Google has announced Sidewalk Labs, a new and independent company that will focus on improving city living. The company is aimed at developing new technologies to deal with urban issues like cost of living, energy usage and transportation.
The start-up, Sidewalk Labs, will be headed by Daniel L. Doctoroff, former New York Deputy Mayor of Economic Development and will be based in New York with a team at Google, led by its chief executive, Larry Page. The founders describe Sidewalk Labs as an “urban innovation company” that will pursue technologies to curb pollution, streamline transportation and reduce the cost of city living. Mr. Doctoroff said Sidewalk Labs plans to build technology itself, buy it and invest in partnerships. “It’s going to evolve and we’re just starting up,” he said in an interview.
In its announcement press release, the company said that "while there are apps to tell people about traffic conditions, or the prices of available apartments," the biggest challenges facing cities "such as making transportation more efficient, lowering the cost of living, reducing energy usage, and helping government operate more efficiently" have been left unaddressed by technology till now.
Google has not clarified how much it is planning to invest in Sidewalk Labs, but it could be sizable eventually. The company is reportedly based on Calico which was established in 2013 and is run by former Genentech chief executive Arthur D. Levinson. Last September, the company along with AbbVie, a pharmaceutical company has announced that they would build a research center in the San Francisco Bay Area for diseases that affect the elderly, like dementia, with an initial investment of $500 million.
In a post on Google Plus, the company’s social network, Mr. Larry Page termed Sidewalk Labs “a relatively modest investment” and one “very different from Google’s core business.” Mr. Page stated that he compared the company with Calico and Google X Labs. He states, "While this is a relatively modest investment and very different from Google's core business, it's an area where I hope we can really improve people's lives, similar to Google[x] and Calico. Making long-term, 10X bets like this is hard for most companies to do, but Sergey and I have always believed that it's important. And as more and more people around the world live, work and settle in cities, the opportunities for improving our urban environments are endless."