Earlier this year, Sony teamed up with the Forum of the Future to brainstorm four scenarios of what life will be like in 2025. Among them: a treadmill of "hyperinnovation" and declining carbon emissions; a scenario of damaging climate change and reactive technologies (like solar paint); a scenario where sustainability and strong community ties are emphasized; and a world where the sharing economy has taken off on a global scale.
Now Sony and a handful of partners have come up with four concepts—a platform, a product, a place, and a philosophy—that could exist within and take advantage of these visions of the future 15 years from now.
In the future, it’s possible that nearly everything will have an IP address—your clothes, your plants, and your refrigerator will all freely send and receive data. The proposed Internet of Things Academy will teach people to use the hardware and software behind this connected world, allowing them to do everything from creating experimental economic models to public health monitoring initiatives.
The concept of an Internet of Things—a system where the Internet is connected the physical world around us—has been around since the 1990s. We’re already seeing faint signals of its existence. In fact, a project that Co.Exist covered just the other day—the crowd-controlled ArduSat satellite—is a perfect example of what we could see more of in the future.
This cloud-connected, modular device will stay with users for a lifetime, "generating a similar sort of affection and sense of personal connection as a favorite watch," according to Sony’s brief. The device can be upgraded to include motion sensors, projectors, energy generation modules, and more—all generated by local 3-D printing to minimize environmental impact.
The device is durable enough that it ages well and so customizable that nearly everyone could fit it with a design they like. It’s the dream antidote to today’s throwaway electronics cycle, where devices are constantly tossed for the newest upgrade.
The world is on track to have 75% of all humanity living in cities by 2050. What happens to the other 25%? Sony envisions the HyperVillage—a completely self-reliant but globally connected community "underpinned by the highest spec software and hardware." These HyperVillages will use technology to monitor local resources (water, fisheries, etc.) and to share "maker" knowledge with the larger world. All power is generated from community-owned renewable energy hubs, and immersive technology allows rural denizens to virtually travel to urban spaces for big events.
We’re already seeing a resurgence in "maker" culture—just visit your local Maker Faire to see how popular it has become—and projects like Alchematter (a Wikipedia for people who make things) are making it increasingly easy for people to become self-reliant. At the same time, local, independent economies are taking off, with some neighborhoods even creating their own currencies.
The Shift is more of a question than anything else. Sony asks, "Is it time to re-focus society’s relationship with technology so that it genuinely meets human needs?" Digital technology has changed the way we live, but there’s still a long way to go for it to truly revolutionize our personal well-being and connection with nature (an example of the latter is Urban Edibles, a digital database of wild food sources in Portland, Oregon). Instead, we often allow these technologies to waste our time and distract us (the average user spends 2.5 hours on email every day), leaving little downtime to actually process what we experience.
The answer to Sony’s question is, of course, a resounding yes.