Craig Nevill-Manning is a kiwi computer science engineer who heads up Sidewalk Labs as Chief Technology Officer. He grew up and studied here, but for the last 20 years has called New York home, where he had a leading engineering role at Google. He shares the Sidewalk Labs vision for evolving cities with technology in ways that will change how we live, work and play.
The Genesis of Sidewalk Labs
Sidewalk Labs came about as a solution to the gap between urbanism and technology.
In the past we’ve seen how tech has shaped our cities; from the steam engine which added mobility, to the electrical grid enabling things such as the elevator and urban density. Take the automobile as an example, it has further boosted mobility but with the obvious downsides of congestion and pollution.
Over the past 100 years our cities haven’t changed much. They look different although are fundamentally the same. Technology offers so much potential in how we move, build and deliver services and utilities. Technology needs to be applied with both planning and balance which is what Sidewalk Labs looks to do.
Sidewalk Labs is also focused on sustainability. Cities in themselves are more environmentally efficient than scattered homes. It's easier to heat an apartment block than hundreds of seperate homes. Efficiency could still be much better with the right technology.
The Scope of Sidewalk Labs
Sidewalk Labs tackles a range of diverse challenges and explores a variety of innovations. This does amazing things to change how we live.
Self driving cars are an obvious first step and shared vehicles will be the first major social shift we see. However, the infrastructure around them could be much smarter. Imagine traffic lights working on outmoded phasing that doesn’t respond to traffic or even the needs of people crossing, such as an old person who walks slowly.
Public Spaces Become Shared Living Rooms
Streets will put people first. Blending of commercial, residential and retail will become a preferable planned solution. Construction solutions will look to sustainable materials and construction methods that minimise impacts and are more energy efficient.
Sustainable Building Solutions
Rather than concrete high rises, Sidewalk Labs is looking at timber technologies and construction that incorporate environmental efficiencies with passive heating and ventilation. These new laminar materials allow timber buildings to go higher than before.
Opening Up The Future To Everyone
Sidewalk Labs believe one of the first ways to move our cities is to approach them as an open-source project. A way to do this is to share our knowledge, data and learnings. This will enable rapid changes which address the challenges we face. By using a universal, open language and set of standards, everyone can add and build on ideas to improve. Sidewalk Labs’ vision will allow the radical change that is needed to address climate challenges to happen sooner.
Watch the full video from Sidewalk Labs below