How the Town of Oakville and Silicon Halton are getting smarter together

Smart City
How the Town of Oakville and Silicon Halton are getting smarter together
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Chris Herbert

Chris Herbert is the co-founder of Silicon Halton. He is also the founder of the Mi6 Agency which helps businesses communicate & connect with the markets they serve.

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On Thursday, June 28 key leaders from the Town of Oakville, Silicon Halton members and other community stakeholders met at ACE Coworking to discuss future plans to reconstruct downtown Oakville with a specific focus on how to integrate Smart City technologies into the blueprint.

Times change. A small company called Netflix once told the CEO of Blockbuster video they would sell to him for $50 million. He declined. Blockbuster closed down and now Netflix is worth more than $100 billion.

Yahoo also passed up the chance to buy Google and Facebook. Hindsight is 20/20. But if all the players come to the table at the start of change, trails can be blazed together with ideas and discussion and innovation.

Ray Green, CAO, Town of Oakville, said, “We have heard lots of great feedback on opportunities to pilot new technologies as part of the town’s investment in rebuilding the Downtown Streetscape. We know that residents have already embraced our real-time bus tracking and snow plow tracking applications, and we also understand the need to find a solution to provide real time information on parking availability in the downtown area.”

“The key to smart city planning is focusing on livability, workability and sustainability,” explained Mara Bullock, Manager, Urban Mobility, WSP. “If we are building a city for the future, how many electric vehicles will be in place then? How many charging stations will we need? Or do we need parking at all if autonomous cars are dropping us off?”

According to Mark Majewski, Business Development Manager for Ontario Centres of Excellence, the automotive industry is poised for significant and rapid changes. “Thirty countries have banned gas and diesel cars by 2030… that’s just a decade away. And Germany is one of them. Things are changing at a very fast pace.”

Majewski also mentioned that local cities are taking action with technology. More than 22,500 technology jobs have been created between Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo this year alone. That’s more than San Francisco and New York. The town of Innisfil replaced bus service with Uber saving the municipality eight million annually. And the hub for testing autonomous vehicles is Stratford, Ontario because the mayor there took a chance a few years back and put wifi everywhere.

Denys Linkov, who heads Silicon Halton’s Tech Under 20 program contributed to the conversation by offering a younger generation’s perspective. “Oakville is a town where people care about the environment,” said Linkov. “Can we look at smart trash cans? How can businesses downtown Oakville compete with Amazon? Why can’t we see how many people and what demographics are shopping in Oakville?”

He also challenged community leaders to create an ecosystem in which youth can build meaningful careers locally rather than having to leave for urban centres. He cited local company Geotab as one example of a forward-thinking corporation.

Can we have city-wide wifi in Oakville? How can we bring residents and government together digitally with ease? What are the best ways to bring accessibility and smart technologies together? Can our town be a leader when it comes to proof of concept technological ideas?

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How can we use digital feedback to stream electricity use, bus routes and interactions with community events? And how do we include everyone no matter how technologically savvy? These are just a few of the questions raised during the forum.

Chris Herbert, local entrepreneur and co-founder of Silicon Halton spearheaded the Oakville meetup. “A Smart City is one that establishes a community culture where connectivity, collaboration, cooperation, co-creation, innovation and shared success is baked into the way we think, feel and work,” explained Herbert. Read his post on why this Smart City meetup was so important for residents and businesses in Oakville.

Collaboration and cooperation were certainly in evidence at this recent meetup of 45 engaged Oakville citizens.

Here’s to continued discussion about getting smarter together.

Story by: Siobhan Kukolic

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Siobhan Kukolic, is a freelance copywriter and author of The Treasure You Seek lives in Oakville.

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