Future Cities Digest #9 (24.01.2014)

by Lukasz Alwast

#automation #future #jobs #Economist

A major theme in the last edition of the Economist was the discussion about the future of jobs and the automation of labour – a regularly returning conversation as labour markets evolve. The authors argue that in the past technological revolutions have always delivered more (not less) long-run employment, but this might now change as we’re experiencing ‘a dramatic acceleration of automating brain-work’.  According to a group at Oxford, within the next two decades jobs are at high risk of being automated in 47% of the occupational categories into which work is customarily sorted – including accountancy, legal work, technical writing and a lot of other white-collar occupations. Disagreeing with this notion are two MIT economists, Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson who believe subsequent waves of automation will enhance the general condition of the economy, but still remain in the back seat – in the end, we have yet to see a truly creative computer, or an innovative or entrepreneurial one, nor have we seen a piece of digital gear that could unite people behind a common cause. Building on that, a more humoristic approach to future jobs has been recently showcased in a slide show by spark & honey, including ‘digital death managers’, ‘crowd-funding specialists’ and 18 other ‘future’ occupations.

#shipping #patent #logistics #Amazon

Amazon received quite a bit of media attention last week by spreading the news about filling in for an ‘antipacitory shipping’ patent – a solution to reduce shipping time within a delivery system to a degree that it anticipates orders before the client even decides to order one. The patent is said to exemplify a growing trend among technology and consumer firms to anticipate consumer needs even before consumers do. In deciding what to ship – Amazon officials say – the system may consider previous orders, product searches, wish lists, shopping-cart contents, returns, or even how long an Internet user’s cursor hovers over an item. It might also suggest items that are already in transit to customers using its website to ensure they are delivered. It’s not clear if Amazon has already deployed or will deploy the technique, but the patent demonstrates one of the ways Amazon hopes to leverage its trove of customer data. However, apparently, present delivery models are still far from perfect. As when forecasting goes wrong, even Big Data fails to prevent Christmas package delays.

#wearables #technology #lenses #Google

Google unveiled this week that within its portfolio of projects it has been working recently on smart contact lenses that can help measure glucose levels in tears. Google is investigating the potential for this to serve as an early warning for the wearer, exploring integrating tiny LED lights that could light up to indicate that glucose levels have crossed above or below certain thresholds. The lenses use a tiny wireless chip and miniaturized glucose sensor that are embedded between two layers of soft contact material – and the testing prototypes can generate a reading once per second. Google is not the first to have announced such initiative. Back in 2011 Microsoft was also sharing its concept for contact lenses monitoring blood sugar and a few companies in Switzerland and Korea are also quite advanced in the field. Still, even today Google official claims that it’s still early days for the technology and multiple clinical research studies are yet to be undertaken in order to refine the prototype. In principal, the company wants partners to use its technology to develop these lenses and also build apps to make the measurements available to users – all quite closely corresponding with the technological ecosystem developed for Google Glass.

#self-repairing #cars #software #Tesla

Both Tesla and General Motors have recently had problems with fire-related recalls in their cars. As it seems, GM trucks left idling can overheat and catch fire, while Tesla’s have a problem with overheating chargers. What seems really interesting is the difference how these two manufacturers approached their issues. Tesla’s remote software updates allow to detect charging problems and decrease charging rates avoiding overheating. This means that while owners of 370 000 Chevrolet Silverados and GMC Sierra needed to find time to take their pickups to the dealer, the 29 222 Tesla Model S electric cars have been fixed wirelessly. Originating from Formula 1 innovations,  over-the-air updates are expected to become more common, and although companies will need to work to make sure they can be done securely, not only are they more convenient, but they can also substantially improve safety, as appropriate updates can be made right away.  .

 Recent reports and publications:

  • Internet of Things – Jan. 2014, Frog [highlights: how IoT creates value, six key characteristics of the paradigm, few case studies]
  • Operationalizing the Buzz: Big Data 2013 – Nov. 2013, Pentaho [highlights: 12 key findings of a comprehensive Big Data research survey, 6 case studies that display trends in Big Data]
  • How Can Cities Nurture Cultural Entrepreneurs – Nov. 2013, The Kaufmann Foundation [highlights: research on cultural entrepreneurs and artists in cities, 7 strategies that mayors and city councils may champion to foster creative entrepreneurs]

 This week’s artefacts from the future:

Mood Sweater. SENSOREE

Mood Sweater (SENSOREE)
SENSOREE has crafted a soft sensor design called the The GER: Galvanic Extimacy Responder, which promotes what is called extimacy – externalized intimacy. The sensors are located on the hands and read excitement levels and then translate the data into a palette of affective colors. The design of the bowl shaped, high collar is positioned with LEDs that reflects onto the self for instant biofeedback as well as act as a tele-display or external blush for the other. Located around the larynx, the visual interface replaces speaking, as the wearer’s truths are instantly expressed with color.