The federal government has shortlisted a bid from the City of Yellowknife to win $5 million for smart streetlights.
Yellowknife is going up against Ontario's Pic River First Nation, Quebec's Cree Nation of Eastmain, the Nova Scotia town of Bridgewater, and Quebec's Mohawk Council of Akwesasne for the one Smart Cities Challenge prize awarded to small communities.
The City's bid focuses on retrofitting its streetlights so they can automatically dim when not required, act as wi-fi hotspots, and – somewhat aspirationally – charge electric vehicles, among other functions.
The project is a partnership with Ecology North, Northland Utilities, and White Arkitekter. Ecology North hopes the project will reduce energy costs, reduce light pollution, and even help tourism – partly by ensuring the night sky suffers less light pollution during aurora season.
"The first step will be creating a mesh network among our lampposts that allow them to communicate with each other and with a central location," said Mike Auge, the City's sustainability manager, in a news release.
"From there, much like apps on a smart phone, a variety of innovative ideas could be incorporated into the lamppost to help us achieve our desired outcomes and to improve the sustainability of Yellowknife."
Getting onto the five-community shortlist earns the City $250,000, which it will spend preparing its final bid for the full $5 million and piloting the project in a test neighbourhood.
Here's what the City of Yellowknife's rivals are proposing:
Biigtigong Nishnaabeg (Pic River First Nation), Ontario
Population: 443. They would use the money to create more than 2,000 hours of mobile-enabled, online Nishnaabe-language immersion instruction in the community's sacred stories. The project would ensure local youth are "nearly-completely" able to comprehend spoken Nishnaabemwin, learn basic coding and robotics, and possess a stronger foundation in math and science.
Cree Nation of Eastmain, Quebec
Population: 866. They would spend the $5 million on "an affordable Net Zero Energy Housing Program" which would build homes with culturally appropriate designs incorporating smart technologies, innovative building techniques and alternative energy systems, "in order to address the housing shortage crisis, the poor-quality and costly construction of houses in Eastmain and Indigenous communities across Canada."
Town of Bridgewater, Nova Scotia
Population: 8,532. Bridgewater wants to lift a fifth of its residents out of energy poverty in the next decade. It says it will do this with "sophisticated energy monitoring and communications equipment in over 1,000 low-income homes, a self-funding energy retrofit financing program, improved transportation systems, and more local clean tech sector training and literacy."
Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, Quebec
Population: 12,315. Armed with everything from electric vehicles to smart greenhouses, the community says it will "decrease the rate of new cases of diabetes per year in Akwesasne to the Canadian average by improving community wellness using traditional approaches encompassing holistic Indigenous practices, improved access to community services and health diagnostics."
City of Yellowknife, NWT
Population: 19,569. For comparison's sake, here is Yellowknife's opening statement: "Yellowknife will experience a rise in our community's social and environmental well-being by transforming the simple lamppost into a beacon for sustainability."