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

Month: March, 2014

Future Cities Digest #18 (27/03/2014)

by Lukasz Alwast

#predictions #futures #TED #Google

Last week passed in tech-world along the lines of the 30th anniversary of TED conferences. On this occasion many of the celebrity-guests where asked a question what will blow your mind in 30 years time? Many of the answers referred to advances in medicine & health-care (ie convergence of technology with the body), ubiquitous integration of ‘the virtual’ with ‘the real’, a new degree of human computer-interaction and machine consciousness. An interesting conversation took place on the stage between Charlie Rose and Larry Page. The two spoke about the vision and future of the Internet, privacy, and Google. Page’s main point was that ‘computing is still kind of a mess’ and there is much more than can be done to understand information which at the moment is still ‘very clunky’. Page also highlighted his excitement with the acquisition of DeepMind and his belief in using machine learning research to improve data interpretation accuracy. You can watch the full interview here.

#cities #case #studies #WorldBank

In one of its recent blog posts the World Bank Urban Development team have announced that they are working on a Competitive Cities Knowledge Base (CCKB). Under the label of ‘Competitive Cities’ they’re looking in more depth at ‘cities that significantly outperform their national economies and regional competitors’. The project is said to include case studies of successful cities across all continents, including Bucaramanga (Colombia), Patna (India), Bandung (Indonesia), Agadir (Morocco), Kigali (Rwanda) and Izmir (Turkey). The interesting aspect to this study is that it targets predominantly medium-sized and secondary cities, less explored than the “global cities” the literature focuses on – eg cities in high-income economies that have successfully reinvented themselves (Barcelona or Boston), global technological leaders (Silicon Valley or Austin), or hotspots whose growth is based on unique endowments that are difficult to replicate (Singapore). Full blog post available here.

 #gardening #commute #wellbeing #Japan

We’ve seen in the recent times a number of ideas that work around the issues of enabling commuters to ‘get more done’ during their usual journeys. Amazon has explored the idea of delivering packages to transit spots and Tesco tried to implement virtual supermarkets  on train platforms in South Korea.  Also in Asia, this time Japan, an idea emerged to allow commuters to garden on top of roof gardens at train stations along, or before/after their commute.  This initiative is seen as an opportunity to participate in owning a small garden, an obviously scarce recourse in the world’s most populated cities. The project was initiated by East Japan Rail Company who provided seeds, garden tools and gardening advice to commuters. The gardens are in parallel being used as places where people come to relax, have picnics and meet new people.

#ageing #alzheimer’s #Abilia #Norway

Alzheimer’s is considered as one of the big longevity diseases of our times. With the increase of life expectancy and the growth of the ageing population, the market recognizes the need for new ideas that’ll empower older citizens and reduce the strain on health facilities and governments. For that reason a system called Abilia is currently prototyped in Norway to help Alzheimer’s patients live independently at home. Abilia uses sensors throughout the house to monitor the patient’s engagement with objects, such as – closed/open doors, switched on/off stove , or suspicious motion, and alerts the patients and care workers of any danger. The system is controlled on a central memo planning monitor that displays day to day tasks, giving them a sense of clarity about the time and structure of their day.

Recent reports and publications:

  •  The future of public health: a horizon scan – RAND, Dec 2013
    (highlights: future of public health and related scientific services, literature review and insights from key informants, cross cutting themes and findings)
  • Mapping Smart Cities in the EU – European Parliament, Jan 2014
    (highlights: classification and typology of ‘smart cities’ in Europe, Smart Cities technology roadmap [in the EU], 20 case studies)

Spirit of times:
Appearing by telepresence robot, Edward Snowden speaks at TED2014 about surveillance and Internet freedom. Chris Anderson interviewshim with special guest Tim Berners-Lee – you can watch Snowdens talk hereandthe NSA’s deputy director reply (also as a TED Talk). On the picture Sergey Brin (Google) and Edward Snowden (physically in Russia), during the break.


Future Cities Digest #17 (20/03/2014)

by Lukasz Alwast

#taxi #data #NYC #MIT

More and more questions are floating around the evidence-base for creating and backing-up car-sharing schemes. For that reason scientists at the MIT Sensible Lab decided to request from the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission all the data about the 150 mln+ trips that happened in 2011 – in and out of Manhattan. They asked themselves the question ‘Are people from the same place going to the same destination at the same time, and if so, could they share rides?’. According to their results, nearly 80 percent of trips could have been shared if passengers were willing to travel no more than three minutes out of their way, and the efficiency benefits from car-sharing could quickly kick-in even if only a small share of riders were willing to join. On the HubCab project website (supported also by Audi and General Motors) you can see a nicely done interface for visualizing, and interpreting all of this city data.

#wearable’s #Android #watch #Google

Google announced this week that it has been working on an operating system called Android wear, dedicated for a new generation of wearable devices. The first publically available products are expected to be the LG G Watch and Motorola Moto 360. One of the most communicated advantages of the new devices is that a number of applications that are now only available for smartphones will ‘provide contextual information at-a-glance view’. The backbone of the OS is the Google Now service, marketed as providing ‘useful actionable information whenever a user needs it’ and quite strongly relying on voice-recognition commands. The first devices using the system are planned to be distributed later during the year, however, Google is already releasing software development kits for its maker’s community.  The OS seems to be a consistent part of a larger (and still fairly new) ecosystems for Google’s future services – including Google Glass, Google Tango, and now – the G Watch .

#cars #connectivity #dashboards #Audi

An interesting article in the MIT Tech Review foresees that in the incoming months major car manufacturers will start introducing high-speed Internet connection within their vehicles (similar to those available on fastest smartphones). The first U.S. models with ‘fast’ wireless connection are expected to be deployed in 2015, but other manufacturers, including GM, Toyota and Ford, are also following suit. Taking advantage of internal dashboards and creating apps, car manufacturers are seeing an opportunity for product differentiation. The proliferation of these technologies could also in the long-term support the establishment of vehicle-to-vehicle communication, and ultimately, allow the introduction of semi-autonomous and fully-autonomous vehicles.

#ultravision #lenses #graphene #IEEE

Researchers at the University of Michigan are experimenting with optical capabilities of graphene, a carbon composite material, hoping to enable infrared vision in contact lenses. According to IEEE Spectrum, researchers have already been able to create infrared sensors of the size of a contact lens and are eagerly envisioning its functionality with other types of wearable’s. Not left without any technical challenges, the military and medical industries seem to be the target groups expressing most ‘initial interest’. The interesting aspect to this story is how certain types of scientific outputs are more and more associated with future consumer products (as here, contact lenses or wereable’s) to communicate their foreseen functionality and impact.  

Recent reports and publications:

This week’s artefact from the future:

Master’s Archive (IDEO & MIT Media Lab)
There are skills books just can’t teach. We really need to use tools and materials to understand how they work. But what will a making education look like in the future? We think the recent explosion in camera technologies will create new styles of learning. Imagine a depth camera tracking our movements as a professional gives you guidance. Or seeing your hands super-imposed on a screen as you learn new motions. We wondered how new sensors and new social elements could shape our learning environment. Could you use cameras to track your hands as you learn to knit? Could you use lasers to guide new interactions? Could you learn the nuances of a skill from master craftspeople? We designed the Master’s Archive to understand how mastery might be passed between student and teacher (watch the video).

Future Cities Digest #16 ‘revision edition’ (13.03.2014)

by Lukasz Alwast

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

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

Internet of Things (Frog)
Operationalizing the Buzz: Big Data 2013 (Pentaho)
How Can Cities Nurture Cultural Entrepreneurs (The Kaufmann Foundation)
100 Data Innovation (The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation)
Cities Outlook 2014 (Centre for Cities)
2013 Global Go To Think Tank Report (University of Pennsylvania)
Climate Action in Megacities Version 2.0. (C40 Cities & Arup)
Emerging trends in Real Estate: Europe (PWC & Urban Land Institute)
Big & open data in Europe: A growing engine or missed opportunity? (Demos Europa)
What Do the Best Entrepreneurs Want In A City (Endeavour Insights)
Metro Growth: The UK’s economic opportunity (City Growth Commission)
Chicago Open Data Annual Report 2013 (Chicago City Council)
Smart city framework: guide for establishing strategies for smart cities and communities (BSI)
Climate change and social justice: an evidence review (Joseph Rowntree Foundation)
Infrastructure Investment Policy Blueprint (World Economic Forum)

& books

Public Space in Urban Asia, W. SW. Lim
Smart Communities: How Citizens and Local Leaders Use Strategic Thinking to Build a Brighter FutureS. Z. Moorse
The City as Interface: How New Media Are Changing the City, M. d. Vaal
The second machine age: Work, Progress and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies, E. Brynjolfson & A. McAfee
Visualizing the Data City: Social Media as a Source of Knowledge for Urban Planning and Management, L. Simeone, G. Lupi, P. Ciuccarelli
The Moment of Clarity: Using the Human Sciences to Solve Your Toughest Business Problems, C. Madsjberg, M. Rasmussen

Future Cities Digest #15 (6.03.14)

by Lukasz Alwast

#street #lights #mobile #networks

During last weeks Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Philips and Ericsson jointly released a public announcement of a collaborative programme on a ‘connected LED lighting model’. According to IEEE Spectrum, the lighting-as-a-service model is pairing Philips street lights with Ericsson’s small cell mobile networks. The proposed light poles will now include small cell mobile telecom equipment that cities could rent to telecom operators. The payments from telecom providers should then help to pay for the infrastructure and help to scale the deployment of mobile broadband technology. The small cell (low-powered radio access nodes) seem to play an important for 3G data offloading & LTE development, in particular as telecoms are struggling with expensive infrastructural investments. Sensors embedded in these LEDs could be also used for other applications, including ‘understanding traffic patterns’ – quite an interesting attempt to combine retrofitting with economic incentives.

 #wireless #charging #mobile #MIT

The limited lifespan of batteries in portable devices is a continuous constrain for users and technology manufacturers. On one hand their energy efficiency is increasing, but on the other, technological sophistication of new tools makes the demand repeatedly higher. For some time now, the industry has been working on addressing this challenge with inductive / wireless charging. Back in 2011, Qualcomm along with TfL announced trialling such solutions for electrical vehicles in London, and in 2012, Nokia annouced it’s ‘charging pillow’ for the Lumia phone. Recently, according to MIT Tech Review, the ‘industry is starting to coalesce around a variant of wireless charging that has a much greater range’ meaning devices won’t have to be placed directly on special pads any more and could be bolted beneath existing surfaces at restaurants, airport waiting areas, and many other settings. The company that leads on this technology is a spin-off from the MIT physics department – Witrinicy of Watertown (and the global certification programme for this initiative is called Rezence).

 #multimodal #transit #dashboards #PSFK

PSFK picked up this week (and raised profile) of a new transportation software initiative available in NYC, Washington and a couple of other US cities. Transitscreen is a live transportation dashboard – a service that displays real time transit information of various modes of local transport networks. Co-founder Matt Caywood envisions that ‘this service will be a tool that changes people’s mindsets about only ever using one mode of transport’. The main idea behind the service is that a commuter can see at the same time – on a digital display – a variety of different means of transport (eg city bikes, buses, subways) and accordingly choose the most convenient / efficient. The application of these dashboards is marketed for property and estate managers, public institutions, bars and restaurants, so that they can offer their customers convenience and ‘peace of mind’ when thinking about local transportation.

 #Internet #networks #outages #resilience

Ever wondered how the spatial layout of Internet networks can be designed to reduce damage during a natural disaster? A team of mathematicians argues on behalf of MIT Tech Review that although Internet systems are currently laid out in a decentralised network, they still are quite highly vulnerable to disaster strikes. A report by the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) released in August 2013 highlighted how internet and telephone outages with the longest recovery time are caused by natural phenomena. A study of 79 Internet and telephony outages found that storms – especially snowstorms – caused significantly longer outages than cyber-attacks. A point worth remembering when thinking about infrastructural resilience (full article available here).

Recent (and future) book releases:

In The Second Machine Age MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee reveal the forces driving the reinvention of our lives and our economy. As the full impact of digital technologies is felt, ‘we will realize immense bounty in the form of dazzling personal technology, advanced infrastructure, and near-boundless access to the cultural items that enrich our lives’. Drawing on years of research and up-to-the-minute trends, Brynjolfsson and McAfee identify ‘the best strategies for survival and a new path to prosperity’.

The book investigates novel methods and technologies for the collection, analysis, and representation of real-time user-generated data at the urban scale in order to explore potential scenarios for more participatory design, planning, and management processes. The authors present a set of experiments conducted in collaboration with urban stakeholders at various levels (including citizens, city administrators, urban planners, local industries, and NGOs) in Milan and New York in 2012.

In The Moment of Clarity, Christian Madsbjerg and Mikkel Rasmussen from ReD Associates examine the business world’s assumptions about human behaviour and show how these assumptions can lead businesses off track. Why? ‘Because, more often than not, these tools are based on a flawed model of human behaviour. And that flawed model is the invisible scaffolding that supports our surveys, our focus groups, our R&D, and much of our long-term strategic planning.

This week’s artefact from the future:
Just in time manufacturing (IFTF)
Your friendly neighborhood mail truck is now your custom wedding gift truck, too. Using state-of-the-art 3D fabbing, the postal service has turned thousands of low-value post offices into neighbourhood production centers for all kinds of gifts—just minutes from their destination. Online registries mean the happy couple’s gifts don’t have to travel from all corners of the earth to get to the church on time. Of course, the postal production office also delivers Christmas and birthday presents, and even your monthly supply of coffee filters, slashing the cost of shipping.