Google helps build smart cities with Sidewalk Labs

Sidewalk Labs

Sidewalk Labs, an Alphabet (Googles parent) company is looking for cities that have land available to redevelop. They have vision: reimagining cities from the internet up. It wants to create innovations that solve the current problems of cities with extraordinary technology. Together with cities they want to develop products and tools which enable cities to get ready for the future. What exactly are they working on which may also help your city?

Sidewalk was established last year. Its Lab teams consists of urbanists and technologists that work with cities to develop ideas that deliver real value to cities today.

The various Labs of Sidewalk Labs

  • Build: Build Lab focuses on housing affordability, exploring new approaches to the construction of cheaper and more flexible buildings, such as the use of innovative materials, digital design, and automated fabrication.
  • Care: Care Lab focuses on health challenges faced by low-income city residents, exploring new models of integrated health care and social services delivery, including place-based interventions, value-based reimbursement, and better ways to connect patients to a network.
  • Manage: Manage Lab will focus on the pressures faced by budget-strapped cities, exploring the potential for data from city agencies, businesses, residents, and sensors to deliver better tools and services and improve the efficiency.
  • ModelModel Lab will explore tools that help communities build consensus on affordability, sustainability, and transportation needs. It will construct complex and flexible models from data streams and make them accessible to all stakeholders.

While it was first thought that Sidewalks Lab planned to build a complete new city from scratch, they currently are looking for districts. Districts can function as a test lab for their new products and services. Yesterday it was announced that Toronto is the first city that is teaming up. Toronto is providing a 12-acre strip downtown. Details are not known yet and it it is unclear who will cover the huge costs of such a project.

It is expected that Sidewalk Labs could hold a competition for US cities to attract them to work with Sidewalk Labs on smart city initiatives. Sidewalk Labs says on its website: “So we’re pursuing a large-scale district that can serve as a living laboratory for urban technology — a testbed for coordinated solutions, a foundation for people to build on, and a vision for other cities to follow.” And it seems they are starting off now in Toronto.

Sidewalks seeks to partner with cities that have land they want redeveloped into smart city districts. The aim is to create a template for the cities of the future.

From product or service to a real company

Sidewalk Labs aims to grow every new product or service they develop into an independent company. The following companies are already on the go with smart city initiatives:


Flow is a company that uses data to help cities coordinate their transportation networks more effectively, relieving traffic congestion. Flow builds digital tools for cities to enable more efficient, equitable, and sustainable transportation for people.


Intersection is a company consisting of technologists, media experts, engineers, designers, and strategists working together to create value for citizens, governments, and brands and improve life in cities around the globe. Our teams find new avenues to connect the digital and physical worlds to make our experiences more connected, more seamless, and more human.


LinkNYC is a new communications network that replaces New York City Payphones with starte-of-the art WiFi-kiosks to help bridge the digital divide.

It seems that Alphabet is aiming high with smart cities, following their activities in driverless cars. So, are you a city leader with available land you want to develop, you may want to call Alphabet.

*) Featured image: Michael Gil (CC)

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