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16 mobile theses and how tech might change the built environment

Caucasian woman standing near passing subway in train station by Gable Denims on

One of the things that I try and do here on this blog is examine the intersection of design, real estate, and technology. I didn’t explicitly set out to do that, but more and more I find myself thinking that way when I’m writing and when I’m giving talks.

Part of that is because of my passions, but part of it is because there is a big and important overlap. One example of that is autonomous, self-driving cars. The tech community is enamoured with driverless cars, but everyone involved in the built environment should also be thinking about their impacts. Because it’ll be significant.

Benedict Evans – who is a venture capitalist with Andreessen Horowitz in the Valley – recently published a post called, 16 mobile theses. It’s a look at 16 topics, trends, and shifts that are happening in the tech space. (There’s also a related podcast discussion.)

If you’re involved in internet products, you absolutely need to give it a read. But I also think it’s interesting to read it through the lens of a designer or real estate person. Productivity is changing. Notions around the living room are changing. And yes, autonomous vehicles are going to have a profound impact on the urban landscape of our cities – just as cars did initially.

Below are 3 excerpts from Benedict’s post that I really enjoyed.

The first is about mobile and just how massive it is:

“The mobile ecosystem, now, is heading towards perhaps 10x the scale of the PC industry, and mobile is not just a new thing or a big thing, but that new generation, whose scale makes it the new centre of gravity of the tech industry. Almost everything else will orbit around it.”

The second is about how “networked” is quickly becoming a given:

“Our grandparents could have told you how many electric motors they owned – there was one in the car, one in the fridge and so on, and they owned maybe a dozen. In the same way, we know roughly how many devices we own with a network connection, and, again, our children won’t. Many of those uses cases will seem silly to us, just as our grandparents would laugh at the idea of a button to lower a car window, but the sheer range and cheapness of sensors and components, mostly coming out of the smartphone supply chain, will make them ubiquitous and invisible – we’ll forget about them just as we’ve forgotten about electric motors.”

And the third is about those self-driving cars:

“The move to electric and the move (if and when) to autonomous, self-driving cars fundamentally change what a car is, but also what the whole automotive system might look like. Electricity changes the mechanical complexity of cars and hence changes who might build them and what they might look like. Autonomy and on-demand services change who buys them, meaning the buying criteria will be different. But they could also change the urban landscape just as much as cars themselves did – what do mass-market retail or restaurants look like if no-one needs to park?”

Can you think of other ways in which tech will impact cities and the spaces we occupy?

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