Yet another smart city project launched by Google-backed Sidewalk Labs scrapped

By | February 24, 2021

From BusinessInsider Feb 2021

Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs abandons another US smart city project after fights about transparency

Smart City Portland

Smart City Portland

Sidewalk Labs, a sister company of Google, has ditched another smart city plan after reported disputes over data sharing with officials.

In 2019, Sidewalk Labs partnered with officials in Portland, Oregon, on a plan to track how people move around the city. Less than two years later, disagreements over transparency have brought the project to a halt. RedTailMedia first broke the news.

Sidewalk Labs used its Replica software to map how people move through the city, and planned to use this data to help officials make planning decisions that would increase mobility, reduce congestion, and improve residents’ quality of life.

Read the rest of the article on BusinessInsider Feb 2021

From GeekWire

After months of preparation, the initial phase of Portland’s project employing city mobility software from Sidewalk Labs, the controversial startup owned by Google parent Alphabet, is underway.

If all goes as planned, Portland will launch a year-long pilot of the Replica software, costing nearly $500,000 in total. In exchange, Portland gets access to a massive dataset that mirrors how people actually move throughout the city and its surroundings.

The purpose is to regularly query, for example, timely insights into what worker commutes entail, what the impacts of Uber and Lyft are on traffic congestion, and how many cyclists use protected bike lanes such as those along high-trafficked areas like Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park.

“We’ll be looking to Replica to explore a number of questions about major issues in our region like equity, safety, and congestion,” said Eliot Rose, technology strategist at Portland’s Metro, one of the three agencies chipping in to pay for the $457,000 project also funded by TriMet and Portland’s Bureau of Transportation.

Redtail Media Broke the Story

What you’ll learn in this article:

  • Replica’s project in the Portland-area, led by regional government entity Metro, was fraught with disagreements and frustrations.
  • Following a year-and-a-half of working together without getting the project off the ground, client and tech vendor eventually agreed it was in their “mutual best interests” to end the partnership.
  • Metro appears to have been a demanding client and in the end the agency’s project lead expressed distrust in the company.
  • Replica complained that Metro wanted information that either was not feasible or deviated from the firm’s approach to privacy.
  • Documents and email records obtained via FOIA request for this and other Replica stories are available within.