Last week, Google announced the creation of an exciting new venture: Sidewalk Labs, an urban innovation company. Based in New York, Sidewalk Labs will develop new products, platforms and partnerships to improve city life for residents, businesses and governments.
It’s all about the Apple Watch and self-driving cars these days, but I’m even more fascinated by the idea of smarter cities. From New York to Shanghai, opportunities for improving urban life are enormous. So are business opportunities. In fact, cities have many problems that technology such as sensors, wearable tech, mobile and big data could solve. Think about Citi Bike, New York’s bike-sharing program as an example. This kind of clean-tech/mobile innovation has made my commuting in the city so much more efficient, flexible and convenient.
Led by Dan Doctoroff, former deputy mayor of New York City for economic development and former CEO of Bloomberg, the company will pursue technologies to address issues such environment, transportation, health and affordable housing.
“We are at the beginning of a historic transformation in cities. At a time when the concerns about urban equity, costs, health and the environment are intensifying, unprecedented technological change is going to enable cities to be more efficient, responsive, flexible and resilient. We hope that Sidewalk will play a major role in developing technology products, platforms and advanced infrastructure that can be implemented at scale in cities around the world.” – Dan Doctoroff, CEO of Sidewalk Labs.
In a post on Google Plus, Larry Page compared Sidewalk Labs with Calico and Google X, the lab that incubated Google’s autonomous vehicles.
“By improving urban technology, it’s possible to significantly improve the lives of billions of people around the world. With Sidewalk, we want to supercharge existing efforts in areas such as housing, energy, transportation and government to solve real problems that city-dwellers face every day” – Larry Page, Google CEO.
Many startups and cities have already rolled out fascinating projects in urban tech space, but scaling remains a big challenge. Hopefully, Doctoroff’s deep understanding of urban challenges and Google’s money and technical expertise will be a significant move toward radical urban transformation at scale.