June 11 ,2015 | by Claire Payne

Google announces plans to improve 3.5bn city dwellers’ lives worldwide

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A plan to craft a business out of creating solutions to big-city problems has been unveiled by Google.

Internet search giant Google announced the launch of a company devoted to tackling the problems experienced by the world’s 3.5 billion city dwellers. The new subsidiary, Sidewalk Labs, will concentrate on developing and incubating urban technologies that can be implemented in cities across the globe.

"Sidewalk will focus on improving city life for everyone,” said chief executive, Larry Page, in a post on Google+. He then explained that some of the key issues the company will focus on are “cost of living, efficient transportation and energy usage”.

 

Increasing the pace of change

Technological improvements to cities is no ground-breaking news, however, the creation of a Google-funded company could further increase the pace of change. Mr Page noted that it’s a “relatively modest investment” for Google, but as the company has a helped realise ambitious projects like self-driving cars, it’s no surprise that many experts in the field are getting excited.

“Making long-term, 10X bets like this is hard for most companies to do, but Sergey [Mr Brin the co-founder of Google] and I have always believed that it’s important,” said Mr Page in the blog post. He continued to draw comparisons of Sidewalk Labs with its research lab Google X and Calico, its subsidiary that focuses on health and well-being.

Based in New York City and headed by Dan Doctoroff, former chief executive of Bloomberg and New York city deputy mayor of economic development, Sidewalk Labs will be intended to tackle challenges faced by existing cities, rather than create plans to reform social organisation. It will usher in a new era of “historic transformation in cities”, said Mr Doctoroff in a press release.

“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,” he added.

“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."

 

Urban dwellers should keep a look-out

There has been little else revealed as of yet - we only know that the size of the investment will be modest. It isn’t clear how Sidewalk Labs will operate, or the types of technologies it will produce. However, it’s certain that Google’s latest subsidiary will be one to keep an eye on in coming years, particularly if you’re an urban dweller.

“As more and more people around the world live, work and settle in cities, the opportunities for improving our urban environments are endless,” Mr Page explained in the statement. “Now it’s time to hit the streets and get to work!”

Claire Payne

Claire Payne is a journalism graduate and News Writer for LSBF. She writes about SMEs, education and careers, entrepreneurship, women in business, and sustainability.

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