Web

Google’s Sidewalk Labs kicks off with project to bring free Wi-Fi to New York City

noise reduction new york city
Who is Danny / Shutterstock
When Google recently launched Sidewalk Labs with the aim of “improving life in cities for everyone through the application of technology to solve urban problems,” many were left wondering precisely what the Mountain View company was cooking up out back.

In a message announcing the Sidewalk, Larry Page, the Web giant’s CEO, likened the new venture to the Google X experimental research lab, causing some to wonder if the company was on the verge of unleashing a bunch of weird and wonderful projects on unsuspecting city dwellers.

Seems not. At least, not initially. Sidewalk’s first move will be to bring free Wi-Fi to New York City, where the new firm happens to be based. To do this, it’s taking control of two companies already heavily involved in the initiative – Control Group and Titan – to create a new outfit called Intersection.

Yes, the move toward free Wi-Fi on the streets of the Big Apple is already underway, and something we reported on last November. The work of Control Group and Titan centers on a project called LinkNYC aimed at converting thousands of the city’s payphone kiosks into Wi-Fi hotspots.

If the plans remain the same under Intersection, the overhauled kiosks will offer free 24/7 gigabit Wi-Fi within a 150-foot radius, free calls to anywhere within the U.S., a touchscreen tablet interface offering information on city services and attractions, charging functionality for mobile devices, and a digital display showing ads and public service announcements.

In a Facebook post announcing Intersection, Sidewalk said the new company “will help make cities connected places where you can walk down any street and access free ultra high-speed Wi-Fi, find transit and wayfinding information, access information about city services – the possibilities are endless.”

So if Intersection is successful in bringing free Wi-Fi to the streets of New York City, we can expect to see the scheme rolled out to other major cities over time.

Related: Google X project aims to define the perfect healthy human via in-depth scientific study

When Page announced Sidewalk earlier this month, he said the plan was to concentrate on developing and incubating urban technologies “to address issues like cost of living, efficient transportation and energy usage.”

At the same time, Sidewalk said that while technology has in recent years already helped to improve life in urban areas, “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.”

The company says it hopes to make improvements in these areas with a focus on new products, platforms and partnerships. With the announcement this week of its first initiative, the journey has begun.

Emerging Tech

A cardiac arrest-detecting smart speaker could save your life

Smart speakers are great for everything from playing music to operate our smart homes. But could they soon also help save lives as well? A new project suggests the answer is a resounding yes.
Movies & TV

Apple's plans to take on Netflix by cranking out Oscar-friendly movies

Apple has an ambitious slate of original programming it has been developing, and now we know where we'll be able to see it. Apple confirmed its new subscription service, Apple TV Plus, and revealed some of the projects it will air.
Mobile

Google cancels upcoming Pixel Slate, abandons plans for future Chrome OS tablets

It's bad news if you were looking forward to new Google-built Chrome OS tablets, as Google has officially ceased production on two new devices. This means we won't be seeing any new tablets from Google any time soon.
Wearables

Fossil is preparing 5 new designer smartwatches, and we can’t wait to see them

Five new designer smartwatches are coming soon from Fossil. Based on FCC listings, it suggests the watches will be released under the Diesel, Michael Kors, Emporio Armani, and the Fossil brand names.
Outdoors

For $5,000, Airbnb will take you around the world in 80 days. Airfare included

Airbnb's new Adventures allow travelers can book a mix of accommodations, food, and experiences in what Airbnb calls "bucket list" worthy trips, including a round-the-world trip for just $5,000
Home Theater

Netflix can drain your data in a hurry. Here's how to turn it down a notch

Ever wondered how much data you need to stream a show (or movie) on Netflix? You aren't alone. The answer could be anywhere from 1GB per hour to 7GB per hour, but there's more to it than that. Here's how to control your Netflix data.
Computing

Facebook’s crypto isn’t a new Bitcoin, it’s Disney Dollars for a new world order

Facebook has already secured tens of millions in investments for its new cryptocurrency for Facebook known as Libra. The platform is still being developed, but has already brought in backing from Visa, Mastercard and PayPal.
Smart Home

Walmart Grocery challenges Amazon with a new $98-a-year delivery option

The grocery delivery wars are hotting up. Walmart's latest effort is a $98-a-year subscription fee that offers free delivery on orders over $30. The service, called Delivery Unlimited, can be tried free for 15 days.
Mobile

American Airlines expands its fast in-flight Wi-Fi, but it will still cost you

American Airlines has completed the installation of satellite-based in-flight Wi-Fi for the whole of its mainline narrowbody fleet comprising more than 700 planes, mainly on its domestic routes. But the service still costs.
Computing

Genius uses 19th-century tech to prove Google copied its song lyrics

Song lyrics website Genius says that it proved that Google has been copying its lyrics and posting them on its own search results page. And Genius says it was able to do it by using a decidedly old-school form communications tech.
Photography

Adobe concocts an A.I. that can detect — and reverse — manipulated photos

The company behind the software that's often used to manipulate photographs may help make it easy to spot a fake photo. Researchers at Adobe recently created an artificially intelligent program that can recognize fake photos of faces.
Computing

What is Libra? Here’s what you need to know about Facebook’s new cryptocurrency

Facebook released a white paper announcing its new cryptocurrency, Libra, which it intends as a way to enable more people around the world to process online payments. Here's how the new blockchain technology works.
Computing

YouTube’s new HD music videos let you relive your youth in vivid detail

Relive your youth in vivid detail with YouTube's new HD music videos. The video sharing website will be converting your favorite, decades-old music videos from SD to HD and the first hundred of them are available to watch right now.
Mobile

You can now share Google Search results straight from the app

Google wants to make it a little easier to share search results with others and added a "Share" button to the Android Google app. Currently, the feature is only in the beta version of the app.