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Montreal sees its future in smart sensors, artificial intelligence

Matt Hamblen | Feb. 7, 2017
Partnerships with a vibrant startup community help Montreal retain its top “intelligent” ranking.

"We know for a fact that adding preferential lights and dedicated bus lanes increases the speed of going from point A to B and makes the service much more efficient. You can have the same amount of buses and workable hours with better service," Chitilian says. 

Sensor data from traffic signals is already being sent to a recently created central command post -- a "decision center," Chitilian calls it -- where technicians pore over dozens of desktop monitors and large wall displays. "The center gives us the ability to have an overall view" of the city, helping if there is an accident or other public safety need, he says.

Montreal also has designated $76 million US to replace 100,000 streetlights in the next five years with more efficient LED lighting that will be equipped with sensor and communications technology to expand the city's ability to manage congestion, pedestrian crowds, accidents and more, according to Chitilian.

Future-forward city planning

With its combination of AI-focused startup innovation, sensor-driven traffic-improvement initiatives and data-driven apps for citizen empowerment, Montreal seems well on its way to furthering its designation as an intelligent city.

"We are trying to build a smart city from the ground up, and are putting in the pillars to do it," Chitilian says. "As politicians, we have to show immediate results, but some of our decisions will have lasting impact beyond our political mandates," he muses.

"We have to make decisions that will look good down the road," Chitilian says. "What we have in Montreal is more than optimism. It is a generational transformation."

Data-driven apps for better living

Montreal and the Quebec Province have committed to sharing publicly available data, which private enterpreneurs have put to innovative use via smartphone apps. Here are a few of locals' favorites:

  • INFO-neige MTL allows a user to see his or her parked car's position and receive a notice when a snow plow is on the way, to avoid having the vehicle towed. The app can also locate open parking spaces.
  • Prkng likewise helps smartphone users find parking spaces tracked from publicly available data, and lets users make payments straight from the phone.
  • Doctr tracks which hospitals are less congested at a given time and offers GPS navigation to get users there quickly.


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