Google has conquered search, email, document-sharing, maps, and more (fashion, of course, remains a work in progress). Now, it’s turning its eye to cities. The New York Times reports that Google is starting and funding Sidewalk Labs, a new independent company “that will pursue technologies to cut pollution, curb energy use, streamline transportation and reduce the cost of city living.”
At the helm of the venture is Daniel L. Doctoroff, former deputy mayor of New York City for economic development and former chief executive of Bloomberg L.P. Doctoroff and a team at Google developed the concept for Sidewalk Labs, which has a decidedly techno-optimistic approach to solving urban problems. As Google CEO Larry Page wrote in a blog post yesterday:
Sidewalk will focus on improving city life for everyone by developing and incubating urban technologies to address issues like cost of living, efficient transportation and energy usage.
Google isn’t the first to tackle cities through technology. As the Times points out, major academic institutions are leading research in this area, and companies like IBM and Cisco are using big data to help improve cities’ efficiency. Sidewalk Labs, however, would be geared toward things like bike sharing—”technology platforms that people can plug into for things like managing energy use or altering commuting habits.”
It might take a company with coffers as big as Google’s to overhaul cities at a grand scale. We’ll eagerly follow Sidewalk Labs’ efforts.