardous in the spring and fall. Helicopter transportation in the shoulder season is an expensive option, but drone technology is now viable alternative.

This drone initiative has been approved for commercial service and represents one of the most advanced projects of its kind.

Benefits: The Moose Cree First Nation is likely to benefit from better transportation links to more populated areas resulting in more reliable and cheaper access to supplies.

  • Increased reliability and delivery speeds are of great importance for transporting medical supplies
  • The ability to deliver groceries also provides improved food security, which links to better health and wellness

Another benefit includes reduced cost of living on the remote northern island.

Labour Market Implications: This and other drone delivery projects in Canada will create more jobs in the drone industry (operators, logistics roles, maintenance and repair, etc.), in last-mile delivery services, and in building associated high-tech transportation infrastructure.

Access the brief here.

Digital Think Tank by ICTC

A future-focused, non-profit think tank for the digital economy.

Digital Think Tank by ICTC

The Digital Think Tank by ICTC is the research and policy arm of the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC).


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Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) - Conseil des technologies de l’information et des communications (CTIC)

Digital Think Tank by ICTC

The Digital Think Tank by ICTC is the research and policy arm of the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC).