The rise of the automobile fundamentally changed the way that we live in our cities. Urban cores were hollowed out as suburbs were built further afield. Today, more than any other time in the last 50 years, new innovations are challenging the way we currently interact with each other and our cities.
Below are 3 innovations that are driving that change.
Though this isn’t a technological innovation, it is an innovation in the way we are thinking. New Urbanism is a movement that promotes environmentally friendly habits by creating walkable neighborhoods filled with mixed use buildings for both living and shopping. We call it new urbanism, but it harks back to the old street car neighborhoods developed in the 19th century before the rise of the automobile. At it’s core, New Urbanism is about creating a closer connection between us, our environment and our communities by providing walkable cities, more transportation options and shared green spaces. It informs the way that we are beginning to build and redevelop our cities.
The US, more than countries in Europe, is dominated by the personal automobile. It has informed the way we build our cities and live our lives. Most families own at least 2 cars which require car payments, insurance, gasoline, maintenance etc. However, there are new alternative forms of transportation that are challenging the assumption that each family must own several cars to accomplish what they need in a day.
One way things are changing are through the rise of ride hailing apps such as Uber. They allow you to have on demand transportation, where you pay only for the rides you take. This is challenging both the taxi industry (where many cities have monopolies) and the idea of car ownership itself. Ride hailing apps have proven to be quicker and more cost effective than traditional taxis.
Another change is the concept of Mobility as a Service or MaaS. Think of this as Netflix for transportation. You pay a monthly fee, which is cheaper than the cost of owning a car, and you have access to multiple transportation options such as public transportation, bike sharing and car rental. Companies such as MaaS Global are leading the way in Europe.
Internet of Things (IoT)
Gartner is expecting 6.4 billion “things” to be connected in 2016, which is up 30% over 2015. With the cost of sensors dropping to an average of 60 cents per unit, this allows the idea of the smart city to come to life.
According to wikipedia “The goal of building a smart city is to improve quality of life by using urban informatics and technology to improve the efficiency of services and meet residents’ needs.”
Imagine streets that alert governments when there is a pot hole to be fixed, traffic signals where green lights are maximized using data crunched by a super computer, street lights that sense when more or less light is needed (saving on energy costs)…. The list goes on and on and the innovation potential is endless.
One way we can see this on a more personal basis is in Amazon Alexa Smart Home. You can link Alexa to other connected devices in your home enabling voice commands for things such as lights and thermostats. Think Stratrek and Minority Report, but it’s happening today!
Not only are these innovations changing how we interact with our cities, but they’re also creating new business potential. It’s estimated that $6 trillion will be invested in IoT in the next 5 years, with a 2025 ROI of $13 Trillion. The pace and scale of these innovations is incredible. The good news is that we are the ones who benefit!