Google’s Next Big Project? “Urban Problems”

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The next big thing at Google is, drumroll … cities! In case you missed it, there’s a new Google-backed company[2] called Sidewalk Labs[3] that’s describing itself as an “urban innovation company.” Its mission? “To improve life in cities for everyone through the application of technology to solve urban problems.”

What does that mean, exactly? It’s hard to say. But this is Google, so it’s all pretty intruiging.

Here’s what we do know:

Over at GreenBiz[15], they’re taking down Google as a johnny-come-lately in the smart cities game, citing “5 smart cities players a step ahead of Sidewalk Labs.” And Susie Cagle writes for Pacific Standard[16] that Google might not have what it takes to navigate the nuanced world of government contracts:

Tech tends to have a hard time with politics. In pushing against regulation, technologists and company founders claim they’re frustrated by outmoded government process. But a world where nearly everything is subjective and open to debate seems like a difficult operating environment for people who view their innovations as objectively better and above critique by anyone who does not have a degree in math. There’s a naivety to their worldview that might help to get things done inside a company but could prove a hurdle to progress in the public realm.

Time will tell whether Sidewalk Labs — which launched in June — is another of Google’s pie-in-the-sky projects that may or may not materialize (like the whole curing death[17] thing), or if the company will have a tangible impact on urban living.

  1. [Image]:
  2. a new Google-backed company:
  3. Sidewalk Labs:
  4. a recent Google+ post:
  5. $358 billion:
  6. told the :
  7. New York Times:
  8. Sidewalk Labs announced:
  9. LinkNYC:
  10. now-Google-led project will provide free public Wi-Fi to anyone within 150 feet of the converted payphone booths:
  11. tried and failed:
  12. projected to rake in $500 million in advertising revenue over 12 years:
  13. told Wired:
  14. criticized for ushering in staggering inequality throughout Silicon Valley:
  15. GreenBiz:
  16. Pacific Standard:
  17. curing death:

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