Iliana Alvarenga
Iliana Alvarenga is the Trends Analyst for North America at Mintel. She identifies and examines relevant and emerging consumer trends across all categories.

Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto have announced an initiative called “Sidewalk Toronto,” which aims to create people-centered smart neighborhoods, and to improve the quality of city life in the Eastern Waterfront community.

With Google’s Canadian headquarters in the Eastern Waterfront, Sidewalk Toronto hopes to become a hub for tens of thousands of people to live, work, learn and play. Its objective is to revolutionize city life, from creating climate-positive energy systems to implementing self-driving transit. It will also celebrate cultural diversity and openness, while creating a place that encourages innovation around energy, waste and other environmental challenges to protect the planet. The community will leverage digital technology and data to create a seamless urban lifestyle for residents.

Enhancing the infrastructure of urban cities

Technology is enhancing the infrastructure of urban cities. In fact, we’ve seen other cities partner with tech-driven brands, similar to Sidewalk Toronto’s initiative, to enhance their communities through the use of technology and innovation. The city of San Diego announced a new project that will deploy smart streetlights and install 3,200 smart sensors with the aim of helping to improve parking and traffic, enhance pedestrian safety and improve air quality. We’ve also seen AT&T launch its smart cities initiative, which aims to create a stronger and more interconnected infrastructure in areas and universities, which include Atlanta, the Georgia Institute of Technology, Chicago and Dallas.

62% of Canadian Millennials say they “must have” a GPS-enabled map service.

As such, brands and cities alike are looking for ways to improve parking, traffic, pedestrian safety and even air quality and sustainability through innovation and technology. Consumers are already using mobile apps and smart devices to navigate their surroundings. According to Mintel’s report on marketing to Canadian Millennials, 62% of Millennials say they “must have” a GPS-enabled map service.

As consumers continue to use GPS-enabled map services and ride-sharing technologies, the more opportunities brands and governments have to access and leverage large data sets that can improve everyday life for all. From transportation patterns to location frequency, the consumer behavior data that is available can also help cities combat larger challenges such as air pollution and energy waste. The key is to collaborate with brands that have access to these large data sets, join forces, and leverage each other’s strengths.