Short report from FuturoDesign Laboratory Workshop

See also a report in Russian from Alexander Leenetsky.In The Midwich Cuckoos (1957) by the author John Wyndham aliens visit a small village after which all the women get pregnant. Their children are bright, 'perfect' and telepathic. If one girl learns how to open a bottle, all the girls know how to do this too. This Sheldrake like 'morphogenetic resonance' is recognized as deeply disruptive by the village philosopher who realizes that a civilization built alone on standalone intelligence has no defense against a wired, connected 'oneness'. It is simply too realtime and too fast. What could only be framed in terms of 'alien' - non-human - has now become stark reality in 2011. This generation of early twenties has grown up in browser time (Mosaic 1993). Whatever they think they twitter, facebook,, microblog - alerting their followers and tribes to this to which they respond, forward or digest. This generation is global and has more in common with each other then with their parents, grandparents, nation states, regions. Growing up in the network that works with transparent principles as tcp/ip, REST and API they find the offline world very messy, unfair, leaking energy into inefficient and outmoded forms of human courtesies. Collaboration and sharing are key in the online world, it is no wonder that in the projects that we help them to outline and develop in workshops all over the world these aspects are dominant.In the Moscow workshop FuturoDesign Laboratory Workshop hosted by Ekatarina Khramkova Co-create Urban Intelligence. Designing Smart Interfaces Between People and City this again proved to be the case. The focus was on mobility.In his text Cityness, Alex Bassi writes: "Hygiene, traffic, quality of life have always been a strong concern among others by all city settlers, while other topics like pollution are somehow a more recent interest for municipalities and business. However, and maybe surprisingly, transportation means were at the center of any urban development plan, from the very beginning. For instance, historical cities like Jerusalem were developed with feet or ar best basic animal transportation in mind; Amsterdam and all canals town used boats as main transportation mean, and more recent cities such as Chicago were influenced by the presenc eof train and horses. A city like Los Angeles could not have been conceived without private transportation like cars, and some cities in very nice areas, such as Vancouver or Sydney, received a boost when airlines became a common transportation mean."The participants - designers, programmers, usabiliy experts, marketeers, building constructors - offered positive solutions and challenges based on principles of connectivity (offline meets online) and sharing and collaborating. "The Internet of Things is only practical when you have a critical mass of devices and a cloud infrastructure. We have that now. But we also need the geospatial context to know where everything is located, all the time. All of this has implications on the way we work. For example, a municipality cannot afford to replace all of its aging roads and bridges at one time. But it can placesensors to transmit data that can then be analyzed in real-time. The analysis tells the people managing the system how the bridge is faring. This can be replicated across the entire transportation network. By doing that, the systems manager can get a granular view that was not possible before. Road crews with sensors on trucks can be monitored, too. Teams can be distributed across the network, based upon the data analytics that indicate weak points and potential weak points in the system. This kind of approach means automation on a scale that we have not seen before. We need this automation as this kind of data becomes a deeply woven mesh into all aspects of society." (How the Internet of Things is Changing the Way WeWork, By Alex Williams / March 29, 2011)After the final presentation this positive trend and this focus on connectivity was highlighted by the jury. The broad design challenge was  How can we make our urban journeys better?. This resulted in proposals for biking stations all across the country where bikers could take a shower and change, a heavy luggage trolley program across Moscow subways based on the 'white bike' schemes in some European countries, a service dedicated to bringing you your good presentable clothes just in time for your meeting as they will get very crumpled in public transport to a 'Quick Hi' offline social network like scheme for shops that are near to each other to offer realtime suggestions. One of the design challenge was provided by Respublica: "In the contemporary world, people are surrounded by a huge amount of information most of which is useless to them. Moreover, the channels informing us about, say, brand-news or sale are far from being perfect. They distract our attention in an unwelcome or intrusive way, disturb our schedule, and simply irritate with its inappropriateness. By this, the problem of finding a wishful thing, rare book, a unique present to a good person is still there and, despite the information overload is only becoming more prominent.  Respublica aimed at enriching its formats and range of its online shop challenge participants to solve the problem and make their new product ideas come true."This challenge was partly tackled but also expanded by the team that developed Bookcrossing. In a three step scheme of growing technological complexity - frrom using existing social networks and Foursquare to tagging the books with QR codes to tagging them with NFC ( thus providing a usecase for the mobile operators) - they focused on fostering both offline social contacts as well as the very practice of reading books in an age of skimming tweets and mails.There was too little time in this particular workshop to brainstorm on the usecase provided by Alex Bassi of Alessandro Bassi Consulting (ABC) : CAR SHARING IN SEMI-GATED COMMUNITIES:In densely populated urban areas, space is becoming a luxury. While some  of this space, the living one, is in this context out of scope, prices  of spare places where to store private transportation means like private  cars are, by all means, taking its toll into families' budgets. In some  urban areas, such as Tokyo, it is not possible to buy a new car without  a proof that there is a parking space reserved for it. Since more than  20 years, several researches show that owning a car in a city centre is  anti-economical, if compared to the price of taxis and/or renting a car  whenever necessary. In economic terms, the TCO is huge, and both CAPEX  and OPEX are very high. And if we include the very steep depreciation of  a car, we can conclude without any doubt that, from an economic  viewpoint, car owning is a very bad investment. This "junk investment"  is often multiplied by two or three, if an household, as in many cases,  owns more than a vehicle.  However, the convenience of having his own vehicle parked closely, if  compared with the inconvenience of having to rent a car, going to get  the car somewhere far away, and bringing the car back, is commonly  valued more than the added costs of ownership. Some recent, more  flexible rent-a-car schemes such as Green Wheels in the Netherlands or  ZIpCar in the USA and UK, simplifying the process by using RFID  technologies and adding convenience by having much more distributed  parking spaces in the town, are quite successful, as they decrease the  level of inconvenience of standard rent-a-car schemes, but they are  still not quite having a car in the garage underneath your apartment.  My belief is that the ultimate solution for densely populated areas, to  cut ownership (or rental costs, for that matter) of a garage with the  sole purpose of keeping a fast-depreciating car inside, would be to  car-share within a block of apartments. The total number of cars per  block can also be reduced, as, statistically, it is an extremely rare  event that everyone in a block needs a car at the same time. Moreover,  the car we need for a particular occasion or trip might differ  substantially: from a short town trip to go to play tennis, to going to  IKEA for shopping, to go to the countryside for a picnic, to travel a  long distance to see relatives, to going with friends to a restaurant,  we would need completely different typologies of cars. We normally  settle for what we can afford, or what we like - but it's never a  one-size-fits-all affair.  Sharing a diverse pool of cars within a single block would allow people  who live there to cut costs (they will not pay for a garage, they will  not pay for their own car), and will allow people to use a car they need  for the particular occasion. From the lender point of view, the  situation is ideal as well: the car, sooner or later, will always be  back, it's very easy to implement pay-per-use schemes, using current technologies such as RFID and sensors (more broadly, IoT technologies),  some programmed maintenance could even be carried on the spot, for  several vehicles at the time. Novel technologies (such as hybrid cars or  full-electric vehicles) could be introduced faster. And, finally, unused  underground space can be reused for better, more useful purposes than storing cars."As Gerald Santucci, Head of Unit "Enterprise Networking and RFID" at European Commission, stated, workshops like this are only the beginning:"The EU and Russia have much in common to analyse and address the Internet of Things challenges and opportunities. We can learn from our common cultural heritage - for example Cervantes, Rousseau or Voltaire and Gogol, Tolstoy or Tourgueniev - to better understand how the 'new society' will emerge from the reshuffling and redefinition of the human and social values that the Internet of Things will generate. We can also bring together our exceptional scientific heritage, especially in mathematics and economic sciences, to invent the new business models on which our future economies will thrive. A dialogue is necessary to anticipate the changes looming on the horizon and, through it, make that our shared legacy takes also the form of a common destiny for the well being of our citizens."For both EU and Russia  infrastrucural projects are connected in our minds with 'big', 'scale', 'expensive' and 'complex' and 'central'. Is it possible to make roads, sewage systems and other infrastructuarl demands in a decentralized way still keeping a balance in cost, efficiency and energy efficiency? How can the Internet of Things foster this latter drive? Facing the common challenges of Climate Change, Peak oil and social upheavals and disruption of networked generations asking more balance and harmony, a new triangle of decision making between civil society, institutions and industry will be heavily influenced by the scenario-workshopa and brainstorming formats design will provide and facilitate.
| More