Last fall, the Canadian government announced a $75M grant challenge across 3 categories focused on infrastructure and smart cities. As communities across Canada lined up their teams, the Cities of Vancouver and Surrey, neighbors in the province of British Columbia, combined forces to collaborate on their bid in the top $50M category.
Their resulting #SmarterTogether bid, focusing on mobility, moved on to the 2nd round this summer as one of five finalist cities. Last week, Surrey and Vancouver released a call for companies to join their bid for innovation for future smart corridors. Andrew Watkins from Marketplace.city sat down with Sean Simpson, Director of IT for the City of Surrey and Jessie Adcock, CTO for the City of Vancouver to discuss the challenge and what they are seeking.
Q: Jessie and Sean, thanks for joining me. Congratulations on all the progress. Tell me about the SmarterTogether challenge statement.
Our communities told us loud and clear that transportation, connection, and access were the areas they wanted us to focus on. As a result, our challenge statement focuses on mobility. It reads:
"Surrey and Vancouver will implement Canada’s first two collision-free multi-modal transportation corridors, leveraging autonomous vehicles and smart technologies to demonstrate the path to safer, healthier, and more socially connected communities while reducing emissions, improving transportation efficiency, and enhancing livability in the face of rapid growth and traffic congestion."
Q: What was the process to land on mobility as challenge and focus?
We listened to our community! Over the course of eight months, we got our communities to put their heads together to envision what they wanted in a smart city. From online ideation through our Citizens Labs platform, hosting community workshops to talking to residents on the street, we made it easy for people to tell us what matters. Together, we had over 149,000 interactions with our residents over all of our communications channels.
Q: That is really fantastic connection and outreach. What do you hope to accomplish in the chosen corridors, and then, eventually, across all of Vancouver and Surrey?
We have an ambitious, yet realistic, vision which will ultimately help our residents in a variety of ways.
Our plan will increase mobility options and improve safety across all modes of transportation with additional goals to increase capacity and resident experience. Additionally, it will be accessible to all people and create a green, eco-friendly environment.
Q: Including innovation and new technology has been a cornerstone of SmarterTogether from the beginning. Why is that critical and how are you making sure that you get the right technology and approaches?
The Smart Cities Challenge acknowledges the power of data-based solutions and technologies to help improve the quality of life of our residents, as well as to help growing cities like ours tackle complex challenges using an evidence-based approach. We are looking for unique solutions that will not only help us solve our challenge statement, but also allows us to measure demonstrable improvements as it pertains to our challenge.
We just released more information [Addendum III - Corridor Vision] through our current Call for Innovations process and we invite all companies with potential solutions and innovations to submit their ideas.
Q: What are you looking for from companies and groups that want to partner?
All the information is outlined in the new release and specifically, we have identified four primary categories for potential projects:
- Autonomous Shuttles
- Smart Mobility Infrastructure
- Advanced Data & Analytics
- Enhanced User Experience
If you want more information, you can find it on the SmarterTogether homepage or the Vancouver and Surrey pages on Marketplace.city. Companies have until November 15th to submit their proposals to join the SmarterTogether team!
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.