Read for Later: Smart Buildings, Access to a Changing Internet, and the Future of Public Spaces, Restaurants, and Retail

This is the second in a series of posts sharing what I'm reading to help me think about the future - and hopefully to hear back about what you are reading now to help think about later. Check out the Center's trend collection to see how this scanning comes together to identify trends relevant to our future work.

Assorted Interests

  • Amsterdam’s The Edge utilizes 28,000 sensors and connects to a smartphone app to understand office worker’s schedules, space needs for the day and hour-by-hour, and light and temperature preferences, creating an efficient working environment and the world's most sustainable office building  
  • Andrew Marcinek will work in the US Department of Education’s Office of Education Technology and help K-12 and Higher Ed learn about open educational resources (OER)
  • Kickstarter is restructuring as a public benefit, legally binding itself to finance the endeavors of the creators who use it as a platform and creating responsibility for the projects that end up under-delivering on campaign promises
  • Ideas for the future office - modular smart energy strips helping offices monitor collective and individual energy consumption; a meeting timer that provides clues using different lighting effects to inform attendees of how much time has passed; a connected pen that syncs up to mobile devices to provide subtle email and text alerts that would eliminate the need to disruptively pull out a phone in the middle of a conversation
  • Blockchain technology, best known for the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, is a hyper-secure record of digital events that is distributed among many different computers. The blockchain can only be updated by consensus of a majority of the participants in the system, and once information has been entered, it can never be erased
  • Potential for blockchain technology in other sectors – in art authentication, preventing forgeries and preserving the chain of title in a work; verifying high-value goods and combating knock-offs; preventing counterfeit drugs from entering the market and harming patients 
  • The future of money will be mobile, faster in execution and settlement, and yet as heavily dependent on trust as ever (unlikely to be a cash-less world in this century)

Big Data

  • While many companies move into big data there is still a significant challenge in taking the growing body of unstructured data, data that isn’t stored in a database, and making sense of it
  • Access to data, without the means of understanding and processing that data — such as good documentation suite, self-service tools, and software development kits — the value of the original access is lost
  • Horror director Eli Roth is using heavy data mining and targeted marketing to identify the optimal market for his new film

Books, Publishing, and Media

  • Analyzing user data, Netflix found that there tends to be an early episode in each series that leads to a strong chance of people coming back to finish the season
  • The Association of American Publishers says e-book sales slumped about 10 percent in the first five months of 2015 – a possible sign that more people are returning to printed books or are hybrid readers
  •  Psychologists David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano have proved that reading literary fiction enhances the ability to detect and understand other people's emotions, a crucial skill in navigating complex social relationships.
  • YouTube appears to be finalizing launch plans for subscription service, as early as October, that will bundle two different services – an update of its music service and a service that will give users the ability to watch anything on YouTube without seeing ads
  • Easy-to-use live video broadcasting helps share breaking news situations and angles that were never previously available
  • By involving the general public in the news curation and creation process, media companies are able to build stronger engagement with their audience and generate value through a broader and more flexible mobile news gathering infrastructure
  • The Washington Post announced that it will publish "100% of its stories" to Facebook as Instant Articles, while, as of June, The New York Times was only ready to publish about 30 stories a day on Facebook
  • One of the major players in the e-book subscription space along with Scribd and Amazon, Oyster will sunset service over the next few months with most of its team joining Google to work on Google Play bookstore
  • “We believe more than ever that the phone will be the primary reading device globally over the next decade—enabling access to knowledge and stories for billions of people worldwide.”


  • “From a technical point of view, we can do it, [but] it will take regulatory and cultural changes,” says Helen Greiner of CyPhy Works, which seeks to expand its presence among public services – police, fire fighters, and more


  • High tech materials, sensor networks, new science, and better data are all letting architects, designers, and planners work smarter and more precisely, in places like Los Angeles, Shanghai (features the Shanghai Natural History Museum), Medellín (features library-parks), Eindhoven, Mecca, Nairobi, San Francisco (features co-working spaces), and Dubai


  • 3D Touch is being touted as a key feature of iPhone 6s, but a key feature for the future of touchscreen could be something from Apple Watch and MacBook trackpads: the Taptic Engine, a tiny motorized actuator that provides haptic feedback – subtle tactile sensations, such as vibration, which are detected by your sense of touch


  • With 57% of people in the world offline, and unable to reap the socio-economic advantages provided by the internet, a UN report confirms that the prerequisite training, education, and languages must be available before equal access to the internet becomes a reality for all.
  • The internet has moved from a deep system to search into a system that pulls personalized, ambient information to a single layer we skim – and the next era will be a time where ubiquitous connectivity, and universal digitization, presentation, and aggregation take place in parallel and cross-pollinate to produce an entirely new web experience
  • As a result of the Broadband Opportunity Council's first report on expanding access to high-speed internet, twenty federal agencies are overhauling their policies to promote the deployment of broadband internet across the US

Robots and AI

  • It’s not just that threat that AI and robots will become smarter than us, but also the threat of their use as weapons and their effect on the satisfaction we get from work 
  • AI tool Clara helps coordinate meetings via email and generally manages your online calendar,  “powered by machine intelligence and trained by executive assistants”

Spaces, Retail, and Restaurants

  • The vision for The LowLine, in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, which would carve a park from an underutilized corner of below ground transit infrastructure, is an innovative solution to a persistent problem: community parks are a public good, but many neighborhoods are severely lacking in green space
  • Scout, a three-person “collective of young enthusiastic urban designers,” is re-developing a three-hundred-and-forty-thousand-square-foot former public school with a first offering of, Le Bok Fin, a “members only” pop-up gastropub on the school’s roof
  • In March, Scout won $157,000 from the Knight Foundation to turn Bok into “South Philly’s Stoop,” which will “include a community stoop, a new bus shelter, a bike pump and repair station and a new-and-improved dog park.” 
  • Eatsa, hailed as the “restaurant of the future,” has no servers (customers order via an iPad and pay with a credit or debit card, which helps keep track of ordering history), no visible kitchen staff, and only a front-of-house “concierge” who is available if something goes wrong
  • New concept brings Apple closer to luxury lifestyle brand - space is adorned with a row of potted trees; merchandise areas feel like fashion retail; iconic wood tables and cases are merchandised with cabinet-like drawers; and product content displays on a large screen for passers-by

Virtual Reality

  • As part of Facebook’s move toward more vivid content, virtual reality will help bring 360 video from Saturday Night Live, Star Wars, Vice, and the Discovery Channel