Smart city best practices top of mind for partnership of urban tech companies

A coalition of Canada’s urban technology organizations has formed the Open City Network (OCN), a non-profit that aims to develop best practices regarding data governance and technology in smart cities.

“Citizens, through their elected officials, should be able to determine the shape and evolution of their smart cities.”
-Mike Branch

The OCN, which launched this week, is a medium for stakeholders to participate in the formation of new technology and policy for smart cities. The Kitchener-based organization also intends to join forces with various levels of government in Canada to tackle the policy proposals of smart city technologies. Through this collaboration, the organization is hoping to develop a framework of standards and procedures for data exchanges in smart cities.

“Smart city technologies create big questions, and opportunities, for policymakers,” said Andy Best, executive director of the OCN. “By bringing together experts from both technology and government, we can identify best practices and standards that help cities manage their smart city transition.”

Sidewalk Labs’ smart-neighbourhood project for Toronto’s Quayside has raised many questions on data collection and smart cities in the last year. Last October, Ann Cavoukian, Ontario’s former privacy commissioner and current Ryerson University fellow, resigned from her role as an advisor to Sidewalk Labs, citing concerns with data privacy.

Related: Sidewalk Toronto is still figuring out how to govern and protect privacy

Cavoukian told CBC at the time that she resigned after a conference between Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront TO, the organization responsible for restoring the lakeshore. During that conference, Sidewalk Labs said while it has dedicated to stripping all of the data it collects of personal identifiers, it could not give assurances that other project participants would do the same. Concerns over smart cities, data collection, de-identification, are the sorts of issues the OCN is hoping to address.

OCN executive direct, Best, is a municipal innovation strategist who was formerly the City of Guelph’s Open Government program manager. The network’s founding company, Kitchener-based Miovision Technologies, develops technology solutions to address the challenges facing transportation networks and to minimize the environmental impacts of inefficient transportation flow.

Other board members include Alex Miller, president of Esri Canada, Mike Branch, vice president of data and analytics at Geotab, Hongwei Liu, CEO of Mappedin, and Kurtis McBride, CEO of Miovision. Three board seats are still open, and the OCN said they will be filled by representatives from public sector organizations.

“Coming together with representatives from municipal government helps companies better understand what cities need,” said McBride. “Learning how to meet those needs will help build globally competitive Canadian smart city companies, and thriving, empowered Canadian smart cities.”

A statement from the OCN said that smart infrastructure embedded with data gathering sensors will generate valuable data and insights, but realizing that potential requires careful navigation of how technology, public policy, and cities intersect.

“Citizens, through their elected officials, should be able to determine the shape and evolution of their smart cities,” said Branch. “Open architectures and protocols not only spark innovation, they also allow cities to decide what technologies to adopt and how to use the data created from smart infrastructure.”

Image courtesy Unsplash

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle is a Vancouver-based writer with 5+ years of experience in communications and journalism and a lifelong passion for telling stories. For over two years, she has reported on all sides of the Canadian startup ecosystem, from landmark venture deals to public policy, telling the stories of the founders putting Canadian tech on the map.

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