NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Google (GOOG) is starting a new, independent urban innovation: Sidewalk Labs, which plans to improve cities, according to a post on Google+ by CEO Larry Page. Sidewalk will be run by Dan Doctoroff, former CEO of Bloomberg and former deputy mayor of Economic Development and Rebuilding for the City of New York, where the company will be based.
Sidewalk Labs will focus on building new products, platforms and partnerships to address issues like cost of living, efficient transportation and energy usage. The investment is "modest" for Google, CEO Larry Page said in a Web post, without disclosing an amount. He compared Sidewalk Labs to both Google X, Google's research lab, and Calico, a Google-funded company that focuses on health and well-being.
Sidewalk will explore how technology can address challenges that extend beyond helping with traffic conditions or finding apartments. The timing for Sidewalk Labs is right, Doctoroff said, because "we're on the verge of a historic moment for cities," when technologies are rapidly maturing to help address needs like the environment, health and affordable housing. The arsenal of fast-developing technologies, he said, includes sensors, smartphones and the resulting explosion of digital data combined with clever software to help residents and municipal governments made better decisions.
The technology can open a door to "extraordinary business opportunities and opportunities for improving quality of life," Doctoroff said. Sidewalk Labs planned to work in "the huge space between civic hackers and traditional big technology companies."