Google recently announced the creation of Sidewalk Labs, a Google-owned company that is aimed at improving city life with new technology. At the time, the company did not announce any details of how it would go about doing this, however, it now seems as though it will start by implementing widespread Wi-Fi hotspots to entire cities, with the first being New York.
Sidewalk Labs has announced the creation of a new company called Intersection, formed from Control Group and Titan, the two companies behind the LinkNYC New York Wi-Fi plan.
"The vision really is to make cities connected places where you can walk down any street and have access to free ultra high speed Wi-Fi," said Dan Doctoroff, head of Sidewalk Labs, in an interview with Wired. "The possibilities from there are just endless."
LinkNYC was essentially a plan to convert old payphones into Wi-Fi hotspots, with over 10,000 ad-supported stations being put into place around the city. This plan is anything but dead, however, with it still set to begin later this year. After that, the plan is to bring the idea to other cities.
These stations aren't reserved for just Wi-Fi, however. They will also be usable as charging stations, offer free domestic phone calls and include a touchscreen to find information about the city.
This kind of technology could be huge for a number of reasons. While the majority of U.S. citizens have access to high-speed Internet, 55 million people in the U.S. do not, highlighting the fact that there is a huge digital divide between those that can afford Internet and those that cannot. Plans like this aim to bridge that digital divide.
"We think a lot about equity, and here we have a project that's going to bring connectivity to people for free and fulfill the needs of government to generate revenues," continued Doctoroff. "It's an emblematic effort. It seems appropriate that this is our first project."
It makes sense that Google would be interested in this kind of a project. The company has been racing to find new ways of connecting those who currently do not have access to the Internet. The company even launched Project Loon in different rural parts of the world, an initiative involving weather balloons that beam Wi-Fi to those below. Facebook launched a similar project using drones.
Of course, Sidewalk Labs is an independent company from Google, however, it's likely that Google will have a hand in providing some of the Internet access.