Category Archives: Creative ideas

IoT Innovations: Examples

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The statistic is sobering…

One in four auto accidents are caused by cellphone-related distractions – a stark reminder that our insatiable addiction to phones and “always connected” mentality can be dangerous and destructive.

So instead of letting technology continue to impair drivers, companies are inventing new ways for technology to improve road safety.

Like San Francisco startup, Navdy.

The company is using a technology once reserved for commercial and military pilots – head-up display (HUD).

In the air, it’s the best way of ensuring safety by projecting important in-flight data onto a transparent screen in front of pilots’ faces, rather than off to the side, where they’d need to look away from the window.

So it makes sense to employ this technology in cars, too. After all, there are millions more drivers than pilots. And it certainly beats the alternative – looking away from the road.

Given the growth of the “connected car” concept, we’ve discussed this head-up technology in cars before, with many major automakers working on incorporating this “augmented reality” into their models.

And Navdy’s in-car HUD is being called “Google Glass for car windshields.”

The after-market device pairs up with both Apple (AAPL) and Android-based operating systems to turn your windshield into an interactive screen. It projects GPS, phone calls, text messages, music playlists, and other functions onto a high-quality, transparent display in front of your face. And Navdy is hands-free, so drivers operate it with hand gestures and voice controls, and never need to look away from the road.

Navdy also displays trip information, like current speed and fuel range. And like an external GPS device, Navdy works in any vehicle.

Take a look…

#2: Say “Sayonara” to Counting Sheep…

They say sleep is the cousin of death – probably because we spend one-third of our lives doing it!

However, most of us don’t actually sleep well, due to a variety of disorders and disturbances.

Hello, Inc. wants to change that.

The company is about to disrupt “sleep disruption” by giving people answers to a simple question that nobody has yet asked: Why?

You see, while wellness tools like Fitbit, Jawbone, Sleep Genius, Sleep Cycle, and Dormio track your sleep, they only provide a historical log of your sleep activity.

For example, you’ll see that you woke up at 3:26 AM, but you won’t always know why.

Without that insight, how do you prevent it from happening again?

Hello has created a product called “Sense,” which not only tracks your sleep, it also monitors your surrounding environment.

Sense comes in two parts…

  • The Orb: This goes on your nightstand, where it listens for noise and monitors the lighting and temperature. Heck, it even picks up what kind of particles are in the air!
  • The “Pill”: This attaches to your pillow, where it tracks the activity and quality of your sleep, based on the motions you make during the night.

As a result, Sense assigns a Sleep Score for each night, giving users very specific details that answer the question, “Why did I sleep so badly?”

For example…

~What’s Your Wattage? Sense’s light sensor may note that you’re using 100-watt light bulbs instead of the 75-watt bulbs you typically use. And on nights when you left the 100-watt bulbs on, it disturbed your sleep way more than when you left the 75-watt bulbs on.

~Heat: If Sense’s “Pill” notices that you’re tossing and turning more than usual, and picks up on an increase in your perspiration, it recognizes that you’re sleeping in a stifling 80 degrees instead of your normal 75-degree range.

~Groggy: Perhaps you’ve felt groggy in the mornings a lot and can’t figure out why. You check Sense, and discover from the playback that its microphone picked up on a homeless man bashing a garage door with a stick at 3:00 AM every night (true story).

Sense also plays ambient noise and even acts as a modern-day Smart Alarm that wakes you up according to your specific sleep cycle.

See for yourself…

Sense is using Kickstarter to gain funding. And a $100,000 goal has catapulted to over $2 million in under 30 days from 16,700 backers.

There are only a few days left to become one of Sense’s initial backers – and first in line to receive the discounted product when it’s market-ready in November.

Plus, an investment in Sense isn’t just investing in your well-being, it’s also a thumbs-up to entrepreneurism and supporting such innovative projects through crowdfunding.

Wearable Tech: Healthcare Win

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InformationWeek: HEALTHCARE // MOBILE & WIRELESS
7/28/2014
While most businesses still view wearable computers as little more than toys, healthcare has embraced them. Check out these interesting examples.

Recovery and therapyAfter surgery, you often face a recovery period that involves physical therapy. Along comes Google Glass again, this time with an app from a company called Wearable Intelligence. The app guides a therapist through a specific set of exercises for a specific patient, with exact instructions on such things as amount of flexion and limb rotation. The app also uses the camera to record video of the exercise, and even gives a check mark 'OK' when all steps have been accomplished. This should help reduce misapplied therapies, and help new therapists rapidly gain the right skill sets.</p>
<p>Image credit: wearableintelligence.com<br />

Recovery and therapy
After surgery, you often face a recovery period that involves physical therapy. Along comes Google Glass again, this time with an app from a company called Wearable Intelligence. The app guides a therapist through a specific set of exercises for a specific patient, with exact instructions on such things as amount of flexion and limb rotation. The app also uses the camera to record video of the exercise, and even gives a check mark “OK” when all steps have been accomplished. This should help reduce misapplied therapies, and help new therapists rapidly gain the right skill sets.

Image credit: wearableintelligence.com

Zipbuds: an example of why did I not think of that?

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Zipbuds Juiced 2.0
COMPANY Zipbuds, San Diego
DESIGNER Robin DeFay, president; Erik Groset, director of operations; Justin Liu, director of technology
PRODUCT LAUNCHED November 20, 2013

WHAT IS IT? Zipbuds headphones’ unique zipper design eliminates headphone tangles. The cables are made of military-grade aramid, so they’re built to last. And the company uses proprietary technology to give the earbuds a comfortable and secure fit.WHY? How do you tie the world’s strongest knot? Put your headphones in your pocket and wait five minutes. Headphones snarl. Sometimes, it seems as if that’s what they’re designed to do. Zipbuds’s design is simple and obvious in retrospect, and that’s what the judges liked about it.Sales of stereo headphones in the United States amounted to $2.3 billion in 2013. It’s unclear what portion of that was driven by the need to replace headphones whose cables had become impossibly tangled.

“You know a great design when you say, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’ It’s often hardest to solve a simple problem well. This design nails it.”

–BILL BURNETT, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DESIGN PROGRAM, STANFORD UNIVERSITY

LED light bulb that doubles as a Bluetooth speaker

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Photo: AwoX website

AwoX, a provider of multimedia interconnection technologies for the home, released an LED light bulb that doubles as a Bluetooth speaker.

The StriimLIGHT twists into any light socket to provide light and sound that you can control using the AwoX smart control app on your smartphone, laptop or desktop computer.

The app allows the user to brighten or dim the light or change its colour, add music, apply an alarm timer to its functions and control the speaker’s volume.

AwoX CEO Alain Molinie said: “Best of all, StriimLight’s unobtrusive design makes it easy to add music to rooms where space is scarce, such as bathrooms and kitchens.”

The light bulb delivers 110 to 240 volts of LED illumination and pumps out the sound via a 10-watt speaker.

There is also a Wi-Fi version, which operates in the same way as the Bluetooth version, while there’s a mini version for smaller sockets.

The cost of each light bulb is $99 and is currently available in the US.

UC Davis taps Ginger.io for psychotic illness study by passively using smartphones

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By: Aditi Pai | Mar 10, 2014 in mobihealthnews

UCDavisGingerioUniversity of California Davis’ Early Diagnosis and Preventive Treatment (EDAPT) Clinic is launching a study in partnership with mobile health company Ginger.io. The 12-month study follow 120 young people who are in the early stages of psychotic illness. Only youth who are enrolled in the UC Davis or City of Sacramento (EDAPT) clinics are eligible to participate.

UC Davis received $588,000 from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to fund this study.

All of the children in the study will receive the Ginger.io app that passively collects data from users’ phones including information on their movement throughout the day, call patterns, and texting patterns. Users can also actively record information about how they are feeling each day. If the app senses that something is off with the user, it will automatically notify the user’s family and physician.

This system makes it easier for physicians to gain insights into how a patient is doing on a day-to-day basis and helps users recall information from the week as sessions.

“We are trying to identify the early warning signals that someone is struggling, so we can intervene earlier and hopefully prevent relapse,” Tara Niendam, assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and director of operations for the EDAPT Clinic said in a statement. “If an individual is having a bad week, we can reach out to them quickly, rather than waiting for them to call us or come in to the clinic for their next appointment.”

Niendam added that there were many warning signals that the study could identify. One metric might be whether forgetting a dose of medication could trigger an increase in symptoms or how the number of arguments a user has with family members affects his or her mood.

If study participants do not have smartphones, UC Davis will provide phones via a partnership with T-Mobile USA.

Ginger.io has partnered with multiple other organizations in the past including Sanofi US DiabetesC3N’s IBD Pilot, and UCSF’s Health eHeart initiative.

Ginger.io’s spokesperson Stephanie Wilson told MobiHealthNews in an email that the app is “currently part of the care solutions at Kaiser Permanente and Novant Health and contributes to core research at UCSF, Cincinnati Children’s, and MIT Medical. Ginger.io also recently launched Mood Matters, making the technology directly accessible to people living with depression.”

HOW THE LED ALTERS THE FUTURE

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From March 14 issue of Fast Company by Jon Gertner

 

 

SAFETY
 
Thanks to the customizable nature of LEDs, they can provide better light where it’s needed–­helping pedestrians and drivers navigate sidewalks or twisting roads. 
 
DURABILITY AND EFFICIENCY
 
Unlike incandescent bulbs, LEDs will last decades–many are rated for lives of 20 or 22 years. The bulbs use a fraction of the energy of older technologies, which means they’ll have a profound impact on carbon dioxide emissions. 

CALM AND CONCENTRATION
 
Based on Philips’s research in Europe, LEDs can be set to wavelengths that appear to measurably improve education environments. The lights can boost concentration or alertness, or aid in relaxation.

HEALTH AND WELLNESS
 
Specific light recipes have been shown to speed patient-recovery times in hospitals. Meanwhile, new home medical devices are reaching the market in Europe that utilize intense blue LED lights to ease back pain. 

COMMAND AND CONTROL
 
Due to their digital and connectable nature, LED bulbs–such as Philips’s Hue–can be accessed and controlled from anywhere there’s an Internet connection, via a smartphone app. 

URBAN FARMING
 
In horticulture, plants respond differently to various light wavelengths. Tailoring the output of LEDs for greenhouse growing has already been shown to increase crop yields. 
 
SENSORY INTELLIGENCE
 
LED lights fitted with sensors can automatically know how much illumination is needed, and where it should be directed. The lights will adjust to a crowded party or to a dark ­parking garage. 

TURNABILITY
 
Allowing employees to create personal lighting environments that vary in color and intensity could boost job satisfaction and (quite possibly) productivity.

Improving efficiency: Beer Enters The Internet of Things

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Key Points:
  • A startup is looking to save restaurant staff repeated trips to the cooler to check beer quantities, which can be an especially onerous task for large establishment.
  • SteadyServ will help save time and reduce over-ordering compared to the traditional “shake the keg” method.
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Wall Street Journal
February 21, 2014

Strange Brew: Beer Enters The Internet of Things

A startup is looking to save restaurant staff repeated trips to the cooler to check beer quantities, which can be an especially onerous task for large establishments where it’s not uncommon to have 30 or more barrels of brew. SteadyServ Technologies LLC outfits kegs with sensors that monitor beer levels and let managers know when it’s time to tap a fresh keg.

The Indianapolis-based startup is an early mover in the so-called Internet of Things, which refers to the idea of embedding Internet-connected sensors in everyday objects.

Although still in early stages, the Internet of Things will generate more than $300 billion in revenues by 2020, according to researcher Gartner Inc. SteadyServ is looking to tap a niche of this potentially huge market — The Internet of Beer.

With roughly 200 million kegs sold in the U.S. each year, “draft beer is insanely profitable,” said CEO Steve Hershberger, who in 2009 co-founded Indianapolis’ Flat 12 Bierwerks. But figuring how much beer is left in a keg is a tedious, manual process. Typically, managers will go to the beer cooler, often located in a “beer cage” in the basement, and begin shaking kegs to estimate how much beer is left. They write down estimates, such as 30% or 40%, for each container. They tally their beer inventory and place their order via phone or with a sales person making his rounds.

To automate this process, SteadyServ created the iKeg sensor, which resides in a round metal disk that restaurant managers place at the bottom of each keg. IKeg monitors the weight of the keg to within a few pints, tracks the date and time, and sends this data wirelessly to SteadyServ’s inventory management software, hosted by Amazon.com Inc.’s Web Services.

SteadyServ pushes a summary of that information to an application on the customers’ iOS or Android mobile device or PC. The summary includes pie charts that display most popular and least popular brews, beer depletion rates over time, and other information to help customers keep tabs on their inventory. Customers can also use the app to replenish inventory from distributors who use SteadyServ.

SteadyServ is emerging from beta this month. But for about a year, Ryan Kellerman, director of beverage hospitality at A Pots & Pans Production, an Indianapolis-based restaurant management company, said SteadyServ has helped him save time and reduce over-ordering at two of the six Scotty’s Brewhouses that the company manages. He said that he previously had about $2,000 worth of excess draft beer on a weekly basis — thanks to the traditional “shake the keg” method. SteadyServ’s accuracy enables him to purchase just what he needs. “It’s helped us control our inventory levels tremendously,” Mr. Kellerman said. Eventually, he plans to add the service to the remaining four brewhouses.

Although SteadyServ is just becoming broadly available, the company is preparing to put something new on tap in a few months: integrating with point-of-sale systems. Mr. Hershberger said this service will enable SteadyServ to calculate how much customers are spending on beer, and provide customers real-time insight into whether they are under or over-ordering certain beer brands. “We’ll be able to give you all of the intelligence on, and manage, inventory across all of your distributors,” said Mr. Hershberger.

SteadyServ also automatically sends messages to social media feeds of bars and restaurants. Customers who follow those establishments on FacebookFB -1.49% and TwitterTWTR -1.25% will see status updates telling them  that they’d “better hurry in because there are only 14 pints left” of a certain draft beer, he said.

Virgin Atlantic first in world to use Google Glass

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Key Points:

  • Virgin Atlantic, is the first in the industry to test how the latest wearable technology, including Google Glass, can best be used to enhance customers’ travel experiences and improve efficiency.
  • Passengers are greeted by name and Virgin Atlantic staff wearing the technology will start the check-in process.
  • At the same time, staff will be able to update passengers on their latest flight information, weather and local events at their destination and translate any foreign language information.
  • In future, the technology could also tell Virgin Atlantic staff their passengers’ dietary and refreshment preferences – anything that provides a better and more personalized service.

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Virgin atlantic first in world to use Google Glass

Breaking Travel News February 12, 2014

Virgin Atlantic passengers will be the first air travellers to experience the benefits of pioneering Google Glass and Sony Smartwatch technology as they arrive at London Heathrow airport, in an innovative pilot scheme which starts today.

Concierge staff in the airline’s Upper Class Wing will be using wearable technology to deliver the industry’s most high tech and personalised customer service yet.

The cutting-edge technology is being introduced as Virgin Atlantic publishes the results of a major study of 10,000 airline passengers from across the world on the future of air travel.

The results show that as the number of people travelling by plane has sky-rocketed in recent decades, the experience has lessened.

Virgin Atlantic is joining with passengers and calling on the industry to introduce more innovations and radical fresh thinking to meet sky-high consumer expectations.

Virgin Atlantic, in collaboration with air transport IT specialist SITA, is the first in the industry to test how the latest wearable technology, including Google Glass, can best be used to enhance customers’ travel experiences and improve efficiency.

From the minute Upper Class passengers step out of their chauffeured limousine at Heathrow’s T3 and are greeted by name, Virgin Atlantic staff wearing the technology will start the check-in process.

At the same time, staff will be able to update passengers on their latest flight information, weather and local events at their destination and translate any foreign language information.

In future, the technology could also tell Virgin Atlantic staff their passengers’ dietary and refreshment preferences – anything that provides a better and more personalized service.

During the six-week pilot, the benefits to consumers and the business will be evaluated ahead of a potential wider roll-out in the future.

Virgin Atlantic’s new solution replaces an existing process for serving passengers traveling in the Upper Class Wing, the airline’s premium entrance at Heathrow dedicated to Upper Class passengers.

Airline staff are equipped with either Google Glass or a Sony SmartWatch 2, which is integrated to both a purpose-built dispatch app built by SITA and the Virgin Atlantic passenger service system.

The dispatch app manages all task allocation and concierge availability.

It pushes individual passenger information directly to the assigned concierge’s smart glasses or watch just as the passenger arrives at the Upper Class Wing.

Dave Bulman, director of IT, Virgin Atlantic, said: “While it’s fantastic that more people can now fly than ever before, the fact that air travel has become so accessible has led to some of the sheen being lost for many passengers.

“Our wearable technology pilot with SITA makes us the first in the industry to test how Google Glass and other wearable technology can improve the customer experience.

“We are upholding Virgin Atlantic’s long tradition of shaking things up and putting innovation at the heart of the flying experience.”

Virgin Atlantic continues to push the boundaries with other technological advancements with SITA, including testing iBeacon with its Upper Class passengers at Heathrow, a new low-powered Bluetooth transmitter that can notify nearby iOS Apple devices of nearby services, discounts and updates on their flight boarding schedules.

In addition, Virgin Atlantic’s newly enhanced mobile site means passengers will be able to book flights, check in online and check their flight status on the move, while also having access to the vast range of information on the main website, including destination and airport guides as well as details of baggage allowances and much more.

6 Promising Medical Applications of 3-D Printing

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Posted in Printing Services by Brian Buntz on December 11, 2013

Additive manufacturing, more commonly called 3-D printing, can be used to make everything from surgical guides and medical device prototypes to batteries.

Some of the most inspiring applications of the technology, however, can be found in new applications of the technology to treat previously unmet clinical needs.

 

1. Printing Tissue. The manufacturing process involves creating a object or objects through a machine that adds successive layers of materials (the “ink” of 3-D printing), versus the more traditional methods of using molding and machining. 3-D printing has shown promise in the area of creating tissue and organs, with ink comprised of living cells.

Check out this demonstration video from Cornell University about 3-D printing a human ear:

2. Prosthetics. Among the medical applications of 3-D printing that has seen the most progress is its use to product custom prosthetic limbs. One of biggest problems with traditional prosthetics is that they often don’t perfectly fit patients’ limbs. The ability of 3-D printing to make objects of practically any shape, using specifications from a computer program, solves this issue.

One of the most touching examples of how 3-D printing has shifted the standard of care can be found in the case of Emma, a young child who had been diagnosed with a condition known as arthrogryposis, which prevented her from lifting her arms. At birth, Emma was only capabple of moving her thumb and had trouble learning how to walk.

To help Emma, researchers Tariq Rahman and Whitney Sample of Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children used 3-D printing to create a custom exoskeleton. 3-D printed using ABS plastic on a Stratasys system, the exoskeleton enabled Emma to gain control over her arms. The researchers were able to produce a series of exoskeletons to fit Emma as she grew. At the age of four, Emma referred to the exoskeleton as her “magic arms.”

3. Custom Exoskeletons. 3-D printing is also well suited to making customized prosthetic hands. Recently, CBS aired a segment featuring a 12-year-old with a bright new prosthetic hand capable of grabbing and holding objects. The boy’s father reached out to a mechanical-hand innovator named Ivan Owen, who had previously used 3-D printing to develop a custom prosthetic for a child. The first time the 12-year old used the hand was, in the child’s words, “pretty awesome.” The end result was the fraction of a cost of traditional prosthetics.

4. Personalized Airway Splint. 3-D printing has also proved lifesaving in the case of a baby named Kaiba Gionfriddo who had difficulty breathing. As a six-week old, Kaiba would turn blue after stopping breathing. Doctors gave him a small chance of surviving.

University of Michigan researchers were able to save his life by developing a custom airway splint to replace Kaiba’s crushed windpipe. A CT scan enabled the team to design the device.

5. Bone Scaffolds. It even has potential to produce bone-like implants for reconstructive surgery that then act as scaffolds for real bone cells, which multiply and take over the implant as real bone as the implant dissolves away. A British company known as Oxford Performance Materials has even developed a product known as Osteofab that was used earlier in the year to replace 75% of U.S. patient’s skull. The product has received 510(k) clearance from the FDA.

6. Cardiac Models. 3-D printing is also helping designers better envision the parts of the body they are building devices for.

It can be used to produce extremely accurate models for cardiovascular applications, as in the case of the HeartPrint service from Materialise. Traditionally, engineers have used blown glass for rigid parts or silicone for compliant models, which offer limited accuracy. The HeartPrint service makes use of CT or MRI data to create realistic models. “It allows you to take medical image data and select different regions of the body, whether be soft tissue or bone, and create accurate 3D representations from it,” said Peter Verschueren, global cardiovascular business development manager at Materialise (Brussels, Belgium) in an interview with MPMN.

The HeartPrint 3-D printing service from Materialise enables engineers to do benchtop testing on cardic new devices. Shown here is a 3-D printed model of the heart.
The HeartPrint 3-D printing service from Materialise enables engineers to do benchtop testing on cardiac new devices. Shown here is a 3-D printed model of the heart.

Brian Buntz is the editor-in-chief of MPMN. Follow him on Twitter at @brian_buntz and Google+.

What a smart city of the future will look like? Learn 7 trends in urban living for 2014

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By in Popsop

Cities are gradually evolving into more personalized spaces, allowing citizens to organize their life in the most sustainable way. Originally being areas for masses, cities are shifting towards focusing on individuals—their intellectual and physical needs, their passions, social and environmental views and aspirations.

Within the past year, there have been two major trends in re-arranging urban life: on the one hand, cities tend to be eco-friendly and more comfortable; on the other hand, the urban environment integrates technology for communal living, thus gets more tech-oriented and somewhat futuristic.

Find some most vibrant trends in urban living that will gain momentum in 2014, below.

1. Expanded interiors revolutionize homes

Along with the opportunity to expand—from the professional and creative points of view,—cities also make its dwellers “shrink”—in terms of living space. In megalopolises, most people buy or rent smaller apartments comparing to the ones they would have in towns and villages, so they need smarter solutions to store goods and arrange furniture to accommodate various occasions. Nowadays, our homes can “breath,” deliver essential purification, help cook, etc.

urban_living_01

Left to right: 1. OpenDesk furniture, 2. the Apostrophy’s concept flat, 3. the Alreria project in France (click to enlarge)

  • Rethinking traditional furniture. The “Make small spaces big” message, the tagline of 2013’s IKEA campaign in the UK, epitomizes the endeavors of architects and designers. The Swedish retailer shared its “home with home for everything” tips on the dedicated page. The pop-up furniture trend has been growing this year with the fabric Level Wall Shelf that adjusts to the weight on it, Fusillo bookshelf that features adjustable wooden elements, and a bed by Italian furniture makers Espace Loggia that can elevate itself to the ceiling to provide extra space. Mirror furniture may also be a solution for small spaces—the pieces merge into the settings and don’t “overload” the interiors. Augmented reality pieces can add a story to the interiors, just like TexTales children’s bed sheets do. 3D-printing is also the part of interior design’s future—soon, we won’t need to select ready-made piece as we would probably be able to create them at home with a 3D-printer. ”Do-it-yourself” furniture kits come as a current alternative to the futuristic 3D printing. OpenDesk now allows to download digital files for free to be then fed into a CNC machine that produces raw pieces of wood to be finished and assembled into a ready-to-use furniture piece.
  • Restructuring the house. The traditional forms of the house or apartment are all yesterday—today designers are searching for the new ways of managing square meters of the walls, windows and ceiling. The Apostrophy’s concept is exploring the multi-levelness of the space—the living areas are separated by levels, and the floors allow to use the podiums for storage. The era of affordable mini-housing may be also coming or rather returning, as this trend used to flourish in Japan. The creators of Nomad Micro Home kits that are easily assembled and cost as little as $30,000, are now looking for external funding through the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo.
  • Going beyond the living space. The outside space means a lot. Smart architecture house projects are as important as smart interior designs. Turning the multi-unit house in a piece of art and a source of joy, the Alreria project in France featured multiple colored panels all across the social housing building to add more color to the sunlight going inside the apartments. The project aims to boost the mood of the residents with color therapy.

What to expect: The interior and exterior designs of the houses will revolutionize dramatically over the next few years with the launch of affordable 3D-printers. Most probably, furniture retailers, like IKEA, will make a step from selling pieces to be assembled at home to selling materials and files for producing pieces in 3D-printing machines on spot. We may probably get smarter adaptive sofas, moving ceilings and noise-absorbing blinds and wallpapers (the two last ideas have been already realized with Feltone and Form Us With Love wool wood hexagons).    

2. Internet of things serves domestic needs

Production is not the only area where the industry of furniture and home appliances will see dramatic change. Home objects, ranging from coffee tables to window panes, are likely to feature digital sensors, connected with desktops and tablets to add new functions to ordinary things.

urban_living_02

Lapka (upper left) ; EggMinder (upper right); Canary (lower left); Sprav (lower right) (click to enlarge)

  • Smart sensitive Internet-based features. Special devices are now created that measure and regulate the intensity of light and noise. For instance, the AirBoxLab device, which has the app and a cylinder sensor element, measures and reports on the temperature and relative humidity as well as on the levels of VOC, CO2, CO in the air. The Lapka kit is similar to the previous product—it works as a personal environmental monitor that measures and reports on radiation, nitrates in raw products, electromagnetic fields (EMF), as well as the temperature and relative humidity. It also compares the results with the guidelines for certain environments. The Sono device, that sticks to the window and helps turn the street noise in the flat into more pleasurable sounds, is designed to work without apps and is not web-connected yet. The device, which is in the concept stage at the moment, makes a window shake slightly in the way that drives down the vibrations of the ambient noise and adds nice sounds to create a relaxed atmosphere. Design student Tashia Tucker has suggested a range of applications that use the power of microorganisms in interiors. For instance, they can remove dirt and dust from the surfaces and also warn people of hazardous chemicals in the air.
  • Cooking & eating experience improved with tech. Sensors and applications can also help people eat healthier. EggMinder by Quirky and GE is a smart egg tray that keeps track of how many eggs left in the fridge, and also detects stale eggs—owners get this information on their smartphone. Range is an app that captures and processes information sent by special sticks, inserted into a variety of foods during cooking.
  • Security enhanced with tiny devices. Along with tidiness, quietness and perfectly cooked meals, we also want safety at home. Canary, the Wi-Fi connected multi-sensor, checks what’s going on in the rooms while the house owner is out through a wide-angle lens, sensitive microphone, accelerometer and motion detector (more traditional humidity and air condition sensors are also there). The device sends alert messages to the house’s owner if something seems to be going wrong in there. It pulled in about $2 million instead of requested $100,000 in just a month on Indiegogo. The Spotter by Quirky and GE, a sensor pack that analyzes a variety of physical conditions in the room—temperature, humidity, vibration, light and sound— can be programmed to deliver scheduled messages to a smartphone, reporting on the current state of appliances and other things in the room, to your mobile device.
  • Inspiring smart consumption. Smart homes are enabled to adjust heat, water and electricity consumption to our habits, and also warn us when we overconsume. The Netatmo thermostat is designed to control the heating system at home remotely through an app, setting the comfortable temperature according to the user’s activities and habits. Sprav, a wireless meter, gets attached to a tap to measure water and energy consumption during showers. The device provides visual and audio feedback to let users balance their water and energy consumption and reduce shower costs by 10-20% per year. Shared consumption may also come as a solution to home-related spending—in its “Families of the future” study Dragon Rouge predicts that in the coming decades single-parent families will also share living/dining and kitchen spaces (Tandem Tribes), all to reduce their environmental impact.

What to expect: Modern homes are getting more connected and enhanced with technology. There will be chairs that measure weight and send diet recommendations, scanners that detect freshness of the food, and more.

3. Tamed nature amid urban jungles

We’re entering the era of letting more nature into our lives with the help of technology. Home and on-building gardens, smart tiny farms, solar panels—this all is gaining momentum now.

urban_living_trends_2013_03

Left to right: 1. Window Socket, 2. Farm 432, 3. Sealeaf (click to enlarge)

  • Solar batteries for homes. IKEA UK has started selling solar panels to individuals this year. Solar energy can also be used at home for one-purpose tasks like charging a phone. This idea was implemented in Window Socket that gets mounted onto a window pane to accumulate solar energy. At 1, 000 mAh, it can provide 10 hours of power and it takes 5-8 hours to fully charge.
  • Home farms grow smart. While farming in a flat sounds like a dream that can never come true, insect mini-farms change the perspective. Being a great natural source of protein, insects are easy to grow at home as a nutritious alternative to veal and chicken. Farm 432 is a table-top prototype vessel for growing black soldier fly larvae, which contains up to 42% of protein. The LEPSIS terrarium lets breed grasshoppers at home for the same cooking purposes.
  • Smart gardening in the city. As most city gardens are restricted on space, the smart floating garden Sealeaf is grown in the sea instead of land. This is a modular hydroponic floating agricultural system developed for urban coastal aquatic areas. The unit collects rainwater, uses solar energy and regulates the environment of the plants that are grown in it. While horizontal surfaces are already used, vertical square meters are waiting to get “hacked.” On-wall gardens are gaining momentum now as a new way to use the city’s surfaces wisely—in 2013, Bosco Vericale in Milano, the first vertical forest, has entered the final stage of completion (it will be officially revealed in 2014) and London’s largest living wall was constructed on The Rubens Hotel wall, to name a few.

What to expect: Sustainable cities let the nature in. Home gardening and growing food at home will allow people to reconnect with nature and cut down expenses on food. Solar panels will be as ubiquitous as electric devices. Each empty space will get its permanent or pop-up gardens on the walls, beneath the ground, between floors—to purify the environment and make it feel more natural.

 4. Reimagining urban furniture

Streets are gradually unlocking big potential for expressing thoughts and channeling innovative ideas. With the popularity of pop-up street venues, multifunctional city-furniture or urban micro-gardens, the outdoor public environment is getting more comfortable, smarter and better organized.

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Left to right: 1. Seat-e, 2. WaterBench, 3. IBM outdoor ads (click to enlarge)

  • Always powered, always on. With so many electrical devices around us—from phones to electric vehicles,—essential charging pods should be seamlessly integrated into the urban canvas. There are more and more benches now that accumulate solar power to let people charge mobile phones—for instance, the Seat-e benches installed in Boston recently. The Street Charge solar-powered plates can be attached to any street sign to enable pedestrians charge their phones—the concept was tested in NYC from early summer through October, supported by AT&T that partnered with solar power company Goal Zero and Pensa Design, the developers of the concept. With electric car industry making waves now, the problem of charging arises—the HEVO Power manhole-cover-size pods could charge cars as they park. The concept plates are to be tested in NYC.
  • Sustainable urban furniture. Conventional benches for sitting or billboards for viewing are already yesterday—designers are offering new ways to make these pieces smarter. The rainwater collecting park bench, unveiled as part of the BMW Guggenheim Lab project, provides perfect seating while collecting rainwater to further irrigate smaller gardens.To inspire books and magazines sharing, Amsterdam-based design studio Pivot Creative developed red metal clips that get attached to traditional park benches so that it would be easier to place reading materials under them.
  • Outdoor ads evolve into smart installation for people’s comfort. IBM curved its traditional metal outdoor ads a bit to transform them into a bench, a shelter and a rampA billboard in Peru, designed by students of UTEC and Mayo DraftDCB, could extract water from the air—the world’s first billboard of this kind produced potable water by sourcing it from the atmospheric humidity. The project provided residents of Lima with up to 96 liters of clean drinking water out of air with humidity of 98%—the water was stored in reserve tanks in the bottom of the sign.

What to expect: Cities are now hacked and improved, responding to human needs with every single element. The city of the future will probably feature charging stations embedded in signs, bus shelters, walls and phone booths. There will also be smart bins that automatically sort waste, compress and even recycle it on the initial stage.

5. Lighting up the city

Energy-consuming city lighting is getting more sustainable with the use of renewable energy sources.

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Left to right: 1.Glowig plant, 2. Starpath, 3. LumiMotion (click to enlarge)

  • Making objects glow. Providing everyday objects with illuminating capabilities may come as an alternative to energy-powered city lighting. Making genetically-modified trees to act as illumination tools may be a solution. The “Glowing Plant” project uses synthetic biology to embed bio-luminescent genes extracted from fireflies and bacteria into plants to make them illuminate homes and streets.
  • Solar power for illuminating cities at night. The UK-based company ProTeq Lighting is introducing a new technology, Starpath, for creating self-illuminating paths—the coating of the paths absorbs sunlight during the day time and emits light when it goes dark.The unique Onyx Solar’s solar panel pavement installed at George Washington University captures “sun beams” to power LED lights beneath the pavement.
  • Lighting that adjusts to motion. Philips’ LumiMotion is an intelligent lamp that senses the activity around it and adjusts the lighting to a maximum level when there is motion within its area of reach, and takes the lighting down when it detects no activity. This helps save up to 80% energy costs, while providing 100% safety on the streets.

What to expect: The most promising trend here is the accumulating solar power to use it in the illumination systems—most of city lights of the future are sure to be based on this approach. Lights will also become smarter and glow bright only when an object, moving along the path, is detected—to save energy and ensure safety.

6. City exploration

With so many travel apps available today, city exploration turns into an engaging and benefitting experience. Developers are creating more ways to reward people for getting around the town, especially on foot, and unlocking new spaces.

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Left to right: 1.Walk [Your City] signs, 2. KLM maps, 3. GE Wonderground (click to enlarge)

  • Walk the city to be fit and know the area better. The special Walk [Your City] signs indicate how distant particular locations are, in minutes of walk. Pedestrian are encouraged to walk, not cycle or ride, to a place of interest to build a stronger sense of community and inspire city exploration. Nike released a map of London with walkable routes—people are encouraged to cover the distances and collect NikeFuel points at the same time. Hamburg is to create a green network that will cover 40% of the city area and allow to explore it by walking or cycling. The car-free lanes will be linked to parks and playgrounds and allow to get from the city center to suburbs in an eco-friendly way. The plan will be fully realized in 15 to 20 years.
  • Collective creativity for creating maps. KLM asked travelers to build personalized maps by inviting friends to add their favorite locations and landmarks to it. The airline company then printed out the map and sent it out to customers.
  • Gamification of the city exploration. GE launched its GE Wonderground project to encourage exploration of science-related facts about key locations in five major cities of the USA—Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco. The online game invited to unlock discoveries about the locations, inspiring people to visit the cities after the game and see the tech wonders with their own eyes. Nathan Pyle created an album of valuable and fun animated tips for the newcomers to NYC.

What to expect: With so many technologies shaping cities now, they turn into real wonderlands offering immersive and engaging experiences. Walkability of urban areas will be one of the top priorities for city planning in the coming years.

7. Minimizing the impact of natural disasters

Tomorrow’s cities are to be improved not only with ergonomics and comfort in mind, they also must be disaster-proof. It comes down to constructing buildings resistant to natural disasters and smart urban planning, however, there are less complicated but still valuable smaller solutions to this problem.

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Left to right: 1. Google’s Project Loon, 2. EDV-01, 3. Town Square Initiative: New York (click to enlarge)

  • Connection 24/7/365. Being online is crucial during emergencies as many people can receive help from themed relief communities. Google introduced its Project Loon that uses high up balloons to give access to Wi-Fi to people in remote places in times of disasters or just in poor regions. The project is soon to enter the second phase after testing the baloons in certain parts of the globe. The Mipwr Dynamo iPhone case allows to charge the phone manually—it takes just one minute to power the device by pumping the push lever.
  • Temporal housing. Modular housing is believed to be a solution for those who want to get their new homes fast. Houses created in shipping containers may work here—the EDV-01 project is one of them. It is a self-contained two-storeyed shelter that needs no supplementary electricity and can be easily transported and used autonomously. It has a bathroom, cooking and sleeping space and has pre-installed solar panels, hydrogren fuel cells as well as a lithium battery for energy storage. Airbnb launched its “Disaster Response” service on its platform to connect hosts with people who need urgent accommodations.
  • Disaster-resistant urban planning.   The “Town Square Initiative: New York” city project developed by the global design firm Gensler re-imagine unused (leftover and filler) city space, creating resilient and sustainable communities that will also provide alternative energy in the times of natural disasters. These helpful hubs will be used for collecting solar power, rainwater, and for waste composting.

What to expect: To survive in natural disasters, cities will have to develop new ways of energy sourcing and distribution, to enhance draining systems and create purification systems for contaminated air, water or soil. The concepts of cheap modular homes for hurricane or earthquake victims will be developing in the coming years. They will focus on autonomous small dwelling units that have all the essentials a person may need during several weeks. Devices that purify, clean, 3D-print and restore things within this space will be a must.

In the coming years, urbanization will require building new generation of smart houses efficient in terms of space planning, sustainable materials and clean energy sources. Self-sustained dwelling, alternative food cultivated in the kitchen, autonomous power grids, water purification systems— all these areas will be further enhanced with technology. Rational use of the city space will also be trending—multi-level sites, self-illuminating pavements, city furniture accumulating sunlight and water will be the elements of the smart city of tomorrow.