February Month In Review: Edmonton: The city of the future?

ASCG Month in Review: February 2018

In Case You Missed It

Securing Alberta’s future through energy diversification

Premier Rachel Notley has announced government support for the commercialization of partial upgrading technologies to reduce the thickness of oil sands bitumen. This commitment of $1 billion over 8 years would enable improved competitiveness through increasing pipeline capacities, and enabling more refineries to process bitumen in Alberta.

Blocking Trans Mountain pipeline is ‘illegal’: Clark

The Kinder-Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline, despite being approved by the Federal Government and National Energy Board, has been blocked by the B.C. Provincial Government. B.C. is calling for increased consultations on oil spill readiness and a limit on shipments until it gains confidence. Premier Notley retaliated, calling this unconstitutional and imposing a ban on B.C. wine in Alberta. The federal government is expected to get more involved with the dispute.

ATB president Dave Mowat retiring after 11 years

The face (and voice) of ATB is now retiring after over a decade at ATB Financial. Dave has helped grow the company from $20.3 billion in assets and 600,000 customers in 2007 to $49.6 billion in assets and 740,000 today. Dave is working to maintain a smooth transition to keep the company innovative and forward-thinking after his departure.

ASCG wishes Dave all the best in his retirement and thank him for being a key member of Alberta’s prosperity and growth.

Aurora Cannabis calling Edmonton home with its world HQ

A move with a purchase of downtown office space and a massive 800,000 sq. foot Aurora Sky facility has Aurora Cannabis calling Edmonton home (HQ). The company plans to employ more than 400 people in Edmonton by the end of the year. Additionally, Aurora acquired a 19.9% stake in Liquor Stores N.A., which owns Liquor Barn and Wine and Beyond.

TEC Edmonton ranked third among global business incubators with links to a university

A Swedish think-tank named UBI Global has ranked TEC Edmonton third on its list of business incubators linked to a university. TEC Edmonton competed with 258 other finalists from a total of 1,370 submissions in 53 countries. In 2015, this ranking was 16th overall. TEC Edmonton is a joint venture between the University of Alberta and the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation. 

 

Feature Story- Edmonton: The city of the future?

When most people think of a cutting-edge leader in technology, innovation, or entrepreneurship, Edmonton, Alberta usually isn’t the first to come to mind. The City of Edmonton however, is increasingly becoming known for its initiatives to become a city that others aspire to be, a Smart City.

What defines a Smart City? Finding one concrete definition is a lot more complicated than one might think. Some definitions cite technology integration and connection, while others include environmental sustainability, social capital, and cultural inclusion.

No matter the definition, Edmonton is leading the game in all of the above. Here’s why:

Collaboration with Post Secondary Institutions

The City of Edmonton has not 1, not 2, but 6 post-secondary institutions, with a total student population of 116,800 students. There is the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), which has a program that provides a certificate specifically for the IoT and IoE (Internet of Things and Internet of Everything). The University of Alberta (UofA)  is the second and by far most prominent post secondary institution in the city. The city and the UofA have a collaborative incubator called TEC Edmonton, recently recognized as one of the world’s best university based incubators. In addition to entrepreneurship, the city and university ecosystem have also combined to produce the CST or Centre for Smart Transportation. The CST is a division of the engineering department at the UofA, and is working with the City of Edmonton to have 3 on-road ACTIVE test areas for their connected autonomous vehicles to be tested (What this could mean for roads).  Connected, autonomous vehicles would mean a complete rework of traffic management, getting everyone to their destinations sooner, and safer.

Smart City Strategy

Who knew that the City of Edmonton has a 44-page document on becoming a smarter city? We sure didn’t before this article. Working alongside industry, citizens, and academia, the Smart City Strategy aims to hit three of the following overarching goals:

Resiliency

The first goal  “Resiliency” focuses on three concepts: an open city, engaged citizens, and a strong economy. Although Edmonton has already won multiple awards for our open city initiatives, the city is continually striving to improve its open data services available to citizens. This level of transparency is a major step for citizens to better understand the city they live in. Edmonton also does a great job of putting its citizens first, understanding their diversity, and creating various forms of engagement to gather their input. These forms of engagement include the Edmonton Youth Council, The Edmonton Insight Community and the digital Idea Generator on the city’s website. Finally, Edmonton’s economic diversification efforts have paid dividends in crafting a strong, resilient economy.  The document cites Edmonton’s various incubators and entrepreneurial organizations as big drivers for the economy. Edmonton’s airport was also listed as an economic driver, as it’s ever increasing capacity and new destinations (Silicon Valley being the most recent), help Edmonton overcome its northern latitudinal geographical barrier.

Livability

The second goal “Livability” focuses on healthy citizens, a strong community, and a small environmental footprint.  An end to poverty and accessible capital for entrepreneurs looking to create and commercialize healthcare technologies are two ambitious, but attainable goals on Edmonton’s agenda. In addition, it was great to see all of the community building initiatives listed on this document. Idea labs, urban agriculture (fresh), Edmonton Arts Council, infill, and BetaCity YEG meetups are all different ways the city interacts with the community and gets community members to interact with each other.  Finally from an environmental perspective, the policies outlined in this document were quite significant in scope. Plans towards carbon neutrality, improvements to development around the river valley and the creation of a futuristic neighbourhood called Blatchford are giant steps in the right direction. Blatchford is specifically intriguing ; a 100% renewable energy-powered neighbourhood being built in the space formerly housing the municipal airport. If this neighbourhood is built as per the City of Edmonton’s vision, it will serve as the future of newly-developed neighbourhoods in both this city, and cities across North America.

 Workability

The final goal “workability” is centered around the pillars of mobility, education, and infrastructure. Edmonton is not only looking to become the best city to live in, but the best city to work in, aiming to draw in business and talent from across the globe. While many of us of find ourselves complaining about the Edmonton Transit Service (ETS), the city aims to make it one of the top transportation systems in the world. Two specific improvements they have planned include smart fares, which allow users to pay for transit using their phones, and the integration of connected autonomous vehicles into the transit system. Initial implementations are never ideal and Edmonton isn’t just idling around looking to improve transit, the government is actively collecting user data to continually re-iterate on our public transit.

From an infrastructure perspective, one key initiative mentioned was TELUS’ $1 billion Fibre network investment.  This network is looking to bring internet connectivity directly to buildings, rather than to nodes in the neighbourhood. An investment like this helps us break down the distance and transportation barriers in the city, further improving our competitiveness. Another key infrastructure mandate is “Vision Zero”; a global initiative designed to eliminate fatalities and major injuries from motor vehicle collisions. Using the Safe System Approach, Edmonton will work towards building safer roads and a better functioning transportation system for all drivers. When coupled with advancements in autonomous driving, Edmonton is looking to be one of the safest cities in North America when it comes to motor vehicle safety. 

Concluding Thoughts

Is Edmonton perfect? Not exactly. ⅛ Edmontonians are still in poverty, the revitalization of downtown has led to issues around gentrification,  and various high traffic areas are still not connected by the LRT . With that being said, the initiatives put forward in this “Smart City” strategy show Edmonton as a city striving to innovate and listen to its citizens. It shows a city willing to look at itself in the mirror and work towards overcoming its shortcomings. It shows a "Smart City", one poised to improve well past it's current ranking of 60th best city in the world in the years to come. Through the combination of both seemingly small achievements such as TELUS’ successful live test of its 5G network and major development works like Blatchford, the future is bright for the city of Edmonton.