Tackling the challenges of urban living

|June 11, 2015 0

MUMBAI, INDIA: What if, someone would take care of our cost of living, transportation and other challenges related to urban living?

While optimists would embrace this as a WoW moment, cynics will dismiss it as yet another fad announced by a new-hungry IT vendor.

Meanwhile, search engine giant Google is taking baby steps in smart cities. But unlike the rest, it is focused only on one aspect—helping residents of urban areas tackle their day-to-day challenges.



The ground realty:
Larry Page, CEO, Google, in his post on Google Plus, posted, “Many of you are reading this post while living in a city. And you can probably think of a ton of ways you would like your city to be better—more affordable housing, better public transport, less pollution, more parks and green spaces, safer biking paths, a shorter commute… the list goes on!”

Many cities around the world have already made a lot of progress in some of these areas—for instance, developing dashboards to measure and visualize traffic patterns, and building tools that let residents instantly evaluate and provide feedback on city services. But a lot of urban challenges are interrelated—for example, availability of transportation affects where people choose to live, which affects housing prices, which affects quality of life.

New technologies like ubiquitous connectivity and sharing, the internet of things, dynamic resource management and flexible buildings and infrastructure – are emerging to allow cities and citizens to tackle problems in real time and are transforming commerce, media and access to information.

However, while there are apps to tell people about traffic conditions, or the prices of available apartments, the biggest challenges that cities face such as making transportation more efficient and lowering the cost of living, reducing energy usage and helping government operate more efficiently have, so far, been more difficult to address.

So why is Page talking about the issues at this point?
Yesterday, Google unveiled a company named Sidewalk, whose sole aim to make our lives better.

According to Page, the New York headquartered Sidewalk will develop and incubate urban technologies to address issues likes the cost of living, efficient transportation and energy usage.

“Making long-term, 10X bets like this is hard for most companies to do, but Google co-founder Sergey Brin (who heads Google (x) lab and is known for moonshots like self-driving cars), and I have always believed that it’s important,” Page said in his post.

“And as more and more people around the world live, work and settle in cities, the opportunities for improving urban environments are endless,” he noted.

About Skywalk:
Sidewalk will be headed by Dan Doctoroff, a former chief executive of Bloomberg LP and New York City deputy mayor of economic development under then Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Sidewalk Labs will develop new products, platforms and partnerships to make progress in these areas.

Announcing the new company, Doctoroff said, “We are at the beginning of a historic transformation in cities. At a time when the concerns about urban equity, costs, health and the environment are intensifying, unprecedented technological change is going to enable cities to be more efficient, responsive, flexible and resilient. We hope that Sidewalk will play a major role in developing technology products, platforms and advanced infrastructure that can be implemented at scale in cities around the world.”

It must be recalled that:
In 2013, Google launched Calico, a life sciences company with the overarching goal of extending the human life span. The company is run by former Genentech CEO Arthur Levinson. Last September, Calico announced a partnership with the biopharmaceutical firm AbbVie with investment of $1.5 billion into a research facility focused on fighting age-related diseases.

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