Google wants to make your city better

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Not content with giving us the capital of Kazakhstan, directions to the nearest bar or self-driving cars, Google now wants to make our cities better.

Technology is increasingly used to solve urban problems: finding affordable housing, reducing congestion, cutting energy use. Google said Wednesday it's getting in on this game, announcing the creation of a separate company to tackle these and other issues.

Known as Sidewalk Labs, the company "will develop technology at the intersection of the physical and digital worlds, with a focus on improving city life," according to a press release.

"While this is a relatively modest investment and very different from Google's core business, it's an area where I hope we can really improve people's lives," Google co-founder Larry Page said in a Google+ post.

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It's unknown exactly how much Google (GOOG) is spending on the initiative, or exactly what it will do. But it's being headed by Dan Doctoroff, the former CEO of Bloomberg LP and the deputy mayor of New York City under Michael Bloomberg.

As mayor, Bloomberg was known for using data to improve city programs and made his billions selling data terminals to the finance industry.

"At a time when the concerns about urban equity, costs, health and the environment are intensifying, unprecedented technological change is going to enable cities to be more efficient, responsive, flexible and resilient," Doctoroff said in a statement.

With the creation of Sidewalk Labs, Google joins the likes of IBM (IBM), Siemens (SIEGY) and others that are using big data to improve city living.

Bloomberg Philanthropies -- Bloomberg's charitable foundation -- is using data to do things like identifying polluted areas by monitoring where people use asthma inhalers and linking health department inspections to restaurant reviews.

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