Google’s umbrella brand Alphabet is the type of corporation that renders little surprise from the public when rumours they plan to build a city from scratch surface. The global conglomerate’s ambitious idea has come to the attention of popular media over the past few weeks, as one of their subsidiaries Sidewalk Labs began to question how our future cities could be built. Formed in 2015, Sidewalk Labs is the brainchild of Alphabet CEO Larry Page and Sidewalk CEO Daniel Doctoroff, a key economic enabler during New York City’s Michael Bloomberg administration.
The digital city company was crafted on a realisation that the world is on the brink of a fourth technological revolution. Digital technologies follow in the step of the steam engine, the electrical grid and the automobile. The modern feat of innovative systems and technologies that allow us to connect, communicate and actuate with each other and everything around us have “the potential to solve today’s pressing urban problems in ways that respect privacy—serving as a bridge to cities of the future,” – or so is stated on the Sidewalk Labs website.
The wildly inspiring notion that such an initiative exists might have already sent your mind into a kaleidoscope of driverless cars, Minority Report-esque hand gestures, pin-pointed hyper-local deliveries and automated idiosyncrasies. Some of these may not be far off.
In a recent article written by Eliot Brown for NYC business-bible The Wall Street Journal, it was proposed that the business formerly known as Google was on the hunt for currently defunct land parcels in close proximity to eligible partner cities. The resulting partnership, likely a place with a struggling urban area, would be revitalised from the ground up with the collective efforts of Doctoroff’s economic and planning prowess and the notorious techno-centric approach of Alphabet’s genius.
So, what might we see in Alphabet City? Well, the initial concept could more than likely be a digital testing ground for Sidewalk Labs, wherein new projects could be built, trialled and fine tuned to solve the major problem of modern cities. Problems like the heightened cost of living, congested city streets and pollution. In the eyes of Sidewalk Labs, these challenges are mirrored with a digital infrastructure opportunity.
Sidewalk Labs website target modern affordable housing via advanced materials and construction methods alongside with new ownership models.
Partner this with digital mobility systems, possibly utilising Google X’s driverless car and wing divisions, to see the harmonious movement of people and things about the urban sprawl.
To tackle our dependence on fossil fuels? Distributed energy management where a more creative electrical grid would focuses “new business models, renewable energy, and smarter storage to improve sustainability.”
That said, Doctoroff might be open to suggestions, as he pointed to in a recent speech at New York University.
“What would you do if you could actually create a city from scratch,” he said. “How would you think about the technological foundations?”
A space to watch.. Wherever it may end up being located.