On the Lookout
What we do in the city’s in-between spaces
Our neighbourhoods and back yards are becoming our new living room. It’s here we use the time and creativity we gain from the accelerated digitalisation and automation in society. Human interactions now have a new and greater significance.
Every generation leaves its mark and continues building on a city’s existing culture. That is why cities are always developing. The motivation to develop has given us a boost during the pandemic, but it was already pushing us before that, and it will follow us into the future.
Now more than ever, we know just how much we appreciate human contact. And these meetings will take place in the important in-between spaces around the city – the public spaces.
There are many who suggest that cities will take the lead in the work to create climate neutral solutions, environmentally friendly modes of transport, and not least a local environment that promotes a high quality of life, with clean air, clean water, climate positive buildings, and fossil-free mobility options. In parallel with this, there is increasing talk of the “thoughtful city”. The technological advancements are not the only solution to new challenges. Social innovation is also required.
Despite dreams of living in the countryside popping up every now and then, cities have proven to be the most attractive place to live among the children and youth of today, globally speaking. The UN estimates that by 2050, 68 per cent of the world’s population will be living in cities.
Paris coined the term “15-minute City”, which has since been used in a variety of contexts. Anne Hidalgo, the city’s major, proposed that in big cities, all inhabitants’ needs must be catered for within a fifteen minute walk or bike ride in order for people and planet to thrive. This means that cities within the cities are emerging, with the local neighbourhoods becoming more important and one’s own backyard becoming super important.
People will be walking and cycling and have plenty of time to spare as technology makes our everyday lives more efficient. Your work is an activity, not a location, which means that we will be working in many places other than the office in order to avoid commuting and to achieve a good work-life balance.
The generations born in the digital age will not know anything other than shopping via a screen and getting lots of work done using an interactive desk. Services and processes will largely be automated, meaning we will have more time for other activities.
All our new insights from the pandemic, the swift development of technological solutions, and the current megatrends surrounding the environment and health will result in an unprecedented increase in creativity, a desire to learn, and a focus on physical and mental well-being.
Is it not so strange then that we are building parks on our roofs, outdoor gyms in bustling city environments, or even a miniature golf course in the city square. In many cities, parking lots are being transformed into living rooms, so called parklets, and become spaces for having barbecues or fixing bikes with our neighbours.
The city’s in-between spaces are where we will meet!
Your home in the year 2030
Our homes are always connected. Even the plant pots and toilet. Your gadgets will get to know you and be one step ahead when they start thinking for themselves thanks to artificial intelligence.
The amount of technology we use in our home will continue to grow, but at the same time we will notice it less and less as it becomes more proactive and seamlessly woven into our everyday lives. In 2030, your smart home knows more about you than your loved ones do. Movement patterns, tone of voice, and habits are stored by the appliances in your home, and they will anticipate your needs and might even be able to predict things like illnesses or accidents. And who knows, maybe your houseplants will finally survive when artificial intelligence controls sensors that track and adjust the air, light, and temperature conditions, as well as the acidity in the water and soil.
The home as a place for smart appliances is developing rapidly, and we have already become acquainted with smart speakers. Many believe that customised smart home systems connected to voice biometrics will be the new technology to move into our homes. In the future, the smart speaker will be further tweaked so that the appliance will sense and analyse your emotional state and tone of voice.
This adaption will be based on huge amounts of data collected by the house and decor from a variety of sources – your geotags; from your cart when shopping online, the search functions you use, and even your heartbeat.
An analysis of your raspy throat means that medicine will be ordered and soon arrive right outside your door without you having to lift a finger, and if an excessive amount of anxiety is detected in your voice, this may result in recommendations for yoga sessions and the sound of wind blowing through the forest being played. A smart fridge equipped with a screen suggests appropriate foods based on your unique requirements. And in Japan, tests are being conducted using smart toilets that analyse bacteria and give updated dietary advice.
Your property will also take care of itself to a larger degree. Different sensors will detect issues and book a handyman before that water leak becomes a serious problem. Or if water and sewage systems, electrical installations, or anything else needs to be checked before things get out of control.
In a smart home, everything is connected to the internet. The commercial smart home concepts store large amounts of personal data. Parallel to these enticing developments, researchers are thinking about something completely different. Data collected through your appliances and units may be attractive to third parties. Research is currently being conducted into how we can benefit from new technology without our privacy becoming compromised.
Our new simple everyday life in the city
The pandemic has demanded new solutions in everyday life. And the megatrends related to health and environment are fuelling the new normal. Shopping online, upcycling, and recycling are becoming common behaviour for everyone.
Our new everyday life was set in motion even before the pandemic began and is now changing at an even faster pace than we could have ever imagined. Involvement in addressing the climate and environment challenges is hardly new, but it continues to increase rapidly. Consumption and mobility continue to undergo change, as does our attitude towards food production and caring for nature. Interest in spending time in the woods and other outdoor areas has increased, which on the whole has spurred on the conversation about sustainable solutions and the balance between utility and pleasure.
Since the pandemic has become prolonged, it is likely that many of the new patterns and habits that have developed during the time are here to stay, and may even become more prevalent in the future. But uncertainty regarding our consumption habits has become greater than ever before. What’s waiting around the corner? We know that a lot of people have saved money during the pandemic. What will this be used for?
Digitalisation has received a push in the last year, and many senior citizens are becoming increasingly comfortable buying items such as groceries online. The successful e-commerce sector is now setting its sight on new areas and will start selling both homes and electric cars without physical interactions.
We are just at the beginning of a new development when it comes to interest in recycling and second-hand shopping. It will become natural for us to recycle even more types of goods. Used furniture and building materials are given new life and become something new and personal through what is commonly known as thrift flip.
Unnecessary work meetings are being removed, and the same applies to commuting. This reclaimed time will be spent on increased creativity in the home and in the garden, but also joint projects with our neighbours. And the longing to socialise is great.
Socialising has been moved outdoors, which feels like a new discovery. Family gatherings in the forest, after-work meetups around a barbecue, and children’s parties on the rooftop park will continue to generate hype. No longer will we have to use large living rooms or book venues. Everyone has become more tolerant of simpler arrangements. Simplicity is one topic that we will be hearing more about in many different fields. The city and housing actors are catching on, and our neighbourhoods are becoming more vibrant.
The flexible leisure time of the future
Take a bike ride on the roof or why not hang out at a pool via Airbnb? Does that sound doubtful? Many people are talking about the new normal – which of course also includes our leisure time. What will it look like and how will it be impacted by our future work life, family life, cancelled trips, and much more besides?
Those who can choose to work from home or maybe some form of hybrid work – a few days at home and a few days at the office – are presented with new possibilities for their leisure time. The nine-to-five is disappearing as a more flexible leisure time becomes possible, and one that can occur at any time during the day. Or at any time during the year.
Many associate leisure time with health and exercise. But there are several indications that we will be spending a lot of our time on other activities, in ways we haven’t done before. The climate and our engagement in creating a better environment have gotten a boost during the pandemic. We’ve become more interested in not letting our stuff go to waste and using what we can over and over again. It requires leisure time to be able to repair, build, resew, and carry out other activities that we have discovered to be highly enjoyable. This is especially true when we can show off the results on social media and in our communities.
Websites will function more like homes and clubs rather than big broad forums. Advertisements will become more sophisticated, and the line between your reality and social media is being eroded. For a long time, we have observed a desire for real experiences in virtual worlds, and thanks to inspiration from the world of gaming, we are constantly discovering new ingenious ways to recreate real life online. You will be invited to digital weddings and nights around the digital campfire. Maybe we’ll soon use avatars to meet and hug our VR friends on social media or share a beer as people. The transition to increasingly virtual worlds is possible thanks to developments in connectivity, cloud computing, and more powerful portable devices.
But as we have begun to realise the importance of physically spending time together through mingling, parties and warm hugs, we will also dedicate more times to socialising with our relatives and friends.
Picnics are not a new phenomenon, but they have still skyrocketed thanks to the pandemic. We make our way to the park with our chairs, plates, and glasses. We happily set the table (or blanket) for Mother’s Day or an after work. We’ll be seeing a lot more people “picnicking”, both in the city and the countryside.
More opportunities will be needed for meeting up outdoors in the city’s in-between spaces. It is about flexibility and environments having different functions at different times of the day. Even now, in some cities, we see empty streets and parking lots transforming into promenades and spaces for play and sports before and after rush hour times. Other city spaces will also be tested to see if the city can be made more thoughtful and human – such as through floating parks or running tracks and bicycle paths along the rooftops.
“Guerrilla gardening” will become completely legal and even encouraged by those in power. The reasoning will be that those who plant and grow things will also take care of them. And who doesn’t want a greener city?
And what was that thing about hanging out by the pool? You see, the growing sharing economy with its clever climate ideas will make us see many things in a different light. Soon there will be an app on your phone that tells you which neighbours have a swimming pool to rent for a few hours when they are out of town!
The new normal work life
The signs were already there, but during the pandemic, the flexible work life has truly been given wings. Our everyday lives are changing. Many people love going to the office, but the current discussion is also about what function the office should have and when we should go there. Perhaps robot alter-egos and office avatars will show up instead?
It used to be the case that work was a place we would naturally go to every day. Many professions now view work as something that can be done from anywhere. At many companies, digitalisation has rapidly accelerated over a short period of time. Meetings in front of a computer screen are already an everyday occurrence, and in the future, we’ll be checking in using more senses than just our vision and hearing. Maybe we’ll participate in virtual reality meetings as avatars, or as robots that can physically move around the room and even mingle in this new hybrid office environment.
The future of the office is being discussed and challenged. When we’re able to once again return to the workplace, we will need to have an important discussion about what an office actually is, and also what it must consist of, both emotionally and practically, to appeal to our new habits. The office has always been the framework for both culture and belonging, but now there will also be a discussion about what the space is actually supposed to contribute to the organisation.
Flexible hours, nine-to-five, traffic jams, and lunch between noon and one in an overcrowded eatery are not things we want to come back. Studies have shown that people ages 30–39 have found it most agreeable to work from home during the pandemic because it has made it easier for them to achieve a good work-life balance. The option to choose to work from home in some capacity will become the new normal. Additionally, the time has also come for the real breakthrough of the “workation”, bringing your job with you on vacation and mixing work with pleasure.
Remote work has made it possible to live in one place and have your office somewhere completely different. Many can tolerate longer commutes if they only need to come into work now and then, as opposed to every day. A kind of professional nomad lifestyle for longer or shorter periods of time is also something we will see more of. The nomad life might be best suited to seniors who have an established professional network and feel secure in the company culture.
Once we actually get to the office, it will become more common for our workplaces to be controlled through voice commands, apps, and sensors. The elevators are voice-controlled and apps open doors to prevent us from having to touch the same surfaces as other people.
Many offices and conference rooms will be left empty, and the creative possibilities for what to do with them will be huge. One solution is time share; companies allow others to book, lease, and use the premises during times when they do not need them themselves.
The simple and clean food
Homegrown instead of homecooked, takeaway from the city’s ghost restaurants, and preferably a picnic – in all its simplicity. Going forward, we will be look for transparent food preparation and set even higher hygiene requirements. Most of all, we’ll celebrate the simple things and treasure social meals above everything else.
We still eat meat but we surprise ourselves when the latest meal becomes vegetarian without us even thinking about it. We will grow more ingredients at home and in our neighbourhoods, or buy from the city farmer who farms vertically in massive spaces created in abandoned office buildings. But we also grow things in the small spaces, in the windowsills, and share our harvest with a community online. For the digital generation, there is a social aspect to the trend – participating in a communal hobby with friends.
The pandemic has allowed us to rediscover our kitchens. Corona baking, whipping up a Dalgona coffee, and pickling vegetables. Interest in food is a megatrend. And in the foreseeable future, we’ll put more energy, time, and thought into our kitchens.
Parallel to this, we’ve become masters in creating a restaurant atmosphere in our homes and picking up takeaway, which has led to a new breed of restaurants that do not have a dining hall, so-called “ghost kitchens”. Maybe we’ll go online from our dinner table to receive instructions and a presentation of the ingredients from a professional. The virtual world provides opportunities to enjoy a pleasant evening around the table with your gang of wine lovers who “see” each other digitally every month.
A crisis can be torturous, but it can also be a creative breeding ground for the business ideas of tomorrow. We now see specially designed hybrid restaurants popping up in our cities – cafés during the day and taverns at night. A bakery in the morning, a lunch restaurant, and a store with pre-cooked meals in the evening, or why not a wine bar where the furniture and decor are also for sale?
Regardless of whether we go out to eat at a restaurant or go online at home to listen to the chef’s description, we’ll enjoy “Naked Restaurants” where the food is cooked with an open curtain. Kitchen secrets, cutting corners, and questionable hygiene will be left in the past. If we used to view machine-produced food as something dull, in the future, we’ll applaud the robot cook as the perfect chef.
What will our friend, the robot cook, whip up before us on the screen? Food from the sea also has a bright future. We’ll hear more about fish on dry land, bred in the large tanks of the adaptable farmer, as well as the ever-present hype of insects as an alternative protein source. Although it might be a while before you take your first bite.
The health trend is another megatrend on the rise. It goes hand in hand with our growing interest in food. We choose ingredients that boost our immune system. Locally produced goods will play an even bigger part, as will plant-based protein and new alternatives to sugar and fats. Reducing food waste is becoming an everyday habit. More and more people are aware that our food is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, and that we also need to change what’s on our plates.
Familiar ingredients are the winners in uncertain times. You can count on safe, familiar flavours and brands making a return. A sense of security will also, paradoxically, likely make us choose canned and packaged food again. Traceable, of course. The packaging industry has begun thinking differently and is constantly providing us with new, smart solutions that are good for the environment.
But at the end of the day, the safest option is still the picnic. Fresh air, plenty of space. Simpler dishes are fully allowed and in line with our new preference for simplicity. After all, the most important thing is being able to spend time together.