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The Impact of a Global Pandemic on Smart Cities

It turns out a global pandemic affects all of us.



The built environment is seeming one sector of the economy that continued to grow during the global pandemic, except for Alphabet's Sidewalk Lab on Toronto's waterfront, which was controversial from the start. It now seems that the global pandemic has nixed the plans. It was ridden in controversy, with the public's uncertainty on the approach to privacy and intellectual property, and rightfully so. Why would you go to this piece of waterfront when you could visit another piece that didn't track your every move?


Regardless, it would have been an interesting concept test. If financials truly were the driving factor in its demise, it's unfortunate. People have adapted during the global pandemic by depending on technology and that could have been the much needed catalyst for this project. The swift focus to developing touch less technology could have framed the use of illuminated sidewalks, cameras, and sensors as truly useful. Imagine if these smart capabilities were in place during the pandemic? Illuminated sidewalks could be used to direct pedestrian traffic and maintaining social distancing. Cameras could help track and trace any coronavirus instances. Sensors could make everything touch less, thus providing the public access to their normal routines. When the world need smart cities the most one of the most ambitious and promising projects failed us.


Inevitably the longterm impacts of the pandemic are widespread--more widespread than most any of us can understand right now. And while the built environment has felt minimal impacts, they will come. Most likely the immediate future will not inhabit much change, but the way we move through buildings and cities, locally and globally, is more apparent than ever, and people in every sense are eager for change.