Businesses pitch Squamish ideas for Smart City challenge

The federal government is offering cash to municipalities

Squamish wants to get street smart.

Whether it’s data sensors on lamp posts or driverless cars, the District is planning to partner up with a technology company to apply for a million dollars for “smart city” projects that could solve civic issues by leveraging new technology.

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At an event on Monday,  13 different groups – including businesses and schools – gave their five-minute “lightning pitches” to a public crowd.

“This isn’t just about the smart cities challenge,” said economic development officer Kate Mulligan. “This is about identifying opportunities for Squamish in general.”

The money being offered by the federal government through the Smart Cities Challenge is one prize of $50 million, two of $10 million and one of $5 million.

Infrastructure Canada’s application deadline is April 24, and Mulligan acknowledged it’ll be a “fast and furious” process if Squamish decides to apply.

Most of the presentations on Tuesday focused on expanding green technologies in Squamish.

A number of the proposals centred around creating demo centres with a focus on alternative fuels. Others proposals included electric weed control to eliminate invasive species and “smart” waste bins that are able to compress and monitor trash.

Others, including Philips and Genetec, proposed ideas around data collection and or surveillance that would make use of high-tech sensors capable of measuring things like traffic levels, road conditions or the weather.

While Coun. Karen Elliott praised the ideas presented, she also noted that many people have concerns about implementing too much “Big Brother” technologies that monitor citizens and local governments will need to balance that fear.

“We may be small, but we are going to be responding to all the same challenges as a large community,” she told the room as one of five panelists asked to reflect on the day’s presentations. “Our budgets may be smaller, but we’re going to need to be resourceful and use the talents of people in our community and those partners around us that work for us.”

Joining Elliott on stage were four other women, including high school student Alexandra Robertson.

Mulligan said the decision to choose an all-women panel was an attempt to gender balance the event, since all the technology presenters were men.

Final proposals worked on by staff will need to be approved by council before they made to Infrastructure Canada.

The companies participating include BCIT, Squamish Forestry Association, Carbon Engineering, UBC, Ecube, HydroHaus, Moovee Innovations, Philips Lighting, Powertech Labs, WhiteStar Property Services, Genetec, Bell Mobility and Airborne Underwater Geophysical Signals.

A full list of their proposals is available on the District’s website.

Other municipalities in BC will also be competing for the federal funds. Vancouver and Surrey have teamed up on a project to convert waste into biofuel, and Vancouver is working on free public Wi-Fi across the city.

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