Alphabet's smart city project is winding down and Google will take over its products. Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff announced the news in a letter, in which he noted he is stepping down for health-related reasons. A spokesperson confirmed to Engadget that Sidewalk Labs products will be folded into Google, though Alphabet plans to spin out Canopy Buildings as a separate company.
"Starting next year, Sidewalk products Pebble, Mesa, Delve, and Affordable Electrification will join Google, becoming core to Google’s urban sustainability product efforts," Doctoroff wrote. "These products will continue to be led by Sidewalk Labs President of Urban Products Prem Ramaswami and Chief Technology Officer Craig Nevill-Manning, both Google alumni, and the teams will continue to execute on their vision and serve customers."
Pebble is a vehicle sensor system designed to manage curb and parking space, and Delve is centered around bolstering real estate development with the help of AI. Mesa sensors are designed to help save energy, while Affordable Electrification is about managing home energy use. Canopy Buildings, meanwhile, focuses on "factory-automated mass timber construction."
Doctoroff started Sidewalk Labs within Google six years ago and it later became its own company under the wing of Alphabet. In October 2017, Sidewalk Labs announced plans to build a smart neighborhood on Toronto's waterfront. Quayside would have featured, among other things, delivery robots and an array of sensors to manage things like noise, traffic and pollution.
However, Sidewalk Labs shut down the project in May last year. Doctoroff said at the time that “unprecedented economic uncertainty” as a result of COVID-19 and other compromises it would have to make meant its vision for Quayside was no longer viable. The company also advised on development projects across North America.
Several companies were spun out of Sidewalk Labs, including Cityblock Health, which aims to reinvent health care for underserved communities; Replica, a controversial data collection project which aims to revamp transportation planning; and Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, which Doctoroff says "pioneered new forms of tech-enabled infrastructure."
Doctoroff said he's stepping aside after doctors determined it was likely that he has ALS or Lou Gherig's Disease. He's focusing on spending more time with his family and fighting the condition. In 2010, Doctoroff started an organization focused on building a new, collaborative approach to ALS research after the deaths of his father and uncle, who had both been diagnosed with the disease.