Transforming into Ethical Smart Cities

A tool for communities to co-create solutions for their city challenges and turn Smart Cities into Ethical Smart Cities.


Cities have always been smart and we live in a world that is constantly innovating and renovating technologies. But how can we make sure our challenges are addressed prioritizing the values of our communities? How can we transform smart cities into ethical smart cities?


9 month

Client and Partners

This project was made for the Intelligent Community Forum as a client as part of  the Institute Without Boundaries and had a partnership with Evergreen and Future Cities Canada. 


_Editorial Designer
_Design Researcher


Interviews, system mapping, case studies, surveys


To begin with our research, we managed to collect a hundred case studies from smart cities around the world. Through this task we observed that smart city solutions should be proportionate to the city challenges otherwise the use of technology for technology’s sake could bring problems associated with social isolation, environmental pollution, data privacy among others. The insights extracted helped us move forward to create our own definition of Ethical Smart Cities as well as develop a system map and an experiential exhibition name Playroom T.O. for DesignTO Festival that brought together the three core ESC elements of our strategy: Prioritize community’s Ethical Values, using Smart Technology, to address City Challenges.


We had the opportunity to interview different Canadian municipal leaders from Stratford, Markham, Toronto, Hamilton and Kelowna. This experience gave us a new perspective on how municipalities are using Smart City initiatives and the processes taken to integrate their communities. We uncovered that Ethical Smart Cities need to be collaborative and create partnerships that can sustain the participation from different sectors.


The strategy was to build a framework that works along with collaborative tools that municipalities can use to transform Smart Cities into Ethical Smart Cities. Our target audience included public sector and private sector and community organizations for them to train and apply the ESC Framework in their communities. The five steps of the process are: Know, Personalize, Strategize, Design, Adapt. 


To test out our framework we created a series of projects that had a start on the annual International Charrette taken by the Institute Without Boundaries that had the participation from students that came from Italy, France, Denmark, among others. 

Some of the projects were made for communities in Simcoe County, City of Mississauga and the Mohawk Council of Akwasasne. They tackled city challenges such as Flooding, Health, Education and Employment and prioritized values like Accessibility, Collaboration, Inclusion, Equity, Safety and Sustainability. Each project used different smart technologies such as Green Infrastructure, IoT, Sensors, Digital Interfaces, Internet of Things, Mobile Applications and Renewable Energy. 


As our final deliverables we created an ESC Playbook where communities can find the ESC framework along with different tools for co-creation. These assets and more about the research and strategies can also be found on the website and