[FOCUS SMART CITY] Montreal : Innovations laboratory

Following the national “Canada’s Smart Cities Challenge” competition that it won, with a coquettish sum of 50 million dollars, Montreal has set itself the ambition of responding to the problems of the connected city. A true laboratory of innovation, the City of Montreal has been able to be innovative in terms of the maturity of its smart city project. The latter meets all the characteristics of the smart city and highlights in particular a better quality of life for citizens based on mobility and access to healthy food in the neighborhoods. According to the Easypark group’s ranking, Montreal is not in the Top 10 most connected cities in the world in 2017, but it ranks 16th among about 30 cities. Montreal climbs up in a ranking every year, as it invests more and more devices connected to the heart of the city. Among the nineteen factors included in the ranking, Montreal’s strength is concentrated mainly on intelligent parking, public transit and the use of green energy.

Based on a strong proposal, the City of Montreal has set up an urban change laboratory since May 2018 in order to promote and support the emergence of revolutionary solutions to meet major urban challenges. A real space for exploration, experimentation and reflection, this laboratory is keen to set up intelligent devices in the heart of the city. Ultimately, Montreal relies on an intelligent and digital city based on 70 collaborative innovation and advanced technology projects.


1/ The “Canada’s Smart Cities Challenge” project

On May 14, the City of Montreal won a grand prize of 50 million dollars as part of the “Canada’s Smart Cities Challenge”. Led by the Urban Innovation Laboratory, this success was driven by 18 months of work and commitment to make the city more attractive. Montreal has therefore set itself the objective of integrating technological tools to serve its citizens. By developing a mobility component, the innovation laboratory hopes to “develop greater resilience and collective intelligence in the targeted communities“. As a result, different main lines of action were thought, namely, the notion of “neighborhood immobility”, by exploring how to limit travel needs and the creation of a fleet of autonomous vehicles self-managed as a neighborhood community. In 2018, tests were conducted in three boroughs to deploy a shared fleet program.

Montreal has several food deserts (lack of local businesses offering healthy and varied food in deprived neighborhoods) and one of the highest food insecurity rates in Canada, at 11.3%. One of the Smart Cities Challenge projects is to develop an integrated local food system. This system consists of “sharing certain infrastructures and resources already in place for local production, distribution, storage and food processing“. Inventory, sales, food donations and deliveries will be managed by a technology platform. The Laboratory aims to innovate “through data and technology“. Data collection is at the heart of the process of transforming a connected city. The mobility data cluster will aim to “collect, combine and enhance transport-related data” to generate a new understanding of travel needs and to measure the impact of mobility actions. The data will therefore be analyzed in order to guarantee a better offer of mobility services. The social data center will collect “data on the social reality of Montrealers, including qualitative data such as ethnographic analyses” in order to obtain more than quantitative data. Decision-making will now be based on and by data.

Among its projects in Montreal are four distinct components to improve mobility: governance, operational, experimental and technological. The latter consists in the development of a platform for sharing mobility assets, composed of different functional and technical modules. In addition, over the next four years, as part of a grant from the Government of Quebec, Montreal will conduct autonomous electric shuttle tests to evaluate the implementation of this technology.


2/ Implementation of “technology” in the city

   The connected city according to Montreal is reflected in various initiatives, closely or indirectly related to technology.

  • Open data

     Data processing is a priority for a city that is in the process of deploying technologies. With a view to greater transparency and economic development, Montreal places open data as a “central element” in solving urban challenges. The data produced and collected by the city are mainly devoted to internal activities and services to citizens. These are made public and then exploited in a Montreal ecosystem. Montreal simply wishes to “foster collaboration for better organizational efficiency and support the development of value-added tools for better service to citizens“. Since December 2015, an open data policy and a data governance directive have been adopted. These policies and action plans have been implemented mainly with a view to protecting the privacy of citizens and the “ethical use of data”.

  • MTLWiFi

     Montreal aims to create a vast public Wi-Fi network throughout the city under a unique identifier “MTLWiFi”. The goal is to create a harmonized experience for public access to Wi-Fi and to provide consistent performance across the entire Montreal network. The idea is to promote a single simple connection mode and the same quality of service in all access points. In addition, since 2015, the Quebec City has been developing an urban fiber optic infrastructure to deploy Wi-Fi access points in targeted public places to provide free Internet connectivity for residents.

  • Automated vehicle tests

     A true technological innovation, the deployment of autonomous vehicles is currently under development. With numerous pilot projects, Montreal hopes to analyze the impact of these vehicles in the heart of the city. These vehicles will contribute to a significant improvement in the urban environment. To carry out these projects, the Innovation Laboratory collaborates with partners inside and outside the city to develop a comprehensive approach to both infrastructure and social and ethical acceptability issues. These experimental projects also aim to develop the technology.

  • Testing and acceptability of IoT/5G technologies

     An intelligent city is also a city that sets up large-scale communication and information collection infrastructures. Montreal wishes to set up 5G networks in order to transmit data more quickly and above all to “support an increased number of connected devices and objects in order to support a multitude of usage scenarios“. City assets or citizen optimization will be managed through the deployment of IoT sensors throughout the city. The IoT system of the City of Montreal will be summarized in four steps:

  • Planning the Internet of Things project;
  • Data collection and storage;
  • Data analysis (internal or external to the municipal administration);
  • Opening up digital citizen data and services.

In addition, 5G technology will support the deployment of connected and automated vehicles, remote health care, virtual reality, smart cities and new applications of the Internet of Things. In an effort to create an environment conducive to technology, the city has identified a “2.5 km quadrilateral, within the city center, in which 5G microcells will be deployed on street furniture by telecommunications companies“. However, the deployment of these connected devices; the use of large-scale networks and the use of connected vehicles represent very real risks. Hackers see these installations and facilities as an ever-increasing means of obtaining confidential and/or sensitive data. This year, American researchers demonstrated that it was possible to hack into and remotely control a connected car. Digital transformation largely meets the needs of cities and citizens but also faces vulnerabilities that hackers exploit.


3/ Economic hub and Artificial Intelligence

 New technologies are booming in the heart of Montreal and throughout Quebec, where it is the largest city. According to a study conducted by Canadian Venture Capital, Quebec “accounted for 19% of investments in Canadian start-ups in the first half of 2019”. A real start-up hub, it is home to a group of young companies driven by Artificial Intelligence. At its heart is a “Mila” Institute of Artificial Intelligence with 35 professors, 300 researchers, students, and 19 start-ups, whose objective is to remain at the forefront of Artificial Intelligence research, unlike the city of Toronto, which is dynamic in technology. Success is therefore being achieved with Lightspeed, a company that markets digital cash register software and services dedicated to retailers and restaurateurs. It currently capitalizes 1.9 billion Canadians dollars. The city certainly offers incubators where new technologies are tested and is among the largest university community. In addition, in less than three years, more than 2 billion investments have been announced “in addition to the arrival of multinationals such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Samsung and IBM“.

Since March 2015, the city has also had a coworking area dedicated to connected objects: Connecteo Camp. This campus is specially designed for start-ups located in Montreal, which help the emergence of projects in the Internet of Things. This space, rented at 250 dollars per month, allows young companies to develop IoT projects and support individual projects. Entirely supported by the City of Montreal, this space allows a better understanding of the Internet of Things and federates the city’s ecosystem.



   Montreal has a clear idea of its smart city model. With a central place for the citizen and the development of technologies, the Québec City focuses its connectivity strategy in the heart of the city on several points, including the development of the telecommunications network, open data, travel optimization and the increase in digital service offerings. Connectivity is a major priority that the city offers to its citizens. It is for this reason that since 2019, 68 metro stations in the city have had a network. With these ambitious projects, the City of Montreal meets the criteria of an intelligent city that uses connectivity. A major winner of the Smart Cities Challenge, Montreal is one of Canada’s leading smart cities.