Montreal in 2025 : How technology will transform the city
What will Montreal look like in 2025? It’s still difficult to answer this question with certainty, but one thing we do know is that technologies such as the Internet of Things, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and automation will transform cities in the years to come. This is a topic we’re very interested in, which is why we attended Territoire Citoyen last Friday, a day of conferences presented as part of Projet Ex. We were particularly interested in a roundtable discussion titled “Montreal in 2025” featuring three experts from Montreal-based companies: Local Logic’s Vincent-Charles Audet, L’Institut du Véhicule Innovant‘s Fréderic Prigge and Element AI’s François Maillet.
To kick off the discussion, the host, Mathieu Roy, a tech journalist for 98.5 FM, noted that though 2025 still seems far away, only 8 years separate us from it, which didn’t seem to intimidate the experts on stage. Instead, they seemed enthusiastic about the years to come and eager to tackle complex, unique and important challenges. Vincent-Charles Audet, representing Local Logic, a company that specializes in Big Data, wants to use data to influence cities’ decision-making process. Right now, too many decisions that affect citizens’ day-to-day lives are taken without full knowledge of how these decisions will truly impact the city. To solve this problem, Local Logic wants to use data to assemble a realistic and complete model of a city, taking into consideration various factors such as public transport, parking, businesses and much more, allowing them to fully understand how the city functions as an ecosystem. This data could then inform decision-makers in various sectors. In real estate, this data could help businesses determine the ideal location for a new venture, predict the value of a property in the years to come or facilitate the process of buying a house or a building by pushing the analysis beyond simply the price of the property. This data could also allow cities to predict more accurately, for example, the impact of a new bike lane on the city as a whole, so not just on cyclists, but also on citizens, traffic, businesses, etc.
For Element AI’s François Maillet, we are heading in the direction of an “AI first” world, meaning AI will inevitably play an important role in many different types of industries. Deep Learning has progressed by leaps and bounds in the last few years, allowing AI agents to be able teach themselves how to handle information in various contexts. These developments mean important changes are coming for data analysis and image recognition, as an AI agent can monitor or analyze in real time more individual data points than a human being. Eventually, AI agents will transform cities in many different ways, both small and big. An AI agent could, for example, optimise traffic lights in the city as a whole, reducing unnecessary stops. If an intersection causes accidents regularly, an AI agent could be used to analyse all the different incidents and identify common elements between them, allowing decision-makers to make changes that take into consideration these findings. Essentially, artificial intelligence will make the city safer, sometimes without its citizens even realizing it.
According to l’Institut du Véhicule Innovant’s Fréderic Prigge, by 2025, there won’t be drastic changes at the level of transport compared to now, but vehicles will continue to evolve to become “smarter.” Before we see fully autonomous vehicles for everyone, we’re likely to see appear driving assistance modules inside vehicles. Buses, for examples, are one type of vehicle that, in cities, are desperately in need of an intelligent driving assistance module, which could help them lower the number of unnecessary incidents. Mr. Prigge also mentioned Google’s Waymo Project in Phoenix, which is currently testing autonomous vehicles in real conditions. A number of preselected users currently have accessed to the Waymo app, allowing them to order an autonomous Waymo vehicle that comes pick them up and can drop them off at work or school. According to Mr. Prigge, autonomous vehicles today are better drivers than the average Montrealer and possess many advantages compared to their human counterparts. For example, autonomous vehicles will never get mad because of a cyclist or traffic problems. As a whole, autonomous transport services have tremendous potential. By allowing autonomous vehicles to communicate with one another, we could one day see traffic becoming optimised as a whole, reducing or possibly even eliminating entirely traffic jams. Building on this, Vincent-Charles Audet noted that it’s interesting to try to imagine what could happen if autonomous vehicles were shared, as opposed to belonging to one individual only, as this could free up a tremendous amount of space that’s currently used for parking in the city. These spaces could then become affordable housing, public parks, etc. In other words, do we really need our own car in the city?
While these technologies are all incredibly promising, the experts on stage all agreed: ethics will need to play an important role in the design, maintenance and usage of these systems. Collecting data, for example, can cause important problems when it comes to privacy. One expert on stage gave the example of Google, which collects data that comes from cellphones, but doesn’t allow developers to identify where this data comes from. This solution allows Google developers to improve the services they offer while also respecting privacy. Since the technologies mentioned in this article will affect citizens directly, systems and platforms will need to be designed very carefully, taking into consideration many different situations. Otherwise, these systems risk accidently reproducing social prejudices or preconceived ideas.
As a whole, Montreal’s future looks very bright. By allowing citizens to benefit from the technologies mentioned in this article, the city will ensure a higher quality of life and will be able to take better decisions for everyone. Of course, to allow these technologies to reach their full potential, excellent quality assurance practices will need to play an important role in the development of these software solutions. Our team at Askida is keeping an eye on these technologies and we hope to continue collaborating with different companies to help them deliver high-quality software solutions, allowing today’s promises to become tomorrow’s reality.