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Google promises to improve urban life with Sidewalk Labs

Known for amazing things such as self-driving cars and balloons that extend Internet access to developing areas, Google is now aiming at improving city life with a new company announced today called Sidewalk Labs.

According to a Google+ post by Google CEO Larry Page (pictured above), major cities have access to new technologies for finding out traffic patterns and the price of available apartments, but there are far bigger challenges that need to be addressed. Issues like lowering the cost of living, making transportation more efficient, and reducing energy usage are vital to improving city life. Sidewalk Labs hopes to address these needs by developing new products, platforms, and partnerships.

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This announcement comes at a time when the world is undergoing a massive urban shift. The population in cities worldwide will double by 2050, which will only intensify these challenges. Getting a jump start on these issues now is therefore more important than ever.

Headquartered in New York City, Sidewalk Labs will be led by Dan Doctoroff, the former CEO of Bloomberg LP and Deputy Mayor of Economic Development and Rebuilding for the City of New York.

Every time I talk with Dan I feel an amazing sense of opportunity because of his passion for all the ways technology can help transform cities to be more livable, flexible and vibrant,” Page said of Doctoroff. “And when you combine that with his experience as an investor, in NYC government, and as CEO of the large information company Bloomberg LP, I can’t imagine a better person to lead these efforts.”

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Sidewalk Labs appears to be something similar to Google X and Calico. X is Google’s research lab consisting of “moonshots,” efforts that seek to improve technologies by a factor of 10. Known mostly for self-driving cars, Google Glass, and Project Loon, its technologies generally involve long-term investments. Calico is an independent biotech company that Google established in 2013 with a focus on health, well being, and longevity. Much like Google X, Calico’s projects are also long-term investments.

Google did not disclose its total investment in Sidewalk Labs, but Page did describe it as relatively modest: Making long-term, 10x bets like this is hard for most companies to do, but Sergey (Brin) and I have always believed that it’s important.”