Today no single city stands as a model for our urban future. Yet our cities rest on the way potential solutions to big urban challenges fit together.
So we’re pursuing a large-scale district that can serve as a living laboratory for urban technology — a testbed for coordinated solutions, a foundation for people to build on, and a vision for other cities to follow.
intro’d to sidewalk labs here:
Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) tweeted at 3:20 AM – 5 Oct 2017 :
Google parent Alphabet’s city-building unit nears deal in Toronto for first “smart city” development https://t.co/OQPX2M5KMp (http://twitter.com/WSJ/status/915869213914525697?s=17)
The cost of the project, currently dubbed Quayside, is likely to run over $1 billion, based on construction costs of similar projects.
Sidewalk was formed in 2015 and is the brainchild of Alphabet Chief Executive Larry Page and Mr. Doctoroff, a former New York City deputy mayor under the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who went on to run Bloomberg LP. Their vision was based on the idea that modern technology could be far better integrated into cities, benefiting governments, residents and employers.
dear Larry Page et al
find/follow sidewalk labs:
Richard Florida (@Richard_Florida) tweeted at 6:20 AM – 30 Dec 2017 :
“A Google corporate sibling would spend the coming year planning a futuristic metropolis in a derelict part of Toronto’s waterfront.” … NYT on @sidewalklabs Toronto: https://t.co/nabMcTAcEE (http://twitter.com/Richard_Florida/status/947095016618561538?s=17)
Quayside is the most significant new project for Sidewalk Labs, an urban technologies company that is part of Alphabet, Google’s parent company. Set up in 2015, it is headed by *Daniel L. Doctoroff, a former New York City deputy mayor and former chief executive of Bloomberg
Daniel Louis “Dan” Doctoroff (born July 11, 1958) is an American businessman and former government official. He is the chief executive officer of Sidewalk Labs, a startup company focused on developing technology focused on city life. Previously, he was the CEO and president of Bloomberg L.P., deputy mayor for economic development and rebuilding for the City of New York under MayorMichael R. Bloomberg, led New York City’s bid for the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics, and was a managing partner at Oak Hill Capital Partners, a private equity investment firm.
its *data-collection capability may be the greatest distinction, and source of opposition, for the Sidewalk plan.
Sensors inside buildings will measure such things as noise, while an array of cameras and outdoor sensors will track everything from air pollution to the movement of people and vehicles through intersections.
wrong data guys.. if want a better world
try ie: self-talk as data
“We believe there’s enormous potential but we also are very sensitive to the fact that there’s going to have to be an *intense community conversation,” Mr. Doctoroff said. “We’re prepared to commit the money to do the planning over the course of the next year and leave it to the people of Toronto **as to whether or not they are excited by the vision.”
so..*convo to **accept given vision..?
MaRS (@MaRSDD) tweeted at 7:18 AM – 11 Jan 2018 :
The CEO of Sidewalk Labs wants to make #Toronto ‘the first truly 21st-century city.’ https://t.co/YSv5HVyzCNhttps://t.co/4bNUxfFgKW(http://twitter.com/MaRSDD/status/951458217783066625?s=17)
“There is nothing more important to the success of this project than developing a privacy and data policy that people can trust,..t.. and over the course of the next year we’ll be developing that policy in collaboration with the community,” Doctoroff wrote, noting that Ann Cavoukian, a former Ontario information and privacy commissioner, is a privacy consultant for the Sidewalk Labs-Waterfront Toronto partnership they are calling “Sidewalk Toronto.”
“On the revenue model, we’re not overly focused right now on the specifics. What’s important is that we believe very strongly that integrating innovation in a new way into the physical environment can fundamentally improve quality of life, ..t.. including affordability. If we can do that, we know there will be ways to make money — but quality of life is job one.”
tech as it could be
Susan Crawford (@scrawford) tweeted at 6:29 AM – 2 Feb 2018 :
Column today: Toronto, Sidewalk Labs, and cities’ duty of care – attention must be paid https://t.co/logobVR9XI (http://twitter.com/scrawford/status/959418467211456513?s=17)
Toronto recently revealed that deal has put it in a tough place. A nonprofit development corporation, not the city, made the arrangement with Google that sparked all the publicity—the city itself doesn’t appear to have known a deal with Google was in the works. Now the situation appears messy: The details of the arrangement are not public, the planning process is being paid for by Google, and Google won’t continue funding that process unless government authorities promise they’ll reach a final agreement that aligns with Google’s interests. Those interests include Google’s desire to expand its Toronto experiments beyond that 12-acre Quayside plot.
All the media coverage has given Google tremendous leverage as the city scrambles to figure out what to do.
The reality is that Google has agreed—in a secret framework document—to spend $10 million on a planning process aimed at producing agreements that can be implemented only if the city and other government authorities go along with a plan that benefits Google. ..All the media coverage has given Google tremendous leverage as the city scrambles to figure out what to do.
The key problem is that city officials may not understand that they will get access to very little of what Google learns from their citizens.
Richard Florida (@Richard_Florida) tweeted at 8:01 AM – 13 Feb 2018 :
On the opportunities & challenges of Sidewalk Labs Toronto …
Google’s Guinea-Pig City..Will Toronto turn its residents into Alphabet’s experiment? The answer has implications for cities everywhere
Sidewalk Labs is the realization of Google’s long-standing dream to “give us a city and put us in charge,” as the former Alphabet executive chairman Eric Schmidt once put it.
In October 2017, it announced its most ambitious project yet: transforming the underdeveloped Toronto waterfront into an affordable, eco-friendly smart neighborhood—a little model town to showcase Sidewalk’s innovative technologies and urbanist ideas. For the privilege, Sidewalk has committed $50 million to a year-long, joint-planning process with Waterfront Toronto, an urban-development corporation.
Other recent smart-city attempts, like the Bill Gates–connected Belmont, Arizona, project, have chosen unincorporated greenfield locations for maximum freedom—and to avoid extended politicking about logistics and market disruption. But Sidewalk prefers to work with existing cities, harnessing their infrastructure and populations without the costs and risks of building their own. If successful, the results could offer significant benefits to Sidewalk and Alphabet. Doctoroff sometimes talks like Jane Jacobs, but as he toldThe Verge last year, “We’re in this business to make money.”
Ontario’s provincial government, and the city of Toronto, its governing board is appointed, not elected, and composed predominantly of wealthy individuals—many of whom are involved in real-estate development…Having expended 1.5 billion Canadian dollars in seed funding, Waterfront needs a new partner with deep pockets to continue its mission. That makes Sidewalk’s $50 million commitment (about 63 million Canadian dollars) all the more attractive.
It submitted a 200-page response, including a “project vision” laying out a “new type of place” in tempting detail: Modular, dynamic buildings that could be adapted to new uses throughout the day; subterranean utility channels filled with robots whisking away garbage; and outdoor spaces designed to minimize the impacts of bad weather. Sidewalk Toronto would be affordable and entrepreneurial, incubating start-ups from Sidewalk’s portfolio, Canada, and around the world. The proposal envisions a vibrant collection of neighborhoods spreading over the entire Eastern Waterfront, devoted to arts, commerce, and urban innovation—including Google’s Canadian headquarters and an “urban innovation institute” as anchor tenants.
Sidewalk stands to benefit from 1.25 billion Canadian dollars in environmental spending committed by the city, the province, and the federal government to remediate the floodplain.
One-bedroom micro-apartments, ranging from 540 square feet to a claustrophobic 162 square feet, feature heavily in Sidewalk’s “affordable housing” solution, along with “innovative financing structures” like collectives and communitarian housing.
Sidewalk also seems to want to sidestep existing land-use policies to accomplish its goals. It says “outmoded regulations” hold cities back from achieving their full innovative potential.
Who are cities for, and who gets to decide how they grow? Sidewalk Labs hopes the answer is technology companies.
How Google’s Sidewalk Labs has outmaneuvered Toronto in its bid to build a “smart city”
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/doctorow/status/964199950564208640
Molly Sauter’s excellent critical piece on the Sidewalk/Toronto deal in The Atlantic shows how masterfully Sidewalk played the process, presenting incredibly detailed plans for the development that wooed lawmakers and citizens, and then later quietly announcing that these plans were really just guidelines that may or may not be followed in the final build-out; they also managed to get their agreement with the City of Toronto declared a secret, so that virtually no one — not even key city councillors — have been allowed to see it.
Sauter interrogates the promises of Sidewalk’s smart city, raising the questions the city should have answered before greenlighting any action on the project, such as whether all those shiny startups will benefit Canada, or, as is customary, whether they will relocate to Silicon Valley as soon as they’re successful enough to do so — and also, how families are supposed to live in 162-square-foot apartments.
Co.Design (@FastCoDesign) tweeted at 6:16 AM – 16 Aug 2018 :
Our first look at Alphabet’s smart city https://t.co/8MTKphoA4phttps://t.co/olxdE7NOA3 (http://twitter.com/FastCoDesign/status/1030065731487059968?s=17)
CityLab (@CityLab) tweeted at 7:11 AM – 26 Feb 2019 :
In an echo of the Amazon HQ2 backlash in Queens, Canadian critics of Alphabet’s city-building arm have organized a campaign against the Quayside development, @mslaurabliss reports. https://t.co/7K7jSu1III(http://twitter.com/CityLab/status/1100398053658447872?s=17)
Sidewalk Toronto: Violating Democracy, Entrenching the Status Quo, Making Markets of the Commons
Here’s the real data play to worry about: this project is a push to privatize every possible type of interaction or event in public space through data collection.
Benjamin H. Bratton (@bratton) tweeted at 0:05 PM on Thu, May 07, 2020:
Sidewalk Toronto will have a fraught afterlife.
Short-term: opponents claim victory even as cancellation is unrelated to criticisms. Long-term: an eventual melancholic recognition that the whole thing was doomed less by overreach than by failure to actually really think/act big.
Shoshana Zuboff (@shoshanazuboff) tweeted at 3:28 PM on Thu, May 07, 2020:
Friends! Sidewalk Labs/Alphabet withdrawal from Toronto is a victory for democracy over #SurveillanceCapitalism. Thanks to #BlockSidewalk @cancivlib & more who fought for a democratic digital future. SC isn’t inevitable. We decide. A big day. @biancawylie
linked article is paywalled
Starbucks, PepsiCo, and BMW partner to fix a global problem worth trillions https://t.co/JJhnfWPlpn
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/FastCoDesign/status/1291337562997522435
The supply chain desperately needs an upgrade
The global supply chain—an intricate network of manufacturers, warehouses, and shipping and delivery companies spread around the world—was not broken, exactly, but it also wasn’t nimble enough to work the way the world needed.
rather.. the way profits/capitalism needed..
this is not a deep need/want of the people of the world
Now, a consortium of powerful companies and organizations such as PepsiCo, BMW, Shopify, DHL, and the U.S. Postal Service is joining forces with emerging tech startups to fix that.
That’s why, together with Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, Innovation Endeavors has launched a new effort called Link to convene big global companies and startups focused on solving the problems of the decentralized supply chain system. The idea is to put the big players in the global supply chain in the same room as startups to find ways of applying new technologies to an old system..t
new techs via big players finding ways to fix a global problem.. in an old system
Innovation Endeavors calls this convening an “ecosystem”—a meeting of established companies and startups that’s more problem-solving than sales pitch. The companies and startups began meeting about a year ago, before the coronavirus pandemic, but the impact of this global crisis has only made the mission more urgent.
To enable some of these technologies and ideas to work within the domain of a multinational company, the big companies allow the startups inside their operations to adapt their innovations to the companies’ needs..t
company needs? so all about sales.. not supply chains.. not people needs
Building on the deep expertise of these large companies is at the heart of what Link is trying to do, says Singh. “They move billions of dollars in product per year, and they’re responsible for trillions of dollars in trade. So there is so much experience, and these guys are at the forefront of what the cutting-edge problems are,” he says. “The startups have front-row seats for what problems need to be solved and what are the right technologies to intersect that group with.”
? but for profit.. not for people
a global problem worth trillions