City of Toronto “Remote Sensors in the Public Realm”



Digital infrastructure is becoming an integral part of the City of Toronto’s urban fabric. The accompanying governance required to oversee and manage the technology and data that arises from it requires Toronto adopt a data governance approach to ensure data is protected and trusted. The City is currently developing a Digital Infrastructure Plan (DIP) which is a policy framework and governance model to guide the introduction of connected, smart technologies and create the conditions for responsible and ethical digital innovation. Developing a decision-making framework to govern remote sensors is an integral component of this DIP work.

Project Descriptions

Remote Sensors: Classifying remote sensor technologies in the public realm and managing the data that they collect. The City is seeking a capstone project related to classifying remote sensor technologies in the public realm and managing the data that they collect. The public realm is comprised of all public and private spaces to which the public has access. It is a network that includes, but is not limited to, streets and lanes, parks and open spaces, and the parts of private and public buildings that the public is invited into. Remote sensors have the potential to help the City manage its resources more efficiently and move closer to a range of environmental, social and economic objectives. Making data collected by remote sensors publicly accessible and secure for others to use also has the potential to further encourage innovation and improve peoples lives. 

However, remote sensors also have the potential to raise concerns about surveillance, security and privacy. Some sensors are more concerning in this regard than others: for example, one that monitors air quality versus one that monitors movement of people. Developing an approach to categorizing these remote sensor technologies is an important step in ensuring their deployment is respectful of the rules and regulations that govern the collection of data.


In this project, the Client expects the team to design the following:

In this project, the City of Toronto expects the team to design a best practice approach for a program to classify remote sensor technologies that are used within the public realm, and broadly assess the range of impacts of these technologies. The following requirements and / or questions should be considered:

  • Jurisdictional scan of methods of managing remote sensor technologies and classifying the data they collect.
  • Jurisdictional scan of remote sensor data collection notification methods and approaches to consent of information collection and use
  • Establish a model or framework to categorize remote sensor technologies based on standards and best practices identified through the jurisdictional scan
  • Examine existing and evolving privacy and other legislation that governs the collection and use of data
  • Examine a risk-based approach to collecting, sharing and managing data collected by remote sensors
  • Examine technical requirement of data sharing agreement requirements and classes of data
  • How should the collection of data in the public realm evolve to match the speed of today’s digital devices and rapid development of artificial intelligence?
  • How can both cities and private companies use data generated by remote sensors in a responsible and ethical way?
  • What category of remote sensors should require public stakeholder input or oversight (matching public risk with public consultation)
  • What mechanisms or approaches can be used to ensure public trust and confidence in the use of remote sensor technologies in the public realm?