A podcast episode from The Flow of Urban Life


Technology has long faced scrutiny for its negative effects on our well-being. But what if it could help us connect with our surroundings on a deeper level?

We speak to Anders Sörman-Nilsson, a Swedish-Australian futurist, about how the digital and connected world could change our lives. Anders is an awarded keynote speaker, who helps leaders decode trends and decipher what’s next. His futurist thinking has been shared by the likes of Wall Street Journal, Financial Review, Monocle, BBC, Esquire and ABC TV.

Together with our host Sam Hughes, Anders unravels some of the trends that could change our cities.

Rebuilding trust in public spaces

In response to the pandemic, Anders explains that people are buying cars more than ever before because people want a private, safe space to commute. Anders believes we need to think about how to improve people flow in a smarter way, especially as city populations continue to grow.

“There will be a bit of a time lag before we start trusting public transport. I think we’ll sooner start trusting our buildings where we go to work, to know our organization is looking after us in terms of biometrically letting us into the building, or the safe navigation in buildings as well.”

It’s up to governments and organizations to rebuild trust in our cities through the redesign of public spaces.

Creating human-centric digital experiences

Anders explains how we’re moving away from a dialogue between a brand and the consumer, towards a trialogue between brand, object, and consumer. This new type of communication can have very human-centric consequences.

“Oftentimes there’s this idea that the ‘digital’ is digitally de-humanized. But when smart designers get together to design physical spaces in a seamless fashion, they can be very empathetic and human-centric.”

Smart parking solutions are a great example of this. In some cities, up to 30% of traffic comes from people looking for parking spots. Imagine if you could pre-book a parking spot or see a heat map of parking availability ahead of your journey? By introducing human-centric solutions through digital interfaces, we can reduce traffic in cities, make journeys frictionless and free up time spent on mundane tasks.

Transforming the office into a hub for collaboration

Anders believes there will be a pent-up demand to get back into place-making once the pandemic is over. As work-from-anywhere becomes mainstream, employees who choose to come into the office will expect transformational office experiences. By reframing communal spaces to facilitate collaboration, our offices will become a place for more meaningful encounters with co-workers.

Retrofitting smart technology for sustainability

Do all cities have the potential to be smart? Anders believes there’s always space for retrofitting smart technology.

“There are so many possibilities for retrofitting buildings. We’ll soon have drones landing on high-rise buildings retrofitted with landing pads to enable drone delivery.”

By retrofitting smart technology onto old buildings, cities can step up to smarter, more sustainable choices. Anders explains how rooftop farms will become the norm. We’re seeing hyper-localized high-tech vertical farms that use 1% of the amount of water a horizontal farm would. City-based vertical farms reduce the CO2 emissions associated with the food miles of traditional production.

The big idea

Our relationship to the digital world is changing. Connectivity can help us rebuild trust in our physical world with touchless journeys and predictive environments that respond to our every need. By improving our physical environment, connectivity can give people more of what they need to thrive – ultimately helping us build healthier, smarter, more sustainable cities.

Connected Cities: Predicted Trends – KONE Corporation

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