Archive: November 2012

November 23rd, 2012 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Cities | Comments Off

Millennial City: How a new generation can save the future, Ch. 8-3

This book, Millennial City is being released first as a serial blog. The book is a collaboration with Dennis Walsh and this blog is Part 3 of Chapter 8. We will publish Millennial City as an e-book when the serialization is completed. The book grew out of conversations that Dennis and I have had about the future of cities, sustainability, and the millennial generation. We think that these three domains, if you will, are coming together to create a new future – and just in time we hope.

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CHAPTER Eight – Part 3
by Dennis Walsh and Glen Hiemstra

Americans are ready to be inspired.

Straight up: While not all cities are created equal, great competition should bring out the best in them. More than ever cities are watching technology trends. Technology is moving fast. That’s inspiring.

Geospatial visualization of data and the integration of mobile devices is coming. Some cities have already created real-time applications for vehicle fleet tracking but those innovations are scratching the surface of what’s to come. The trend is how mobile power is harnessed and prioritized. IT leaders will focus more on how people do their jobs and interact with technology in their lives.

Just as railroads and the telegraph changed cultures and economies, within a couple of decades the information technology revolution has transformed cities. For instance, intuitive and smart technology has become common in the travel industry, especially as commercial travel has become more accessible.

Smart City San Diego powers San Diegan lifestyles by providing a blueprint for continuous innovation and a foundation where consumers can determine new ways to create, conduct, and consume resources. San Diego is poised to become the foremost resource-conscious region in the country. As part of its mission, the city has identified efficiency and renewable energy objectives designed to support California’s goals for achieving 33 percent renewable energy by 2020. That’s really inspiring.

But travel … that’s another story that is totally uninspired. Road warriors know anything can happen when on the road. Air travellers are calling for technology solutions. Going through security can be a giant pain. There are delays and adjustments. Flight delays happen all the time. What to do with free time? Diet and exercise can be challenging. Luggage can disappear.

To begin, online or mobile booking and check-in makes travel smoother. But keeping up with the constant movement in the technology can be challenging for travel providers. Automated transit using near field communications (NFC) and identity management systems ease how people move around in travel hubs.

NFC has real potential that’s held the attention of big-name companies forever. It works like a contactless payment card integrated into a phone; similar to Bluetooth users can simply touch to establish a connection. More than 100 NFC pilot projects have taken place all over the world. It’s on track to go mainstream in a few years with social media applications in the works. There’s an option to run a profile based on variables the user provides interests, likes and dislikes) while still chatting with them in a bar.

When it comes to identity management systems, a true “designed-for-the-cloud” solution, CloudAccess Identity Management addresses business and resource issues associated with cloud computing. It’s designed to operate in multi-tenant cloud environments for any size organization, reducing the cost and complexity of extending internal infrastructure.

And finally, augmented reality will revolutionize the industry as more and more travelers prefer access to up-to-date peer-reviewed travel and destination information at their fingertips. What travel and mobility innovations would inspire you?
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[Glen Hiemstra is the Founder of Futurist.com, and curator of Dothefuture.com. Dennis Walsh is a sustainability futurist from Canada best known for his work as the first publisher of green@work. Contact us through futurist.com]

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November 22nd, 2012 | By Mallory Smith | Posted in Environment & Energy, Science & Tech | Comments Off

Did Scientists Find a Surprise on Mars?

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity drove 83 feet eastward during the 102nd Martian day, or sol, of the mission (Nov. 18, 2012), and used its left navigation camera to record this view ahead at the end of the drive. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

Scientists may have found something Earth-shattering in a soil sample Curiosity’s Sample Analysis at Mars instrument  (SAM) dug up a few days ago.  SAM is capable of identifying organic compounds, so the discovery could have something to do with life on Mars. For now, though, scientists are being cautious about making any announcements until they have fully confirmed the sample, so we’ll have to wait until the American Geophysical Union’s meeting during the  first full week of December to see what happens.

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November 21st, 2012 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Cities | Comments Off

Millennial City: How a new generation can save the future, Ch. 8-2

This book, Millennial City is being released first as a serial blog. The book is a collaboration with Dennis Walsh and this blog is Part 2 of Chapter 8. We will publish Millennial City as an e-book when the serialization is completed. The book grew out of conversations that Dennis and I have had about the future of cities, sustainability, and the millennial generation. We think that these three domains, if you will, are coming together to create a new future – and just in time we hope.

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CHAPTER Eight – Part 2
by Dennis Walsh and Glen Hiemstra

There is a new world of new cities ahead that calls for converging models, solutions, and technologies. The world cannot go on without this. But there is a dirty little secret to overcome; one that may shock or even disappoint you. Researchers have spent a few decades verifying the existence of something they call “computer anxiety” and to a member of the “digital native” generation this may be a surprise.

Some of the anxiety toward computers has to do with what the computer represents to people. Networked computer technology blurs the distinctions between “real life” and life on the screen by supporting on-line communities in which users can portray themselves as a different gender or species and develop relationships with other users whose identity they know only in the context of these communities.

Where relationships could once only occur face-to-face, on-line communities support the notion that relationships can actually occur between two people who have never met. A dwindling portion of adults remain concerned about using. Not wanting to appear inept in front of their peers while using computers or being forced to sacrifice personal interactions with colleagues, the use of computer frustrated their sense of uncertainty about doing their job. There is a very real fear. They’re afraid to run the risk of being wrong or appearing unprepared.

The reality of the nature of the computer has changed over time. The power of the computer was mysterious in the early days, considered the domain of the expert and reserved for use in highly technical arenas. Over time computer use was transformed from memorizing and typing computer code at giant yet fragile workstations into the use of simple applications.

Technology is advancing. The internet connects 1 billion PCs, 5 billion cell phones and over a trillion webpages. Today’s handheld iPad 2 is as powerful as the fastest computer from 1985, the Cray 2 supercomputer. In a few decades, the computational power of the human brain will be available and cheap. That will impact every aspect of our lives. Think about it. Artificial intelligences will be more rational than people, though not yet intelligent in other ways. They will be able to model and improve themselves. They will repair not only exploited irrationalities, but any irrationalities that have any chance of being exploited in the future. I don’t know about you, but that could be chilling for some. Despite – or perhaps because of – these advances, there are some who refuse to use computers, or – at the very least – only use them in ways consistent with their ways of thinking.

What does this have to do with cities? And what does it matter anyway? Straight up. The answer is generational. You get it but your parents don’t and, if you’re in the workplace, maybe your boss doesn’t either. Their fears may be holding you back. But, at the very least, before cities can ever hope to seriously take advantage of converging models, solutions, and technologies, they must respond to the uncertainties of technological progress. The growth of intelligent cities depends on it.

The intelligent city is a smart sustainable city. One of the best things about a truly intelligent city is that they possess interoperable and scalable platforms. People are people. Simple applications are best, ones that are based on non-proprietary code and interfaces. It delivers the best of both worlds. Interoperability makes for effective smart traffic management solutions. The best of the best sensors reduce traffic, which reduces carbon emissions and generate additional revenues: That makes the intelligent city sustainable and attractive.

Europe gets it! They know the intelligent city is a smart sustainable city and they’ve taken it to another level. The Smart World concept is moving forward making the most of initiatives like IBM’s Smarter Planet and the Cisco’s Intelligent Urbanization and EcoCity development models.

The power of the Smart World idea is in its capacity to merge three different worlds into one: an Eco World, Digital World and Social World. The Smart World is a Smart Eco Planet of intelligent sustainable communities: countries, regions, cities, towns, villages, districts, and neighborhoods.
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[Glen Hiemstra is the Founder of Futurist.com, and curator of Dothefuture.com. Dennis Walsh is a sustainability futurist from Canada best known for his work as the first publisher of green@work. Contact us through futurist.com]

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November 20th, 2012 | By Mallory Smith | Posted in Art & Society, Environment & Energy, Science & Tech, Space | Comments Off

Our Search for Extraterrestrial Life

With Mars hosting the Curiosity Rover for the past three months, there’s been a lot of public excitement around space exploration. One of many goals of space exploration is  to find life on another planet. There are groups like SETI that are focusing their attention and research on extraterrestrial life, “The mission of the SETI Institute is to explore, understand and explain the origin, nature and prevalence of life in the universe.” SETI’s been around since 1984, so the search for extraterrestrial life is not a new concept. Some may say that the purpose of finding life on another planet is to keep our options open for a new home when Earth is no longer habitable. Others, like SETI, hope to learn about the nature of life itself throughout the universe. Either way, the search is on. So, how’s that going for us?

SpaceX and NASA are taking steps towards putting humans on Mars. One of the problems that idea poses is that our astronauts will contaminate any potential life that could be on that foreign planet. Humans have evolved among 100 trillion microbes that could very well latch on to Martian organisms upon arrival to the planet- posing unknown risks to the planet and the organisms on it. There is a lot to consider in terms of safety not only for the sake of our astronauts, but also on behalf of the foreign planet and its environment and/or organisms.

Due to the large number of considerations space exploration forces us to ponder, space startups are struggling to provide VCs with enough comfort to overlook the numerous risks that space exploration poses to spacepreneurs. Private space ventures are the most active ones. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Microsoft’s Paul Allen and PayPal’s Elon Musk have all spent millions in developing and enhancing space travel technology. Elon Musk is having the most luck lately, with SpaceX’s contract with NASA for 12 expensive trips to the ISS. NASA’s Curiosity Rover is also doing well, collecting enlightening samples that are (as far as I can tell) very transparently reported to the public. One of the main goals of the rover is to find some sign that life on Mars is or was possible.

How are we going about this search for extraterrestrial life anyway? How do we know what we’re looking for? Well, we’ve been searching, primarily, for a certain kind of living organism on other planets: carbon-based organisms, and those comprised of water. “The presence of water, organics, and energy represent three concurrent indicators in the search for signs of life as we presently understand,” says NASA’s 2012 Exploration Goals and Destinations Report. The report goes on to say, “The detection of water in a wide variety of solar system locations, including the Martian surface, the moons of the giant planets, Earth’s Moon, asteroids, and comets — has broadened our search for indications of life. The diversity of these locations and the known complexity of biotic and pre-biotic chemistry means that advanced instrumentation is required, and that direct examination of samples, either returned to Earth or in situ by robots and humans, is needed to produce definitive results.”

We’re spending a lot of time and energy on searching for signs of life “as we presently understand,” but can other elements be the building blocks of life for extraterrestrial creatures? Yes. It’s possible. In fact, we already know that several small life forms use arsenic to generate energy and facilitate growth. Chlorine could facilitate life, and sulfur has already proved to be a hospitable environment for some bacteria. Stephen Hawking notes that carbon seems more favorable because of its chemistry, but it’s not the only solution, “One possibility is that the formation of something like DNA, which could reproduce itself, is extremely unlikely. However, in a universe with a very large, or infinite, number of stars, one would expect it to occur in a few stellar systems, but they would be very widely separated.”

This means it would probably be beneficial to spend more time searching farther away from Earth for these commonly understood life-creating elements, if they are indeed very widely separated throughout the universe. However, the most common agreement among bioscientists focusing on carbon-based organisms seems to be that Earth is in a uniquely “sweet” spot in the universe and thus, it is more beneficial to search around our general planetary location. In any case, whatever the reason, whatever the method, the search is on for extraterrestrial life. It’s exciting, but there are several consequences to consider before we start swapping organisms with other planets, which is probably ultimately going to be a choice we will have to face in the future.

In fact, just to cover all of our bases, we should prepare ourselves for a day when we find out there is life on other planets and they are intelligent. What do we do then? Study it? Will we need to convince it to let us study it? What if it wants to come live on our planet?

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November 20th, 2012 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Cities | Comments Off

Millennial City: How a new generation can save the future, Ch.8-1

This book, Millennial City is being released first as a serial blog. The book is a collaboration with Dennis Walsh and this blog is Part 1 of Chapter 8. We will publish Millennial City as an e-book when the serialization is completed. The book grew out of conversations that Dennis and I have had about the future of cities, sustainability, and the millennial generation. We think that these three domains, if you will, are coming together to create a new future – and just in time we hope.

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CHAPTER Eight – Part 1
by Dennis Walsh and Glen Hiemstra

It’s been a steep climb but we’re nearly there. It’s time to step into the future if you’re up for it. For some, that challenge will be great; for others, nearly impossible. They seriously don’t like change. The status quo feels safer to them. It’s much easier to imagine that what they don’t know doesn’t really matter.

It’s fun to imagine what’s next. Practically speaking, the sunscreen pill will hit the market to protect the skin and eyes from UV rays. Personal 3D printing will become a common practice in households and schools. One Terabyte SD Memory Cards will also become commonplace. Light Peak technology, a method of super-high-data-transfer, will enable more than whole terabytes per second–within everyday consumer electronics. In the not too distant future, the digital device that we carry or wear will rival the power of the human brain, amplifying greatly what we can accomplish.

It might be a stretch to imagine doctors being able to biopsy a tumor, sequence the DNA, and use that information to make a prognosis and prescribe treatment for less than the cost of an x-ray. Around about that time, portable laser pens will seal wounds. Insect-sized robot spies will become a reality. Taking a longer look down the road, paralyzed people will walk through neuro prostheses – mechanical limbs that respond to human thought.

The world’s first zero-carbon, sustainable city in the form of Masdar City will be completed just outside Abu Dhabi. That same year crash-proof cars will be made possible by using radar, sonar, car-tocar and car-to-road communication, and driver alert systems. The first around-the-world flight by a solar-powered plane will be accomplished illustrating truly clean energy to air transportation for the first time. Space tourism will hit the mainstream with packages ranging from $10,000 up-and-backs to $1 million five-night stays in an orbiting hotel suite.

Unprecedented connectivity will build upon the social networks, both real and virtual. Your understanding of the relationships that are possible will be stretched and revolutionized. Virtual platforms will expand and contract on demand. The way we interface with computers will change. Cloud technology will change from being an option to being the default. Major sectors of the economy will be transformed, driven by new requirements like traffic management, data analytics, and machine-to-machine communication. This kind of capability can now stretch across a city’s services, from monitoring power generation and optimizing electricity and water usage to pinpointing potential crime hot spots.

The transition to an “intelligent infrastructure” will accelerate the growth of a multi-billion dollar market. The drive to make everything mobile will be unstoppable. Communications and collaboration will deliver truly unified communications integration. Mobile broadband will be fully integrated and practiced. While we watch lots and lots of recorded video on our mobile devices today within a year or two most live broadcasts will be available in real time on all digital devices – always on real time access to, well, everything.

You may not like change. The status quo may feel safer. There are many features of the past and present we don’t want to lose, and should not let go of, in any given future. It is indeed much easier to imagine that what we don’t know doesn’t really matter. But in the end it is a myth that people don’t like change. What they don’t like is “being changed” with no say in the matter, no ability to make choices.

Historically, urban development through concentrated physical development made communication and human interaction easier. When it comes to urban sustainability, information and communications technology (ICT) is part of the solution. For every extra kilowatt-hour of electricity demanded by ICT, the U.S. economy increases its overall energy savings by a factor of ten. Future development of cities and regions will require the intelligent integration of communications technology. Every land use and transportation planning decision should be made with those who build ICT infrastructure at the table. Smart-phones, tablet computers, and digital books are changing the way we interact with the built environment and with each other.

The need for integration extends to everything. Cities around the world are bringing more intelligence to their suite of services. Cities still face difficult challenges in harnessing and integrating these technologies. They struggle with legacy systems that hamper integration. Information systems, such as they are, take on lives of their own and that can be costly. But not stepping into the future will be more costly.
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[Glen Hiemstra is the Founder of Futurist.com, and curator of Dothefuture.com. Dennis Walsh is a sustainability futurist from Canada best known for his work as the first publisher of green@work. Contact us through futurist.com]

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