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7 Data-Driven Projects Changing Cities Across Canada

From community broadband to data visualization, these communities are using tech to improve the lives of residents.

Lettuce in a lab

Published on February 10, 2021

Across Canada, communities are embracing smart city technology to improve the lives of their residents. 

From community broadband initiatives, to online data visualization projects, they’re deploying technology to create more responsive, inclusive and resilient communities.  

We’ve chosen seven projects that show the breadth of data-driven city-building happening across Canada right now. Take a closer look. 

Sustainability Dashboard, Surrey, BC 

What if you could access a chart on the air purity levels in your community, with the click of a button? Or the number of trees planted that year? Or really any environmental indicator you could think of? 

That’s the vision behind Surrey’s Sustainability Dashboard. The interactive online platform lets residents track the municipality’s progress towards its sustainability goals from the comfort of home. 

On the Sustainability Dashboard website, users can choose between eight “sustainability indicator” groups: built neighbourhood and environments, infrastructure, economic prosperity and livelihoods, ecosystems, inclusion, education and culture, public safety, and health and wellness. 

Each group has a list of indicators for residents to explore with interactive maps and graphs. A resident curious about the municipality’s ecosystems can click on the group, and explore charts showing how many trees it had planted that year, the water quality of its streams, and the size of its tree canopy. 

 Connect YXE, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan 

Connect YXE has a clear goal: To break the cycle of Indigenous youth incarceration in Saskatoon. 

Their Smart Cities Challenge proposal calls for the creation of a platform that will track the availability of community services available to Indigenous youth, and the demands on those services at any given time. 

The goal is to empower Indigenous youth and their families, by making it easier to access services, while also informing decision makers to analyze the existing support network and identify gaps. The proposal was created in partnership with a youth advisory group, and in consultation with community ally organizations, technology and institutional partners, and Indigenous Elders.  

LED Smart Farming, Opaskwayak Cree Nation, Manitoba 

The Opaskwayak Cree Nation knew the problem it wanted to solve: A lack of fresh produce for its community members, and an alarmingly high rate of diabetes.  

It’s health authority partnered with the University of Manitoba to conduct a health research study about the problem, and a possible business case for a solution. 

In 2016, the Nation’s LED Smart Farm was launched, a vertical farming project that grows over 70 varieties of plants and provides food security for over 125 families. The Nation hopes to reduce imported produce to the area by 40.0%, while reducing community diabetes rates by 20.0% by 2023. The farm is a clear example of data-informed solutions.  

eNuk: Integrated Environment and Health Monitoring Program, Rigolet, Newfoundland and Labrador 

The eNuk program is an example of combining community-provided data with traditional data sources. 

The program — designed by, with and for Inuit in Rigolet — uses a mobile app to monitor environmental conditions in the area. Community members can upload their observations in real-time, from thinning ice to changing vegetation, using photos, videos, audio recordings and text. These are compared against existing indicators of environmental change from traditional data sources, like unusual weather patterns. 

The data from community members will be stored in a central databased, controlled by local and regional government partners.  

Digital Food Security, Victoria, BC 

More and more people are growing their own food at home. But what if those same people came together to promote community food security? 

That’s what’s happening in Victoria B.C., where a pilot project is using crowdsourcing and geolocation to map community food gardens across the city. 

The online platform lets residents learn about nearby gardens, record and share their produce. They can then exchange their locally grown food, building food security and social resilience at the same time. 

Smart City Ethnography, Fredericton, NB 

How do you ensure you’re collecting data that represents all, not just some residents? 

In Fredericton, the city is piloting a “ethnography” project, which involves long one-on-one conversations with residents to understand their day-to-day experiences. Currently, they’re using the method to understand barriers and challenges that residents experience in the city, beginning with older adults. 

These conversations will be used to identify pain points and create user profiles, which are then applied to the process of ideation, prototyping and user testing when creating smart city projects.  

Interactive Housing Map, Windsor, ON 

The University of Windsor knew students were having a difficult time locating and accessing affordable housing.  

It gathered data about local affordable housing options and created an interactive online map, which displays a variety of options across the area. The online space takes the guess work out of the housing search, and provides a clear sense of where affordable housing is located throughout the area. 

Explore the Community Solutions Portal 

Want more examples of innovative city building? Discover some of the best-of and lessons learned from municipalities and Indigenous communities on the Community Solutions Portal, Canada’s digital hub for open smart cities.

The Portal, part of the Community Solutions Network, provides the resources, tools and information on learning opportunities and advisory services to help communities advance their smart cities initiatives. Get unlimited access to these resources and tools by registering today.