With Sidewalk Labs, Google wants to make cities more efficient

The New York startup will develop technology to reduce the cost of living and improve transport in cities

Google's mission is to organize the world's information, but in its latest moonshot the search giant wants to help organize cities better.

The search giant has launched Sidewalk Labs, a company that will tackle some of the greatest challenges facing cities. It will develop technology to make transportation and government more efficient, as well as lower the cost of living and cut energy use.

The firm will be based in New York and headed by Daniel Doctoroff, a former deputy mayor of the city and Bloomberg CEO.

It will develop technology products, platforms and advanced infrastructure "that can be implemented at scale in cities around the world," Doctoroff said in a release.

"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," Google co-founder Larry Page wrote in a blog post that also mentioned a desire for less pollution, more green spaces, safer biking paths and shorter commutes.

Page compared the project to Google X, the research lab that spawned Google's driverless car effort, and Google Glass.

Infrastructure isn't something new for Google. Aside from cars that can drive themselves, the search engine's infrastructure projects have included the Google Fiber high-speed broadband service, which expanded to 18 cities in the southeastern U.S. earlier this year, submarine Internet cables in the Pacific Ocean, Project Loon, aimed at providing Internet access to users in remote areas, and the acquisition of Titan Aerospace, which makes unmanned, solar-powered aircraft that can fly at 65,000 feet.

There were few details given about the Sidewalk Labs project, including Google's investment in it, and neither the startup nor Google responded to a request for more information.

The move comes as cities continue to attract more people, increasing demand for transport, energy and government services. Two-thirds of the world's population will be urban dwellers by 2050, according to the United Nations.

Tim Hornyak covers Japan and emerging technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Tim on Twitter at @robotopia.

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Tim Hornyak

IDG News Service
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