Alphabet's Sidewalk Labs Wants to Build and Operate Smart Cities

Alphabet's Sidewalk Labs Wants to Build and Operate Smart Cities

Sidewalk Labs, Alphabet's urban technology-focused subsidiary is reportedly looking to get into the business of building a smart city within existing cities, with an aim to challenge urban issues like high cost of living, congestion, and fossil fuel dependency.

According to a report published in the Wall Street Journal, Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Google's parent Alphabet, is looking to partner with one or more cities for redevelopment projects. The company "would seek cities with large swaths of land they want redeveloped - likely economically struggling municipalities grappling with decay - perhaps through a bidding process," the report says.

Sidewalk Labs will reportedly help rebuild these underdeveloped or decaying districts, which are aimed to house tens of thousands of residents and employees, apart from being technologically advanced. The technology giant will experiment with technologies like self-driving cars, renewable energy, and use more efficient infrastructure for supplying electricity and water. However, the report wasn't able to substantiate where the funds for development would come from, adding that "large-scale development typically requires buy-in by third-party investors over a period of years or decades."

Sidewalk Labs was launched by Alphabet Chief Executive Larry Page in June 2015, and is led by Daniel L. Doctoroff, the former CEO of Bloomberg and deputy mayor for economic development and rebuilding of the City of New York. The firm is building an integrated platform that brings data, policy best practices, relationships, and capital to drive technology-led innovation in an urban setting. The company is also working on a transportation coordination platform called Flow, where the company uses analytics to help city managers track bottlenecks and improve urban mobility, by partnering with developers of mobility apps, infrastructure operators, transit operators, sensor vendors.

(Also read: Google Launches Sidewalk Labs to Help Tackle Woes of City Life)

Earlier this month, Doctoroff wrote about how a new suite of data tools have the potential to transform civic potential in a blog post. "Performance-based codes and advanced fabrication techniques can enhance buildings. Autonomous systems and precise location services can revolutionize mobility. Real-time sensors and ubiquitous connectivity can provide personalised social services that will save busy residents money and time," he says.


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