Google and the ITU separately announced initiatives to encourage more joined-up thinking about the urban experience, with both citing similar challenges around cost of living, transport, housing and energy usage.

While the ITU has set up a specific, standards-making group, the ambition for Google’s new “urban innovation” firm, Sidewalk Labs, is less clearcut. Based in New York, it will be headed by Dan Doctoroff, a former CEO of Bloomberg and a deputy major of that city.

While characterising Sidewalk as “a relatively modest investment”, a blog by Google chief Larry Page did not reveal how much the new venture is being bankrolled, and what exactly its business model will involve.

“Sidewalk will focus on improving city life for everyone by developing and incubating urban technologies to address issues like cost of living, efficient transportation and energy usage,” he wrote.

He likened it to other initiatives backed by the search giant, such as Google [x] and Calico.

Meanwhile, the new ITU study group has a particular brief – to standardise requirements for Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, including M2M and sensor networks, with a particular focus on smart cities.

A key part of the study will be to create standards for end-to-end architectures for IoT and mechanisms for the interoperability of IoT applications and datasets employed by various vertical industry sectors, including utilities, healthcare and transport.

“Building smart sustainable cities will require efficient collaboration between the public and private sectors,” said ITU secretary-general Houlin Zhao. “This new ITU-T Study Group will bring together a diverse selection of stakeholders, placing ITU’s technical expertise at the service of other industry sectors as well as the national and metropolitan administrations responsible for urban development.”