Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs scraps its ambitious Toronto project

From Ars Technica:

But Sidewalk Labs’ vision was in trouble long before the pandemic. Since its inception, the project had been criticized by progressive activists concerned about how the Alphabet company would collect and protect data, and who would own that data. Conservative Ontario premier Doug Ford, meanwhile, wondered whether taxpayers would get enough bang from the project’s bucks. New York-based Sidewalk Labs wrestled with its local partner, the waterfront redevelopment agency, over ownership of the project’s intellectual property and, most critically, its financing. At times, its operators seemed confounded by the vagaries of Toronto politics. The project had missed deadline after deadline.

I’m always torn when I see these sorts of smart city initiatives pop up. In reality, it’s about how I feel about smart home stuff in general. On one hand, I’m excited about the promise of an efficient and “always learning” city that can help planners optimize. In a world that will be increasingly affected by climate change, finding ways to squeeze every bit of efficiency out of the existing infrastructure is obviously a win.

However, rarely do these things come without hidden complexity or tradeoffs. In this case it’s cost overruns, privacy implications and half-baked solutions.

Ok, now what?

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