Canada's Condominium Magazine
The typical consumer-directed marketing materials from telephone and Internet service providers in Canada put a lot of emphasis on speed. But it would probably surprise many Canadians to learn, if their only awareness of the state of our Internet came from these same marketing materials, that Canada’s Internet is actually ranked twenty-second out of thirty in the world, in terms of pricing, speed and availability. The importance of Internet speed is a given, it seems, so why is it that we don’t have it? In fact, high-speed broadband access is the key to building intelligent communities, and that is the first step toward creating an intelligent nation.
This is the long-term goal of a non-profit group called the i-Canada Alliance. “First the community, then the country” is the group’s motto, and their vision is a Canada in which every citizen and every business gets the maximum benefits from “the broadband economy.”
And what is the broadband economy?
It’s an economy in which ultra-high-speed Internet is available to everyone, in their home and everywhere they go. It’s an economy of innovation and creativity, where every citizen has access to, and uses, e-commerce, e-health, e-education, intelligent transportation, intelligent home management systems, as well as advanced forms of entertainment and information services. An economy in which buildings reduce (and ultimately eliminate) their carbon footprints through intelligent energy management.
Intelligent communities are those where ultra-high-speed broadband infrastructure is ubiquitous, so that users are always connected, wherever they go. And intelligent communities, according to a recent presentation by the Intelligent Community Forum in Toronto, are those where all the members—citizens, businesses, politicians—collaborate and work together, with a focus on innovation.
That’s the dream. The i-Canada Alliance held a two-day conference at George Brown College’s new waterfront campus last week to explore the characteristics that make a community “intelligent.”
The first of these characteristics is that the community is “fast,” meaning that it has the infrastructure to provide ultra-high-speed broadband to everyone. On this score, Toronto does pretty well. The i-Canada event was linked to the Intelligent Community Forum’s selection of the Intelligent Community of the Year for 2013, and Toronto was one of seven short-listed contenders. (It didn’t win, in the end.)
A $10.2-trillion investment is being made in the next ten years in Intelligent Communities. This is an amount equal to the entire Canadian economy, and it is being pumped into the world’s economic ecosystem each year. To survive and thrive, we need to be leading this movement.
Barry Gander, i-Canada
But Canada has fallen behind in the intelligence race. At the consumer level, for example, it was only last November that CIBC and Rogers teamed up to provide the first NFC (near field communication) payment system in Canada. It lets a user pay for purchases by holding a smartphone close to the payment terminal. But countries like South Korea and Japan have been using NFC payments for several years now, and they are much more widespread in those countries—you can pay to get on the subway or shop in virtual stores, for example.
That lag in the adoption of the latest consumer technology is troubling enough, but even more so is the fact that Canada has slipped to near the bottom in the all-important area of innovation. The Conference Board of Canada rated Canada thirteenth of sixteen countries for innovation, based on twenty-one indicators. In fact, Canada scored more Ds than any other grade, with an overall D for Innovation. Most telling were the D grades in connectivity, ICT investment, and technology manufacturing.
The co-founder of i-Canada, Barry Gander, is clear about what this means. Those communities and countries that are most connected are the most innovative. And those that are most innovative are most prosperous. “There is an absolute tie between networking and the rate of innovation in a community” he said in a video presentation.
Also concerned about Canada’s poor and failing performance in the innovation and high-tech area is Ted Maulucci, CIO at Tridel. A member of the i-Canada Alliance and an advocate for smarter buildings, Maulucci said at a Realcomm/IBcon event last year that one of the things holding them (Tridel) back in providing intelligent buildings was the telecommunications providers. They “need to transform their thinking and their models” he said, from a narrow focus on phone, TV and Internet to the idea that they are delivering an intelligent building and “a whole host of new services.”
A Tridel condominium building, Aqualina, will be the first residential component of a new development to feature ultra-high-speed connectivity. It was partly because of the Waterfront Toronto East Bayfront development, where Aqualina will be built, that Toronto was short-listed for the Intelligent Community of the Year 2013 award from the Intelligent Community Forum. The entire community will be wired with fibre optic cable, delivering broadband speed of 100 mbps to every suite at Aqualina and other residences to be built there. The network infrastructure will have the capacity to deliver 1 gigabit and even 10 gigabits in future.
Another Tridel building now nearing occupancy is 300 Front Street West. Here too Maulucci has worked to deliver intelligent features that are available nowhere else in Canada.
More on 300 Front Street West to come.