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.