A controversial development of smart cities in Canada has reached another obstacle after a supervisory panel defined the key aspects of the proposal as "irrelevant", "unnecessary" and "frustrating in the abstract" in a new report.
The Toronto waterfront project, nicknamed Quayside, is a partnership between the city and the subsidiary of Google Sidewalk Labs. It promises "waterproof" for avant-garde buildings, autonomous vehicles and towers with a wooden structure, but has faced numerous criticisms in recent months.
The latest criticism comes just over a month before the city decides to approve or reject the project. It was prepared by the Digital Strategy Advisory Panel, a length group that recommends Waterfront Toronto, which oversees sprawling development.
The technology expert group called the overall plan "rather cumbersome and repetitive" in the 99-page document published Tuesday.
"The panelists felt that [the general plan of the Sidewalk Labs] did not seem to put the citizen at the center of the design process for digital innovations, as was promised in the beginning and is necessary for legitimacy", states the report .
The panelists also felt that some innovations were "irrelevant or unnecessary".
For months, critics have highlighted the numerous ambiguities of the project, largely related to the prospect of mass data collection.
"The smart city project on the Toronto waterfront is the most evolved version to date of … surveillance capitalism", said the American investor Roger McNamee in a June letter to the Toronto City Council, in which he has requested that the project be demolished.
For its part, Sidewalk Labs has worked to counteract the fears that the data will be shared with third parties, supporting instead a "data trust" to protect sensitive information.
In mid-June, however, Sidewalk Labs again sparked controversy when it presented its 1,500-page master plan. Waterfront Toronto had initially requested 12 acres of development, but the Google affiliate presented a vision for 190 acres of privileged waterfront land.
This week's report expressed concern about the integration of the project into an existing infrastructure and also questioned the format of the master plan itself.
"The document lacks a detailed summary, an index, clickable links within the final notes, a consolidated and searchable version or a non-pdf online version," said panel members, who claimed to have questioned the commitment of Sidewalk Labs to usability and accessibility.
While the report is a collection of preliminary comments and not a formal criticism, it suggests that some concerns remain. Sidewalk Labs representatives will meet with the panel Thursday to discuss the issues raised in the report.
Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs have until October 31st to smooth out the differences for the project to get the approval.