Our weekly synopsis of stories & signals that might impact the way people live in future cities

Future Cities Digest #32 ‘revision edition’ (03/07/2014)

by Lukasz Alwast

A short summary of stories and themes which emerged during the last 8 weeks:

  •  Pop-up bus services – an emerging start-up venture in Boston area, Bridj, uses predictive analytics and a smartphone interface for sharing bus rides
  • NYC imposing tighter speed limits – lowering the speed limit from 30 to 25 mph is commented as one of the most significant, first decisions by new mayor Bill de Blasé

We’ve also picked-up on the following, interesting publications:

Accelerating Infrastructure Delivery: New Evidence from International Financial Institutions  (World Economic Forum)
Autonomous Vehicles: Handing Over Control: Risk and Opportunities in Insurance (Lloyd’s)
Cities of Opportunity 2014 (PWC)
City Views(Centre for Cities)
Climate Change: Implications for cities (Cambridge Uni. / ICLEI)
Infrastructure 2014: Shaping the Competitive City(Urban Land Institute)
London: Digital City on The Rise (Bloomberg Philanthropies)
Rethinking Personal Data: A New Lens for Strengthening Trust(World Economic Forum)
Real World Web: Living With The Internet of Things (PSFK)
The London Recipe: How Systems And Empathy Make The City (Centre for London)
The Internet of Things Will Thrive By 2025  (Pew Research)
The Rise of Innovation Districts- A new Geography of Innovation in America (Brookings)
What Makes Cities More Productive? Evidence on the Role of Urban Governance from Five OECD Countries (OECD)
Urban Infrastructure Initiative: Strategic Collaboration Between Cities and Businesses (WBCS)
Urban Mobility in the Smart City Age (Arup & Schneider)

& recent books:

City and Wind: Climate as an Architectural Instrument – M. Krautheim
The Social Machine: Designs for Living Online – J.Donath
Explusions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy – S. Sassen
Our Work Here is Done: Visions of a Robot Economy – Nesta
Urban Interaction Design: Towards City Making – Urban IxD
Urban Design for an Urban Century: Shaping More Livable, Equitable, and Resilient Cities – J. Brown et al.

Future Cities Digest #31(26/06/2014)

by Diana Phiri-Witty

#NYC #transport safety #VisionZero #25 m.p.h

New York City is set to slow down to 25 miles per hour following the state legislature approved plan that aims to address the issue of traffic safety. Transportation officials have begun to plan ‘highly technical’ changes such as adjusting automated enforcement cameras, and changing the timing of traffic signals throughout the city. New York’s transportation commissioner Polly Trottenberg predicts that citizens will notice little change in travel times because efficient driving time is ‘determined by the intersection far more than it’s determined by the straitways.’ Criticism against the scheme however points out the challenges in lowering the speed in an already ‘traffic choked city,’ and others suggest ‘any safety gains from the changes would be limited without more aggressive police enforcement.’ Mayor de Balsio’s ‘Vision Zero’ plan to end traffic deaths by 2024 however had speed reduction as a top priority, and New York adopted this plan from a Swedish traffic safety model. It will be interesting to see how an international model can be adapted to fit the streets of New York.

 #RIBA #Sterling Prize #british architecture #long list

56 buildings have been long listed for the 2014 prestigious RIBA Sterling Prize. The competition awards a £20,000 prize to the architects of the ‘building that has made the greatest contribution to British architecture,’ each year. RIBA has reported that this year has seen the completion of ‘high quality confident public buildings’ due to a ‘recession trend,’ that has led to a low number of private and commercial buildings gaining recognition. Amongst the most recognizable long list are western Europe’s tallest 87 storey building the Shard, and it will be coming up against the curved London Olympics swimming pool. Other buildings across the UK are the artistic and sustainable new Everyman Theatre in Liverpool, the multiuse New Generation Centre in Lewisham, and the Library of Birmingham with ‘a shimmering façade clad with interlocking metal rings.’ The shortlist for the Sterling prize will be announced in July. Meanwhile here is a full list of the National Award Winners.

#autonomous vehicles #car sensors #Cruise #Y Combinator

 An interesting innovation seems to be happening in the (semi-) autonomous vehicles industry. Cruise Automation, a new technology and business idea from the well-respected Y Combinator start-up accelerator, released a computer controlled driving system that can take control over the car while you’re behind the wheel. The product is a mixture of custom-designed sensors that are mounted to the top of a car; actuators for the steering wheel, brakes, an accelerator, as well as a computer system that’s installed into the trunk to process data from the sensors and stream it back to the wheel. According to The Verge, the company’s grander plan is ‘to map freeways and share that data between vehicles, creating a large network of road data that’s being constantly updated’. The device, placed between the 100k $ Google research car and an old-school speed control system, is still quite expensive for a consumer product (10 000$), but the price is expected to steadily decrease.

 #disruptive innovation #debate #Lepore #Christensen

 A fierce, and widely commentated debate about the nature and evidence behind the concept of ‘disruptive innovation’ hit the ground after Jill Lepore, acclaimed Harvard University historian, challenged Harvard Business School strategy-guru – Clayton Christensen. Disruption, as Lepore argues, has become an ‘all-purpose rallying cry, not only in Silicon Valley – though especially there – but in boardrooms everywhere, and it’s a theory of history founded on a profound anxiety about financial collapse, an apocalyptic fear of global devastation and shaky evidence’. According to Andrew Hill, Financial Times columnist, Lepore’s article has struck a nerve in Silicon Valley where disruption is ‘the raw meat for hungry pack of attacking start-ups’. Paul Krugman described Lepore’s argument as a ‘careful takedown’, pondering whether ‘the whole era of innovation might collapse from its own overhype’ (resembling some earlier management fads). You can read Lepore’s article here (caution: long read), Christensen’s response in Businessweek here, and quite a good commentary on Uthotherescue.

 Recent reports and publications:

  • London: Digital City on The Rise – June 2014, Bloomberg Philanthropies (highlights: framework for studying the impact [size & growth] of London’s tech-info sector, comparative analysis with other tech-hubs)
  • Urban Mobility in the Smart City Age – June 2014, Arup & Schneider (highlights: intro to ‘smart mobility’, examples of service types and user groups, value chain for ‘sustainable urban mobility’)

 

This weeks artefact from the future
Wifi1
A Machine that Visualises The Ghostly WiFi Waves That Surround Us (Luis Hernan)
‘Living in a major city, Internet signals and WiFi waves surround us like ethereal spirits or phantoms. There have been multiple occasions when we’ve wondered if the seemingly omnipresent local networks could be visualised, or even animated as unique shapes and bodies. Luis Hernan, a PhD candidate with the Architecture and Interaction Design Group at Newcastle University, is exploring such a concept, as he’s developed a machine that turns Internet signals into vibrant, LED-based forms.’ 

Future Cities Digest #30 (19/06/2014)

by Lukasz Alwast

#electric vehicles #superchargers #patent sharing #Tesla

Tesla Motors, the Californian car manufacturer of electric vehicles, made a bold statement last week claiming that ‘All Our Patents Are Belong to You’ and the company ‘will not sue anyone who uses Tesla’s patented technology (…) in hopes of cultivating a bigger industry for rechargeable vehicles’. Elon Musk, the company founder, says his offer should spur wider development of electric vehicles as he is disappointed by ‘big car companies’ “small to non-existent” investments in electric cars’. According to WSJ, electric vehicles still represent less than 1% of cars and light trucks sold each year. One of the key aspects of this ‘patent move’ is releasing intellectual property of the company’s supercharger stations (EV equivalent of gas stations) – expecting for larger economies of scale, which would allow Tesla spread costs and open more stations in their expanding EV charging network.

#transport systems #benchmarking #global cities #Siemens

A recent study commissioned by Siemens investigated the economic value that ‘high performance, improved transportation systems’ could have across 35 global cities.  Pursued by Credo, a London-based transportation consultancy, it looked into network densities, journey times, service reliability, and crowding, as factors that impact the efficiency of a city’s transport system. Cities were compared to each other in various categories, for example: economic costs of low efficiency transport networks or present economic cost of transport as % of GDP per commuter. Copenhagen turned out to be the best performing city overall, due to its current high level of efficiency and future investments. Singapore ranked best in another category due to ‘strong governance and high capacity’, and Santiago ranked as ‘best performer’ in emerging cities for meeting the ‘changing demand of its population’ and modernizing its bus network. For more details have a look into the executive summary.

#urban modelling #social research #anthropology #China

Two months ago in the #20 edition of the digest we’ve covered a story about a group of Cambridge researchers trying to use behavioral and location data to determine events we’re most likely to attend. Recently, in Beijing, a group of Microsoft researchers explored a hypothesis whether people who are local in town have significantly different mobility patterns than visitors, or individuals who just recently moved to certain neighborhoods. The question that the team wanted to answer was: given a particular user and their current location, where are they most likely to visit in the near future? In practice, that meant analyzing the user’s data, such as their hometown and the locations recently visited (from a Chinese equivalent of Foursquare), and coming up with a list of other locations that they are likely to visit based on the type of people who visited these locations in the past. This type of research is particularly interesting for migration studies, and as one could imagine, similar insights might be useful to understand the way immigrants become a part of a larger, local community.

#starchitecture #smart globalisation #design culture #architecture

“As leading architects race to put their visual signatures on every nook and cranny of the world” - in a trending New York Times article, one critic wonders whether globalization is really such a good thing. The piece debates how a social art, such as architecture, is being treated as ‘a medium of individual expression.’ The author argues that attracting high-powered international architects to design cities can add value to the ‘perception of a place as a creative hotbed’, however, local architects (‘locatects’) arguably may have an inherent understanding as opposed to international (‘starchitects’) intellectual understanding.  The transferable nature of innovation and design often sparks a wide range of views, which brings to mind the Rockefeller Foundations concept of Smart Globalization, which holistically looks beyond the built environment and considers connecting individuals, institutions and communities with tools and techniques, ideas and innovations to build better futures.

Recent book publications:

“How do you describe emerging trends within a forming field? In this book, you will find a distilled conversation, filtered through the collective and embodied practices and experiences of eight diverse individuals. We have, in our hands and online, an attempt to characterise and discuss the emerging trends within urban interaction design, freely available for anyone to read, reflect upon and improve.”

“This book offers a comprehensive introduction to urban design, from a historical overview and basic principles to practical design concepts and strategies. It discusses the demographic, environmental, economic, and social issues that influence the decision-making and implementation processes of urban design. This Second Edition has been fully revised to include thorough coverage of sustainability issues and to integrate new case studies into the core concepts discussed.”

“This book looks at the phenomenon of new robot technologies, asks what impact they might have on the economy, and considers how governments, businesses and individuals should respond to them. It raises important questions for all of us – how society uses new technologies is not a foregone conclusion. It depends on political decisions, cultural norms and economic choices as much as on the technologies themselves. This book features views from a range of disciplines, including economics, engineering, history, philosophy and innovation studies.

This weeks’ artefact from the future:
NYCForesight

The Digital Serenity Pilot (NYC Foresight)
“Our belief is that today’s cities not only have to connect their citizens but also have the responsibility to protect and preserve its citizens digital health and cater to the impacts of the increasing digitization of our cities and takes into account the weaknesses, anxieties and privacy of it’s citizens to achieve a balanced digital health. Based on the outcomes of the Lower Manhattan Pilot. Digital Serenity is the first roadmap to regulate the digital layer and enable regulated digital disguises and ways to protect our locational privacy to cater to our small vices, mishaps and wishes of us as citizens in our daily lives.”

Future Cities Digest #29 (12/06/2014)

by Diana Phiri-Witty

#pop-up buses #predictive analytics #Bridj #Boston

 The New York Times covered an interesting story about an emerging ‘pop-up’ bus service in Boston this month. Technology start-up Bridj aspires to become a ‘data-driven’ shared transportation service, and has started offering a smartphone app that aggregates data about peoples commutes (reportedly, from Foursquare, Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin), and tailors shuttle-bus services depending on demand. The service is a bit more up-market than the bus or metro-tram, but much cheaper than taxis or services similar to ZipCar. On tested routes the service is said to save approx. 1h of daily commute (2x 30 minutes), it arrives on time, and offers onboard services such as Wi-Fi and refreshments. Back in 2013, similar services designed for tech-companies in Silicon Valley were met with public protesters accusing the idea of being a process  of gentrification, but it seems San Francisco is keen to experiment with its own pilot programmes. Worth noting that one of the primary financial backers of Bridj is Jill Preotle, an early investor in Zipcar, who said she was drawn to the company because of its potential to reduce car ownership, and therefore traffic and air pollution.

 #air quality #sensors # citizen participation #Know your air

The potential of citizen deployed air quality sensors was discussed this week in an interesting article that explored methods in which sensors have been introduced into various neighourhoods across the US and Europe. Some of the benefits of citizen participation in air quality data collection are that it could potentially lead to greater area coverage and thus better levels of comparative analysis. The article also mentions the work of Boston College professor Mike Barnett who sees the distribution of sensors as a way ‘…to get science in places where people wouldn’t normally see it, and get people talking about it.’ Barnett’s ‘Know your air’ project works by placing sensor kits in local stores and community centers, and linking the sensors to interactive display screens for the purpose of educating the public. However there is awareness that citizen deployed sensors are cheap and therefore often inaccurate, which questions whether governments will encourage collaboration between city driven and citizen driven air quality data.

#Keiichi Matsuda #Mobility #Augmented Reality #Technology

Imagine a subjective city that visually caters to your preferences and needs. Keiichi Matsuda is the latest designer to discuss his vision of the future of mobility for the Dezeen and Mini Frontiers exhibition, which will open in September. Matsuda envisions a city where virtual worlds can be layered onto physical spaces. The content of the layers could be personalised so that individuals could select the layers best suited for their tastes and interests. For the exhibition Matsuda will present a video showing what the driving experience might be like through augmented reality. The ability to see numerous layers whilst driving could open up new levels of perception and thus revolutionise how people interact with transport infrastructure. As for the interface from which the virtual world could be accessed, Matsuda envisions going beyond surfaces like Google glasses and interacting with virtual reality through smart contact lenses or even direct projection onto the retina.

#shared-economy #market valuations #Uber #Airbnb

A few months ago some big news in the tech-world was Airbnb’s market valuation at $10 billion, more than the market estimates of long-established hotel chains such as Hyatt Hotels and Wydham.  Now, the valuation frenzy has moved to the next ‘shared-economy’ wonderchild – Uber. According to Businessweek, the on-demand ride service has just raised $1.2 billion venture capital in a fundraising round which now values it at $17 billion. This makes its valuation higher than the market capitalization of rental-car giants such as Hertz ($12 bln) and Avis ($6 bln). Whether this is reasonable or not, you can try to deduce from 4-nicely laid arguments in Slate. According to some critical voices, although these companies (Uber & Airbnb) facilitate the use of underutilized resources, their business models might be based on evading, or lagging with the spirit of times regulations. This weeks protests of cabby drivers in London is an example of how the market reacts (or, defends the ‘status quo’).

Recent reports and publications:

 Autonomous Vehicles: Handing Over Control: Risk and Opportunities in Insurance – March 2014, Lloyd’s

 (highlights: write-up on the autonomous car, possible implications of autonomous systems on the insurance industry, long-list of over 110+ references on AV and drones)

 What Makes Cities More Productive? Evidence on the Role of Urban Governance from Five OECD Countries – May 2014, OECD

(highlights: empirical analysis of how metropolitan governance structures affect productivity in cities, findings suggesting cities with fragmented governance tend to have lower levels of productivity)

The Rise of Innovation Districts- A new Geography of Innovation in America -June 2014

(highlights: report analysing the growth of innovation districts and their make up of research institutions, innovative firms and business incubators. ‘These districts have the unique potential to spur productive, sustainable, and inclusive economic development.’)

 This weeks artefact from the future

Recycling shower of the future (Orbital Systems)

orbital-recycling-shower

A Swedish technology company called Orbital Systems is tackling the issue of water conservation with a new household shower that purifies any water that goes down the drain and sends it back to the shower head. By the company’s estimations, its closed-loop system could retain over 90 percent of the water and 80 percent of the energy consumed by an ordinary shower.

Future Cities Digest #27 (29/05/14)

by Diana Phiri-Witty

#Start-ups #ChallengeCup #HandUp #Mellowcabs

This month, 1776- an incubator platform for start-ups held their first annual Challenge Cup competition in Washington. Organisers scoured across the globe and visited 16 countries to hear pitches from budding technology start-ups.  The winner of the $150,000 grand prize in the Smart Cities category was San Francisco based start up HandUp. Handup is a social platform that uses technology to allow people to donate basics such as food, clothing and medical care directly to the homeless and at risk people in their community. Smart Cities runner up went to Cape Town based Mellowcabs, a company that promotes eco-friendly transportation across the city. The company manufactures their own electric vehicles and they keep the cost to the consumer down as the bulk of their income comes from advertising on their cabs. The competition brought together a wide range of companies working with innovations addressing smart cities, education, energy and healthcare.

#smart-grids #Nest #Google #IoT

Conversations around smart-grids and IoT heated up at the beginning of the year when Google acquired Nest, the smart thermostat manufacturer. Founded by former Apple engineers in 2010 it is said to turn ‘the humble thermostat into a slick, Internet-connected gadget’ and according to estimates by Morgan Stanley, it is now selling over 100,000 of these devices a month. Utility companies are somehow perplexed by Nest’s rapid growth. On one hand they seem already excited about its ‘demand response’ application – remotely tuning down people’s air conditioners to converge power on hot summer days – but at the same time feel that the company is building a foothold in their market and are not yet sure about the consequences for their business. To get the bigger picture of Nest (and its implications for the integration of city systems) it is worth returning to Dan’s opinion piece in Dezeen. Also, worth noting that back in December Google submitted a filing to a governmental regulatory body (S.E.C.) asking for permission to place ads on refrigerators, car dashboards, thermostats, glasses and watches.

 #CycleScheme #Schools #Community #STARS

A three year Sustainable Travel Accreditation and Recognition for Schools (STARS) program is working with 9 schools in 9 European cities to implement ideas for innovative cycle to school projects.  The schools based in Bielefeld, Brussels, Budapest, Edinburgh, London-Hackney, Krakow, Madrid, Milan and Noord Brabant are all working towards achieving a 5% ‘modal shift from car-to-bike.’ Collaboration is at the heart of the projects bringing together teachers, parents, school administrators and knowledgeable cyclists in order to assess the barriers children face when cycling to school. In primary schools children can gain certificates of recognition for ‘achievements in using sustainable alternatives to cars.’ For older children a STARS Youth Travel Ambassador Scheme (YTAS) encourages students to take responsibility in organising and designing campaigns to encourage their peers to cycle more. A key part of the program is also to draw on successful international best practice examples as a means of creating a ‘flexible and adaptable’ cycle scheme model.

 #autonomous #vehicles #pilot programme #Google

Despite working for the last few years with a number of car manufacturers on creating a universal operating system for autonomous vehicles, it turns out Google has been also working from scratch on its own product line. The company revealed this week that it is building a fleet of a 100 of these vehicles for its own purposes, with the aim of “bringing this technology to the world safely”. The ‘toy-like’ concept has two seats, a screen displaying the route, a system allowing for the anticipation of third-party behaviour (you can see how this technology works in this video) and a capped speed of 25 mph. The design of the car is different from typical vehicles – Google said its testing had suggested it was safer to remove conventional controls altogether because the results of a human having to take over suddenly and unexpectedly were unpredictable and potentially dangerous, and therefore the car lacks the steering wheel. You can watch the product marketing video here.

Recent reports and publications:

The London Recipe: How Systems And Empathy Make The City – May 2014, Centre for London (highlights: ‘key ingredients’of London as a successful city, case studies of intersections of ‘systems and empathy’, six propositions for creating ‘socially intelligent systems’)

Cities of Opportunity 2014 – May 2014, PWC (highlights: benchmark of 30 international cities, aggregated indicator ranking in 10 categories incl.: innovation, transport & infrastructure, technology readiness, sustainability, liveability etc.)

Hot off the press- Published 29.05.14

Climate Change: Implications for cities – May 2014, ICLEI (highlights: Key Findings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report focusing on cities.)

 This weeks artefact from the future

2roombots-copyright_EPFL 

Roombots(EPFL)

 The Roombots can attach and detach from each other on command in order to create an arbitrary structure depending on the task at hand. The research team envisions that a group of Roombots could be used to connect to each other to make different types of furniture, such as stools, chairs, sofas and tables depending on requirements. The furniture would be able to change shape over time, for example a set of chairs could connect to become a sofa and could also reconfigure for the most comfortable fit for the user. When not in use, the robots could arrange themselves discretely as a wall or a box.

Future Cities Digest #26 (22/05/14)

by Lukasz Alwast

#vibrant #cities #preservation #diversity

new study from the US argues that neighbourhoods and commercial areas with a mixture of small and old buildings are more vibrant, walkable and foster businesses diversity. Research conducted by The National Trust for Historic Preservation analysed three cities and forty metrics of economic and social life including: income, jobs per square foot, number of businesses owned by women and minorities, the mix of big chains and small businesses. The findings revealed that the areas with older and small building stock attract more restaurants, shops and thus more foot traffic. Not surprisingly, there are also opposing voices. Edward Glaeser argues that ‘preservationists who oppose new developments restrict the supply of new housing’ and thus drive the prices up – the authors argue that ‘smaller older buildings don’t lend themselves well to formulate chain stores’ and they ‘keep cities affordable for local businesses and lower income renters’.

#virtual #reality #Oculus #Rift

The virtual-reality headset company Oculus Rift attracted significant attention back in April when Facebook announced its purchase for the $2bln price tag. Following on this Wired published recently an insiders account of the birth emergence of the company and how ‘virtual reality is becoming a reality’.  The article lays out how the 21-old hardware geek (Palmer Luckey) and virtual-reality veteran (John Carmack) came together to develop what is now described as the first VR “no-motion sickness experience” and “one of the five or six tech-demos that make you think the world is about to change: Apple II, Netscape, Google, iPhone…and now Oculus”. Worth noting that for Zuckerberg the device is ‘not just a gaming tool, but a full-fledged communications platform – something that will allow to ‘share experiences’ on a unprecedented scale’. Expected applications for the Rift include: immersive gaming, teleconferencing, healthcare and education.

#architecture #competitions #bus #stops

Seven international architects were invited to design bus stops in the small town of Krumbach in Austria. The project was a collaborative effort to bring together foreign architects and local crafts people for an ‘international exchange of ideas’. Initiated primarily as a tool to encourage tourism in the area, it was supported with funding from local sponsors, businesses, craft workers and hotel and inn owners. The architects came up with a range of designs that took into account the landscape and views of the surrounding area. Some reviewers didn’t feel comfortable with the designs and questioned the functionality of the bus stops seeing them as ‘structures that split the difference between architecture and sculpture’  – however, the authors argue that the bus stops move beyond being ‘conceptual flights of fancy’ as they are generally ‘grounded in quotidian purpose’.

#data #visualisation #retail #innovation

An interesting blog post appeared recently on HBR discussing how data visualisation is supporting retailers in understanding consumer behaviour and  ‘movement patterns’ in shopping spaces. By using existing security cameras and BLE technologies retailers are striving to track the movement of their customers and identify commercially valuable insights. Color-coded data visualisations are said to allow them to turn a store floor into an analytics narrative, as conveying information on customer movements on heat maps makes it much easier to recognize what paths are people choosing or how much time they spend at certain parts of the shop. This helps owners to test out their sales assumptions and adjust staffing level and space allocations. That said – “companies are just starting to experiment with how location analytics can improve a shopper’s experience and boost their own sales”.

Recent reports and publications:

  • The Internet of Things Will Thrive By 2025 – May 2014, Pew Research  (highlights: extensive analysis of opinions about the likely expansion of IoT, a combination of 1600 survey responses and in-depth expert interviews)

This weeks artefacts from the future
Caddy Suitcase
Caddy Smart (Jihyun Seo)
[original description] “Caddy Smart Carry-on Suitcase is a high-tech suitcase equipped with an app for people to travel smarter. The concept features ‘unbreakable OLED’ on its cover and provides essential travel information. It is equipped with a movement detection system and two screens. One is a ‘quick screen’ which is activated when Caddy is stationed – to provide information about local time, exchange rate, current location, Wi-Fi, and the ‘background-screen’ shows the current weather. The bigger screen displays more specific information about travellers’ flight, navigation, world clock, world exchange rates, world weather, scheduler, and facility.”

 

Future Cities Digest #25 (15/05/2014)

by Diana Phiri-Witty

#autism  #inclusive #design #toolkit

Two interesting articles that have emerged recently look at how buildings and cities can be designed to make life easier for people with autism. The first article follows Cairo based architect Magda Mostafa who developed the Autism ASPECTSS Design index whilst designing a school for children with autism. The ASPECTSS index approaches built environment design through looking at different sensory sequences through spaces. It proposes ideas such as ‘escape spaces,’ and ‘sensory havens.’ The index, which is being applied internationally, was developed alongside teachers, parents and caregivers. A second article worth looking at is set in the America where landscape architecture student Elizabeth Decker has developed a toolkit forAn inclusive urban design approach to planning for adults with autism.’ Her project proposes incorporating services for autistic users into existing urban networks and future urban developments.

 #information #hubs #WiFi #NYC

New York City launched recently a request for proposals to build a citywide network of Internet hotspots, that will create one of the largest free Wi-Fi networks in the US, and facilitate a new generation of ‘information hubs’. The idea behind the concept is to use the historic part of the New York street fabric and enhance public availability of ‘increasingly-vital’ broadband access and digital services. In addition to 24/7 free Wi-Fi, the communication structures are expected to offer phone charging stations and touch screens that provide the city additional means of disseminating emergency notifications and information during citywide events. Interestingly, the current request for proposals is an outcome of a quite lengthy public consultation process that began in 2012. The city received more than 125 submissions featuring a variety of innovations – from augmented reality and hyper-local sensors, to voice and gesture controlled kiosks – all collected through ‘the future of the pay-phone’ contest.

 #smart #bike #Vanhawks  #cycle

For those who have ever had to juggle cycling busy streets whilst navigating by looking at a smartphone map, the Vanhawks Valour smart bike might be the solution to a more seamless cycling experience. A Canadian based kickstarter project has unveiled designs for a smart connected carbon fiber bicycle. The bike works by being paired up with a smartphone, which relays preset directions to the cyclist through LED lights built into the left and right hand side of the handlebars. The bike also has sensors on its wheels to detect when cars come too close. Questions have arisen as to whether it is viable to build so much technology into a vehicle that often needs repairs, but creators have at least ensured that the bike parts for the Vanhawks can be serviced at a normal repair shop.

 #V2V #standards #platforms #Nokia

Car manufacturers and third-party suppliers are both competing and cooperating to establish standards that enable cars to seamlessly connect to the Internet. At the beginning of May, Nokia launched a $100 mln. venture fund to invest in companies working on connected car technologies. According to one of the partners at Nokia – “Vehicles are becoming a new platform for technology adoption, very similar to phones or tablet”. And the Finnish company, which sold its mobile phone unit to Microsoft last week, already has a major presence in the car navigation sector. According to Bloomberg, it provides map data to four out of five car-navigation systems and companies (including Amazon, Microsoft and Yahoo). Also worth a notice, IEEE Spectrum released it’s special report on the self-driving car, where internal and external connectivity of vehicles are a major feature.

Recent reports and publications out there:

This week’s artefact from the future:
animalbook
Blood/Meat Energy Future- Book for Parents (Science Museum – Dunne & Raby)
This was part of a 2004 exhibition looking at energy futures – hypothetical products were used to explore the ethical, cultural and social impact of different energy futures. The scenarios include: domestic hydrogen production and child labour with specially designed family uniforms and corporate logos; bio-fuel created from human waste; and meat-based microbial fuel cells. Each scenario is based on a real technology and simply asks what would happen if this became the main form of energy in the not too distant future.

Future Cities Digest #24 (08/05/2014)

by Lukasz Alwast

A short summary of the stories and themes which emerged in the last 8 weeks:

‘Quantified district’ – Hudson Yards in New York becoming with the help of CUSP an ‘urban laboratory for data science
Awards for urban ingenuity – Bloomberg Philanthropies announcing the European finalists of their Mayors Challenge
Android OS for wearable’s – Google releasing its new operation system focused on a new generation of smart watches
Android OS for vehicles – Audi, GM, Honda, Google and Nvidia creating an alliance to bring a common platform to allow automakers to bring cutting-edge technologies to their drivers
High-speed broadband in cars – Audi, GM and Toyota rolling-out 4G LTE communication into consumer vehicles
Bold moves in the augmented-reality industry  – Facebook taking over the virtual-reality manufacturer Oculus-Rift
Predictive events-participation analytics – a group of scientist at Cambridge Uni working with Foursquare data to anticipate events people attend
Prototyping modular phones – Google hosting a developer conference around its ‘modular-phone’ – Project Ara

We’ve also picked-up on the following, interesting publications:

Scenarios for the Development of Smart Grids in the UK (UKERC)
Refiling the Innovators Prescription: The new wave of med-tech (Nesta)
Millennials in Adulthood: Detached from Institutions, Networked with Friends (Pew Research Center)
The future of public health: a horizon scan (RAND)
Mapping Smart Cities in the EU (European Parliament)
Open Data for Resilience Initiative: a Field Guide (World Bank)
Smart People, Smart Places: Realizing Digital Local Government (NLGN)
The Future is Cities (MIT Spectrum)
Cities Alive (Arup)
Digital Life 2025 (Pew Research Center)
Good Incubation (Nesta)
Growing Greener Cities: In Latin America and the Caribbean (FAO)
The Medellin Declaration (UN Habitat)
U.S Views of Technology and the Future (Pew Research Centre)
Innovation Population (Nesta)

& recent books:

Urban Ecology: Science of Cities (Richard T.T. Forman)
Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread – The Lessons From a New Science (Alex Pentland)
Well-Being and Beyond: Broadening the Public and Policy Discourse (T. Hamalainen & J. Michealson)
Internet of Things Based on Smart Objects (Giancarlo Fortino, Paolo Trufno)
A History of Future Cities (D. Brook)
Food City  (C.J. Lim)

Future Cities Digest #23 (01/05/2014)

by Diana Phiri-Witty

#mapping #jobs #transport #Conveyal

Which neighbourhoods are best suited for those who work in finance? If you are a designer, architect or artist, how many jobs are available within a half hour of your house? These are noteworthy questions that software development firm Conveyal is asking. They have created software that collates information such as census data, industry location, job statistics, public transit feeds and open source mapping. This information is then used to produce maps that detail how accessible various jobs are, and by which modes of transport, and from which areas. This type of data could further be used to explore the best areas for building new houses, determine how cycle paths or bus routes could improve job access, and inform where companies could set up their offices in order to attract employees in their industry.

 #urban #crowdfunding #projects #Guardian

Last week Guardian Cities collated and shared an interesting selection of 13 urban crowdfunding projects. Case studies include a proposition to redesign a rundown area around a road flyover in Liverpool and turn it into an urban park so as to connect pedestrians and cyclists with the heritage quarter of the city. Another venture is located in Memphis, where a crowdfunding project is aimed at raising money for a Civic Solar plant that is expected to provide solar capability for 30 different municipal building across the city. There is also an interesting project in Wales, where a group of local activists managed to crowdfund over £750 000 to create “a multi-purpose community centre to host a conference suite for local businesses and community groups, an IT centre to host workshops and facilities for young people”.

 #sunlight #cities #solar #planning

One article that has received great media interest this week explores the historical and current discussions surrounding the right to sunlight in cities. Writer Henry Grabar studies ideas of how Greek and Roman cities of the past, to modern day American cities have considered sun patterns in their planning. It is intriguing to traverse through time and see how the issue of access to sunlight has evolved from being considered as essential to the quality of life of citizens; to it’s potential of being a source of economic empowerment through urban solar panels. Graber explains how a Tokyo court in the 1970s ruled that ‘Sunshine is essential to a comfortable life, and therefore a citizen’s right to enjoy sunshine at his home should be duly protected by law,’ and we also see a case in 2008 where one neighbour was sued because their trees were casting a shadow on their neighbours solar panels.

 #mobile #transformations #Nokia #Microsoft

This week Microsoft has completed the acquisition of the devices and services wing of Nokia. The Finish company through 150 years of its history transitioned from making paper, tyres, generators, mobile phones – and is now focusing on three core technologies: network infrastructure, maps and location-based services and licensing and development capabilities. The $7.2bln deal implies that 25,000 Nokia employees are now expected to move to Microsoft and the software maker will morph into a heavy-weigh contender in the hardware industry. With its capacity of shipping more than 200 million handsets a year, Microsoft is joining the stage with Samsung, Apple, Huawei and Lenovo, in the international smartphone industry.

 Recent hot releases: 

“This book broadens the public and policy discourse on the importance of well-being by examining psychological, social, environmental, economic, organizational, institutional and political determinants of individual well-being. This book will be of interest to individuals following the current public and policy debates about well-being, as well as to policy makers in fields of social and health care, environmental planning, urban development, and innovation, industrial and economic policy.”

“As different as the origins of St. Petersburg, Mumbai, Shanghai, and Dubai are, they share a characteristic as historical outposts of Western trade, architecture, and culture. Brook explores the ramifications in chronicles of each city, prominent among which are tensions between the modernizing influences of these cities and the traditional customs of the countries in which they are situated.”

 ‘…innovative architect and urban designer CJ Lim explores the issue of urban transformation and how the creation, storage and distribution of food has been and can again become a construct for the practice of everyday life. Food City investigates the reinstatement of food at the core of national and local governance — how it can be a driver to restructure employment, education, transport, tax, health, culture, communities, and the justice system, re-evaluating how the city functions as a spatial and political entity.’

This week’s artefact from the future:
inFORM
inFORM (MIT Media Lab)
inFORM is a Dynamic Shape Display that can render 3D content physically, so users can interact with digital information in a tangible way. inFORM can also interact with the physical world around it, for example moving objects on the table’s surface. Remote participants in a video conference can be displayed physically, allowing for a strong sense of presence and the ability to interact physically at a distance.

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