Future Cities Digest #5 (20.12.2013)

by Lukasz Alwast

#future #technologies #predictions #IBM

This time of the year is plentiful with technology predictions for the forthcoming year. And so did IBM recently publish its annual list of ‘top technologies that will transform the world’ in the next 5 years. According to IBM, the ‘new era of computing’ (as they say, ‘the era of cognitive systems’) will mostly be based on learning systems and big data analytics. This could mean that, for example, savvy retailers could tap cognitive technologies and use the immediacy of the physical stores to create experiences that cannot be replicated by online-only retail. Or that cognitive systems would learn to understand what people need, what they like, what they do, and how they move from place to place—so the managers of the city can respond better to their needs. And security systems could acquire a 360-degree view of an individual’s data, devices and applications, that they’ll readily spot patterns that could be precursors to a cyber-attack or a stolen identity. IBM’s original videos on these topics are available here, but you can also read about 2014 tech predictions from Gartner, GreenBiz (with insights from Arup) and NESTA.

#cities #exchange #governance #AtlanticCouncil

A great discussion took place last week during the Atlantic Council Strategic Foresight Forum between Tim Campbell (Urban Age Institute & author of Beyond Smart Cities), Saskia Sassen (Columbia University) and Greg Lindsay (author Aerotropolis), about new models for international governance around cities.  Two phrases that catch attention where the notions of the ‘underground economy of knowledge exchange between cities’ and ‘clouds of trust’. According to Campell, we are often forgetting that there are over a thousand cities around the world with a population of over 0,5 mln people and “these places have heft, they have budget, smart people… and they are the ones that face all global challenges (…) they also know, that as a risk strategy they can’t spend a lot of time inventing new solutions at home, so an element of that risk strategy is go out and seek what is already out at some other place”. The World Bank estimates that there is about a 1000 to 10000 technical visits between those cities each year what creates “clouds of trust” – ie mutual confidence and knowledge flows – for addressing challenges which each of those cities encounter. Worth watching the first 15-20 minutes if you find the time.

#car #rental #schemes #Uber

Ever wondered how supply/demand models work in practice with car-sharing schemes during severe weather conditions? Snowy weather storm that struck NYC last Saturday lead Uber – a technology company that has developed a software that allows anyone to request a ride via mobile app, text message, or the web – to use ‘surge price options’, which optimize charges depending on the demand and supply of the fleet. As a result, at the peak time Uber was charging its clients an over 7x higher rate than usual (¬ 5.81$ per minute or 23.25$ per mile), well beyond usual standards. As one of the co-founder commented “We are able to get a far greater number of drivers on the system when Surge Pricing is in effect – it’s basic economics. Higher prices encourages more supply to come online. It gets some drivers out to work and keeps other drivers from going to alternatives like renting their car out for the night, or trying their luck at hustling rides on the street”. This situation is an insightful point to what some refer to (even for services as Uber) as the ‘sharing-economy’.  If you’d like to read more about the principia around Uber, you should definitely have a look into this weeks article in Dezeen.

#autonomous #robots #acquisitions #Google

Two weeks ago we shared information about Google’s recent acquisitions in the robotics industry. This message becomes even stronger as last Friday Google has confirmed its eight acquisition of the acclaimed Boston Dynamics robotics group – particularly known for its work for DARPA [US military research agency] on animal-resembling robots with very well developed dexterity and agility.  Some of Boston Dynamics projects might seem quite dystopian – eg the Cheetah Robot running up to 28.3 miles per hour (slightly faster than Usain Bolt), a horse-size legged robot walking in desert and snow conditions, or a humanoid robot that could potentially operate in natural disasters and catastrophic areas. Executives at Google are circumspect about what exactly they plan to do with their robot collection, but claim that commercial robots of some nature could be available in the next several years.

Recent reports out there:

This week’s artefact from the future:


Wearable Futures (Fabrica)
“They say neuroimaging technology is currently being researched and developed to read and record the thoughts of the public, with the aim to detect ill intentions before they are carried out. So Lisa Kori Chung and Caitlin Morris designed the anti-NIS (neuroimaging surveillance) pieces to detect when surveillance technology linked to CCTV cameras is trying to read the wearer’s brainwaves. Each faceted piece covered with decorative patterns is designed to detect when the wearer is being scanned and provides a distraction to change their thought pattern. “Rather than simply blocking access to the brain, which would require unsubtle and complex equipment, each piece proposes a method of momentary cognitive diversion,” said the designers.”