Alphabet, Inc., the parent company of Google, is working on plans to create new mixed-used developments that are heavily reliant on smart technology. The Wall Street Journal reports that Sidewalk Labs, the company’s division that works on integrating technology in urban settings, has dedicated itself to building products that will help solve urban problems. Sidewalk Labs envisions “developing giant new districts of housing, office and retail within existing cities,” according to the Journal article.
It is not clear how or where it will work, but Sidewalk Labs plans to choose economically disadvantaged municipalities with large blocks of land that are on the verge of redevelopment. These high tech, high density metropolitan areas would have more efficient infrastructures for water and electricity delivery. These areas may also include public Wi-Fi hubs similar to LinkNYC that are being installed around New York City, and dedicated lanes for self-driving cars.
No specific plans have been announced about who would cover the costs of such an expense. If Alphabet moves ahead from the research to implementation stages of its plan, “it is unclear who would cover the cost of such an endeavor-tens of billions of dollars-since large-scale development typically requires buy-in by third-party investors over a period of years or decades,” said the Wall Street Journal.
Sidewalk hopes for autonomy from city regulations, so it can build without restrictions on such things as parking, street design or utilities. The CEO of Sidewalk, Daniel Doctoroff worked for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg for the first six years of his administration. He is partnering with Alphabet Chief Executive Larry Page, as well as a number of consultants and former deputies from City Hall, to develop a plausible game plan for the new initiative.
Mr. Doctoroff spent time while working for Mayor Bloomberg’s administration, developing and converting industrial areas in Brooklyn and Manhattan into neighborhoods with apartments and office space. During a recent speech in February at New York University, Mr. Doctoroff posed the question about building “smart” cities in the future. He asked, “What would you do if you could actually create a city from scratch? How would you think about technological foundations?”
Mr. Doctoroff faced many roadblocks during his tenure in New York City government when redeveloping parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan. He says that his experience and Google’s know-how create a unique partnership to lead this new phase of high tech integration into the city landscape, with the development of cities with smart technology.
Source: Wall Street Journal, “Alphabet’s Next Big Thing: Building a ‘Smart’ City,” by Eliot Brown, April 27, 2016
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