A New Wave of Smart Cities?
Building on the momentum of the US DOT’s Smart City Challenge, Google spin-off Sidewalk Labs has announced that it will partner with Transportation for America (T4A) to help 16 US cities support mobility innovation. Notably, the partnership, which includes three of Smart City Challenge finalists, will enable cities to share information and learn from one another on a range of issues including driverless cars and ridesharing. The new partnership comes after Sidewalk Labs experienced a series of setbacks with its free wifi terminals in New York. The firm has been aggressively marketing its smart city services to US cities, but has yet to close a deal with Smart City Challenge winner, Columbus, OH. The 16 city partnership also reflects growing smart city buy-in from more mid-sized cities. However, it is unclear whether this represents a new generation of smart city strategies. Interestingly, Rohit Aggarwala, Sidewalk Labs chief policy officer stressed that this was not “a sales effort”. Sidewalk Labs, which will provide funding to T4A, will benefit from real world testing of its services. The company would also gain if cities decide to continue using Flow, Sidewalk Labs’ mobility platform. As this partnership unfolds, it will be worth watching whether, beyond mobility, other smart city sectors are integrated into this, or a related, program. Data silos may be easier to manage in the short-term, but could hinder integration as the systems become more sophisticated.