We’ve been writing about smart cities for a while. Many of the plans for the design of these complex organisms have fallen short of expectations. But now some are taking a new approach:
Sidewalk thinks of smart cities as being rather like smartphones. It sees itself as a platform provider responsible for offering basic tools (from software that identifies available parking spots to location-based services monitoring the exact position of delivery robots), much as Google does with its smartphone operating system, Android. Details are still under discussion, but Sidewalk plans to let third parties access the data and technologies, just as developers can use Google’s and Apple’s software tools to craft apps.
In fact, Sidewalk anticipates that 80 percent of the work on Quayside will involve these third parties. Some are likely to be other Alphabet companies, such as the autonomous-vehicle maker Waymo, but Sidewalk has said that competitors such as the ride-hailing provider Lyft would be able to operate in Quayside, too.
That will help Sidewalk tailor its products to cities around the world. “If you think of the city as a platform and design in the ability for people to change it as quickly as you and I can customize our iPhones, you make it authentic because it doesn’t just reflect a central plan,” Aggarwala says. “It also reflects the people who live and work there.”