The great thing about being a monstrously large mega-corporation with limitless resources is all the cool stuff you can do with your spare change. Hence the excitement that accompanied Google's recent announcement from its Sidewalk Labs division: Via the acquisition of two companies, they would begin the effort to bring free wifi to all of New York City. But first, some background.
Sidewalk Labs is an independent division of Google that was created only a few weeks ago, and is tasked with creating and developing technology for cities. One of their first acts was to buy two companies and merge them. The first company, Control Group, was working on the interface for new wifi hubs. The second, Titan, was focused on integrating advertising into the project to cover costs. These companies will be merged into Intersection, which will continue the efforts of LinkNYC, which, as you may have heard in the past, was planning to turn the city's 10,000 mostly-abandoned phone booths into wifi hotspots.
The booths will be providing not just free wifi, but also act as phone charging stations, offer free domestic phone calls, and provide a touch screen interface that can retrieve information on transit routes and events in the city, much like the current 311 service. If the initial project in NYC is successful, similar programs could be rolled out in other large cities.
This effort to provide free urban wifi is especially canny in light of the growing urbanization of our world. Just a few years ago, for the first time in history, more than half the world's population was living in cities. Estimates state that by 2050, 64% of the developing world and 86% of the developed world will live in cities. If these demographic trends continue, they'll need an efficient way to communicate and access data. Luckily, Google seems to be on top of it.