Last year Google launched Sidewalk Labs, an initiative focused on solving the biggest urban problems. But there hasn't been much to note about the organization until now, since they've just finished putting together their all-star team.

With 14 of the most high-profile "city-thinkers" on board, they want to get the ball rolling. For now, the team is getting involved in the federal Smart City Challenge that gives American cities the chance to showcase how they'd put technology to play in the "city of the future."

They're also working to speed up the progress of LinkNYC, which replaces old pay phones with high-tech kiosks with free Wi-Fi.

More than a dozen “links” are active along Manhattan’s Third Avenue, with another dozen coming soon. The plan is to expand to 7,500 within a few years. The kiosks don’t just spew WiFi like an open hydrant shoots water; they also gather intelligence on what’s happening around them—traffic patterns, noise levels, and air quality. “No static study will match that kind of tool,” Kaufman says. And cities around the world are interested in setting up similar networks.

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