Attracting tech talent: Waterfront Toronto moves forward

Wed, 2013-09-25 06:00 -- Jesse Berst

It's no secret that many (most?) smart city plans include the idea of a magnet area for technology businesses. Not content to merely make digital life better for all, many cities want to pull in more high-tech businesses. They typically do that by setting aside a special area with high-speed Internet access and economic incentives. New York is a shining example, as is London. Now Waterfront Toronto wants to join that club.

Today's young tech entrepreneurs are 1) highly mobile and 2) highly fickle. That means your city is competing with Toronto and every other wanna-be tech hub to convince them to relocate. And that means you should be studying what the competition is up to. -- Jesse Berst


Waterfront Toronto, a partnership of three levels of Canadian government, is revitalizing several blocks surrounding Toronto harbor. It sits on 20,000 acres of city-owned reclaimed industrial land. Over the next 30 years, it will gain 40,000 residential units and 10 million square feet of office space. The first residential unit opened in spring 2013.

All facilities will have fiber optic Internet connections, including a Catalyst 4500 switch from Smart Cities Council Lead Partner Cisco. Each room will have at least one Ethernet outlet. And, by contract, those connections must be kept state of the art. The provider, Beanfield Metroconnect, must maintain speeds and pricing amongst the top seven in the world. In the near future, Beanfield will provision free WiFi for parks, lobbies and parking garages in Waterfront Toronto.

In September, 2013, it launched a community portal built by Houston-based Element Blue using software from Smart Cities Council Lead Partner IBM. The news and social media hub is designed to get residents and businesses interacting. “The vision is we can pull data from all kinds of sources from different domains across the city or industry," said Element Blue CTO Anthony Bernal in IT World Canada. You’d have community data, 311, water, energy … and get a holistic view of what’s going on.”

Waterfront Toronto CEO said that one of the goals is to create a “living laboratory” for an intelligent community. "We want to make it a connected neighborhood that will draw people jobs and investment to the waterfront. We’re using technology to enhance the quality of life for the residents and create economic opportunity for businesses."

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Jesse Berst is the founding Chairman of the Smart Cities Council. Click to subscribe to SmartCitiesNow, the weekly newsletter highlighting smart city trends, technologies and techniques.