Sidewalk Labs is a new type of company that works with cities to build products addressing big urban problems.
We're building a platform and a set of urban applications to accelerate innovation in cities around the world.
Over the past 200 years, there have been three technological revolutions that have defined the modern city. Each has provided huge benefits but also profound social costs. We are now poised for a fourth.
First, the steam revolution gave cities rapid transportation, steamships, and large factories that transformed commerce. But it also gave cities the first industrialized slums and the worst air pollution that mankind had ever known.
Second, the electricity revolution gave us lights, subways, and elevators. But electricity also allowed us to block sunlight, retreat to artificial environments, and warehouse people in high-rises.
Third, the automobile allowed the city to expand in every direction, providing access to more job opportunities and weekend retreats. But it also gave us sprawl, traffic jams, and smog and nearly killed the central city.
Smartphones already shape how people interact with cities. A new set of digital technologiesubiquitous connectivity, real-time sensors, precise location services, distributed trust, autonomous systems, and digital actuation and fabricationcan collectively transform city life. But towards what end? Will they make the city more responsive, equitable, innovative, and human or will they challenge civil liberties and security?
We believe digital technologies have the potential to solve today’s pressing urban problems in ways that respect privacyserving as a bridge to cities of the future.
To improve cities, we must understand what makes them great.
Cities are about people. Whenever we improve the human experience, we improve the city. Whenever we ignore it, we make things worse.
Cities serve people by fostering interactions, both planned and unplanned, among individuals, their ideas, and their creations. Whenever cities are dividedby wealth, race, or any other factortheir people suffer.
Cities are engines of opportunity. They are the most effective tool humanity has for lifting people out of poverty, and for enjoying a high quality of life without destroying our planet.
The inherent power of cities is that they are shared, which helps everyone achieve a level of productivity, efficiency, and savings that we can never achieve as individuals.
Cities thrive when they adapt along with the needs of their citizens, which change constantly but gradually.
Openness to newcomerswhich celebrates equity, inclusion, and diversityis what keeps even the oldest cities moving forward.
Cities work best when their diversity is anchored by a shared set of values. These can vary from city to city, giving each one its unique character.
Coordination Without Control
Cities require coordinated actions among people, whether to manage congestion or to preserve public safety. But the most effective coordination is not just top-down; rather, it balances inclusiveness, efficiency, innovation, and preservation.
Often technology solutions applied to cities have failed to solve real-world problems, and policy solutions have failed to capitalize on the full potential of technology. To address this, Sidewalk Labs is building an integrated platform for urban innovation spanning technology, data, policy best practices, relationships, and capital.
Sidewalk is building products that understand the city based on data from connected urban infrastructure and sensors, providing useful insights to residents, visitors, and policymakers.
Starting with Google’s Urban Mobility data , we’re partnering with companies to create a modern urban data ecosystem that helps cities tackle key challenges while respecting privacy and incorporating world-class security. We're also equipped to build, deploy, and service any digital technology in the physical world.
Sidewalk’s Cities Team and our network of advisors provide expertise ranging from transportation and social services to health and public safety. We seek to improve cities based on deep knowledge of how they currently work, and why.
This understanding of how cities work — as governments and societies — helps urban entrepreneurs design their products to target the biggest issues in cities and to work with, through, and sometimes around existing institutions and regulatory structures to bring them to market. It also ensures that we speak the language of city officials. We understand what they need because we’ve been in their shoes.
Sidewalk’s network of city leaders, experts and companies can accelerate innovation and adoption of urban technology.
Chances are, our network can connect to any city government quickly and through a trust-based relationship. Our relationships with leading companies across the sharing economy, smart cities, and other sectors eases distribution and integration. Through our portfolio company Intersection, Sidewalk has a footprint across 30 cities and transit agencies to enable standardized deployment of digital technologies into the physical world.
Sidewalk manages the largest pool of capital in the world focused on urban innovation.
We use this capital to create companies in partnership with entrepreneurs, and to work with successful management teams seeking a financial and strategic partner to help take full advantage of the biggest urban opportunities. In addition to our own capital, Sidewalk works with strategic partners to satisfy virtually any capital need a company might have.
Our platform enables products that can be implemented at scale in cities around the world.
Our team bridges the gap between technologist and urbanist. We’ve collectively started companies, built consumer and enterprise products, and helped govern cities.
Rohit T. Aggarwala
Chief Technology Officer
Rohit T. “Rit” Aggarwala is Chief Policy Officer for Sidewalk Labs. Previously, he headed the sustainability practice at Bloomberg Associates, a philanthropic consulting firm that serves city governments. He is also an Adjunct Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, and co-chairs the Regional Plan Association’s Fourth Regional Plan for the New York metropolitan area.
Rit served as Special Advisor to the Chair of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group from 2010-2013, guiding the organization’s strategic transformation into a global leader. During that period, he also developed the environment program at Bloomberg Philanthropies, which grew to a total of $145 million in grants under his management.
Rit served as Director of New York City’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability from 2006-2010, and led the creation and implementation of “PlaNYC: A Greener, Greater New York.” PlaNYC has been hailed as one of the world’s best urban sustainability plans, leading New York City to a 19% reduction in its carbon footprint since 2005. Prior to joining City Hall, he was a management consultant at McKinsey & Company.
Rit holds a BA, MBA, and PhD from Columbia University, and an MA from Queen’s University in Ontario. He was born in New York City, where he now lives with wife and daughter.
Mar 18, 2016
New York Times
Cities to Untangle Traffic Snarls, With Help From Alphabet Unit
As part of the Transportation Department competition, Sidewalk will work with the seven finalists to develop a software platform called Flow to help cities diagnose and fix congestion problems.
Feb 22, 2016
How Google Is Turning Cities Into R&D Labs
We spoke with Doctoroff about how the startup is defining its scope and developing the technology to tackle the challenges of 21st-century cities.
Feb 22, 2016
Sidewalk Labs hires 'dream team' to tackle city design in the self-driving age
Google's "smart city" spin-off Sidewalk Labs just hired a team of experts whose goal will be to create a new line of technology products that can fix the many problems of city life.