Sunday, June 14, 2015
Thinking Big: Google Set Sights on Managing Entire Cities
04:33 12.06.2015(updated 14:22 12.06.2015) Get short URL
As Google has rolled out mobile phones, and Google glass, and self-driving cars, it's been clear they want to build more than an online empire. Their next project takes on the very real-world problem of livable cities.
Sidewalk Labs is the search giant's latest venture, aimed at finding solutions for better organizing and managing cities, and generally improving urban life.
"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," Page said in a Google+ post.
"Many cities around the world have already made a lot of progress in some of these areas — for instance, developing dashboards to measure and visualize traffic patterns, and building tools that let residents instantly evaluate and provide feedback on city services. But a lot of urban challenges are interrelated — for example, availability of transportation affects where people choose to live, which affects housing prices, which affects quality of life," Page wrote.
"So it helps to start from first principles and get a big-picture view of the many factors that affect city life. Then, you can develop the technologies and partnerships you need to make a difference."
Google will seed and fund the independent company, which will be based in New York, led by Daniel L. Doctoroff, former deputy mayor of New York City for economic development and former chief executive of Bloomberg LP.
Another team at Google will be led by the company's chief executive, Larry Page.
The project is focusing on cities at a time when most of the US’ population is urban and becoming more so.
"We are at the beginning of a historic transformation in cities," Doctoroff said in a statement. "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."
That technology has the potential to bring "extraordinary business opportunities and opportunities for improving quality of life."
Some academic institutions are already trying to take a more technological and scientific look at how to improve urban life, but not many ventures with their roots in the commercial world.
"It’s great to see an ambitious private sector initiative like this recognize that cities are important," said Steven E. Koonin, director of the NYU urban science center. "And there are technology opportunities, but they are complicated."