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Developing a Smarter City on the water’s edge

Developing a Smarter City on the water’s edge 

The corporation was brought into being in 2001, by Governments of Canada and Ontario, as well as the City of Toronto. Its mandate is to oversee and lead the renewal of Toronto’s waterfront.

This means transforming 800 hectares of largely commercial or industrial land into sustainable, dynamic mixed-use communities and public spaces. It also means creating a technology infrastructure that can accommodate all the residents and businesses set to move into this community.

Tasked with creating this infrastructure with a limited IT budget and no in-house IT department, the corporation turned to IBM and IBM’s business partner Element Blue. Through these companies, Waterfront Toronto developed a foundational platform which can be scaled out and used by other businesses.  

As the director of Intelligent Communities at Waterfront Toronto, Kristina Verner is helping to create a Smarter City on the water’s edge. It’s a task that’s not for the faint of heart: the initiative is one of the largest waterfront revitalization projects ever to be undertaken.

“It really is one of those once in a generation opportunities, to build a new waterfront for the city of Toronto that will have long-lasting impact both in terms of a social impact and an economic impact,” said Verner.

Scaling out a secure, connected platform 
The approach that Waterfront Toronto is taking for this project is different: it’s looking at it from a revitalization standpoint, instead of a simple development initiative. The corporation has gathered some of the world’s best design minds to create memorable places on the water’s edge. Another important pillar of the project is creating an Intelligent Community or a Smarter City. 

To do this, it used a combination of IBM’s cloud-based technology and social business software.  

“Working strategically with IBM to create this intelligent platform was really key. It’s the next layer up in our intelligent community infrastructure,” said Verner. “It’s a combination of the Intelligent Operations Center (IOC), a robust analytics package, also the social collaboration and social business tools [we’re using] to bring the neighbourhood to life.”

The flexibility these solutions afforded was crucial . Waterfront Toronto was able to deploy its platform at low cost, and is now well-positioned to scale out its platform for other businesses. “So as young entrepreneurial companies want to come forward and try things in this sandbox we have, we have a platform that can accept those in a very secure and very scalable manner,” said Verner.  

Advantages of the cloud and analytics
For cities or companies with limited budgets and IT resources, using a cloud platform can help address these business challenges. Waterfront Toronto’s example can serve as a model for other communities and companies that don’t have the resources or skillsets needed to build a technology platform in-house.  

In Waterfront Toronto’s case, using IBM’s Smart Cloud platform and its IOC cloud and social business software is helping the organization roll out its community portal and platform, the

Through the Intelligent Operations Centre in particular, Waterfront Toronto is able to integrate multiple data sources and create real time visualizations, for operational insight. In the future, big data capabilities in the platform are expected to help generate insight for some of the corporation’s key issues.

“We see this as a very effective and engaging tool to make people aware of the waterfront and what’s happening,” said Verner.  “Things like public safety and security, transportation monitoring, events and activities, bringing the neighborhood to life, and using collaboration tools for project planning, within our corporation and beyond.”

To see a video recording of this case study, visit this link. Or check out the video teaser.


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