“Big Data” for Small Organizations — Coming Soon…

landsat imageHave you heard the words “big data” tossed around like a football during Super Bowl season? The idea of “big data” is really about using powerful processing algorithms to link lots of disparate pieces of information and then string them all together into a big picture. Right now federal law enforcement agencies like DEA and the FBI have powerful databases and data mining toolsets that can link all sorts of data repositories, such as satellite images, vehicle ownership, federal, state, local, and many other data banks and create assumptions based on analytical associations. IBM has been on the forefront of this business for a long time and has spent many years developing semantic research and continually improving the art of data mining. Several very important technology trends are beginning to intersect that will change how, where, and how fast we can move data: 1) High performance computing speeds of processing power will soon be available to everyone via cloud computing; 2) Powerful data mining tools made to interact with high speed processing are moving at a fast clip; 3) Cognitive computing analytical tools (artificial intelligence that can think and make associations like a human) are one of the tech by-products of the War on Terror; 4) Advanced broadband that can stream data back to the end user is on its way via LTE; and 5) New business models that move software away from the “per server” model to hosted “per user” applications in the cloud will soon be the new norm. Many people watched the “intellect” of computing as IBM’s Watson, the computer, played Jeopardy.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FC3IryWr4c8

The marriage of big data with artificial intelligence and cognitive capabilities has massive implications for public safety and society. Over the next decade, technologies will likely rapidly disseminate and enhance advanced data sharing among local, state, and federal public safety organizations as cost models continue to scale and broadband availability and cloud computing bring applications closer to the user. It’s going to be a very different world!

Copyright Trends Digest 2013 – All rights reserved

Detonation by Remote: What Cyber “In-security” Might Really Mean…

Oil Rig off Coast Of AlaskaEvery time we turn on the news, we hear the word “cyber” so much that it’s become merged in a decoupage of meaningless chatter. But, what does it really mean?

Almost every global corporation relies on connectivity to the internet through a range of electronic devices. The world has become the domain for billions of chips and interconnected devices activated by a plethora of electronic signals. In just a few short years, endless numbers of end user devices gained IP addresses and the ability to be remotely activated for everything from remote meter reading and home security monitoring, to detecting when you are out of milk in your refrigerator. So, from Budweiser beer, to internal computers on our cars, to nuclear plants, gazillions of devices have become accessible over the network. Not only do we now have countless numbers of devices linked by wireless networks, but we have an ongoing barrage of software maladies lurking in lines of poorly crafted or malicious code which can often carry nasty little destructive payloads (viruses, trojans, etc.).

By integrating cellular networks, WIFI networks, and long haul networks, someone in another global location could theoretically access your cell phone, computer, or a nuclear power plant, oil rig, or the power grid. We often forget about the infinitesimal number of devices getting connecting to the net as time progresses. We also forget just how much of our life is dependent upon computers. This becomes rapid reality when you realize your SUV’s onboard computer system has failed and door locks, windows, and transmission begin to malfunction.

RFID tags have long been the paradise-sought of the grocery store business, which may, one day soon, send checkers into workforce obsolescence as “drive through” carts, scanning the entire mound of groceries take their place. What Cyber gurus lose sleep over is not the many networked devices and hack-ability of computers and cell phones, but the vulnerability of critical infrastructure, such as the power grid, oil and gas infrastructure, banking, and any connected infrastructure that can disrupt commerce or simply make the economy screech to a terminal halt.

Many industry executives are often quite surprised when they learn that someone can remotely tinker with their equipment since they are usually thinking about computer viruses. On a daily basis, our world becomes increasingly more interconnected through the internet, presenting the possibility that physical objects containing computer chips and signal receivers can be tampered with, from simply being disabled, to being remotely blown-up through a variety of means.

TrendsDigest will soon release its Sector Cyber Analysis Report (SCAR) detailing challenges faced by individual sectors. TD

Copyright Trends Digest 2013 All Rights reserved.

The Billion Dollar Cyber Heist

Every time we turn on the news, we hear the word “cyber” so much that it’s become merged in a decoupage of meaningless chatter. But, what does it really mean?

Almost every global corporation relies on connectivity to the internet through a range of electronic devices. The world has become the domain for billions of chips and interconnected devices activated by a plethora of electronic signals. In just a few short years, endless numbers of end user devices gained IP addresses and the ability to be remotely activated for everything from remote meter reading and home security monitoring, to detecting when you are out of milk in your refrigerator. So, from Budweiser beer, to internal computers on our cars, to nuclear plants, gazillions of devices have become accessible over the network. Not only do we now have countless numbers of devices linked by wireless networks, but we have an ongoing barrage of software maladies lurking in lines of poorly crafted or malicious code which can often carry nasty little destructive payloads (viruses, trojans, etc.).

Cyber HeistBy integrating cellular networks, WIFI networks, and long haul networks, someone in another global location could theoretically access your cell phone, computer, or a nuclear power plant, oil rig, or the power grid. We often forget about the infinitesimal number of devices getting connecting to the net as time progresses. We also forget just how much of our life is dependent upon computers. This becomes rapid reality when you realize your SUV’s onboard computer system has failed and door locks, windows, and transmission begin to malfunction.

RFID tags have long been the paradise-sought of the grocery store business, which may, one day soon, send checkers into workforce obsolescence as “drive through” carts, scanning the entire mound of groceries take their place. What Cyber gurus lose sleep over is not the many networked devices and hack-ability of computers and cell phones, but the vulnerability of critical infrastructure, such as the power grid, oil and gas infrastructure, banking, and any connected infrastructure that can disrupt commerce or simply make the economy screech to a terminal halt.

Many industry executives are often quite surprised when they learn that someone can remotely tinker with their equipment since they are usually thinking about computer viruses. On a daily basis, our world becomes increasingly more interconnected through the internet, presenting the possibility that physical objects containing computer chips and signal receivers can be tampered with, from simply being disabled, to being remotely blown-up through a variety of means.

TrendsDigest will soon release its Sector Cyber Analysis Report (SCAR) detailing challenges faced by individual sectors. TD

Copyright Trends Digest, 2013, All rights reserved.

Teching Out With Fairmont Hotels

Fairmont Lake LouiseTrends Digest recently interviewed Fairmont Hotels to gain a glimmer of insight into how technology is evolving to improve the guest experience. We’re the first to tell you that Fairmont is at the top of our list for customer service and a fabulous guest experience. Fairmont also has workout gear waiting for you when you arrive to lighten up your packing load and keep you fit while you’re on the road. In fact, we are Fairmont fanatics. How cool is it when they remember your dog Fido’s name and his preferences too? Trends Digest recently caught up with Fairmont’s Mike Taylor to ask him about the future of technology at Fairmont.

Trends Digest: Looking toward 2020, how do you anticipate technology changing the guest experience of the future?

Fairmont: From a guest perspective, the next two to three years will be about enhanced personalization and delivering a consistent customer experience to our guests around the world. We’ll look to achieve this by leveraging the internet and wireless technologies in-room and by making the television the “entertainment hub” for all online and technology needs. As Fairmont enters new international markets, language will also play a key role, so we’ll look to expand our multi-lingual capabilities for all of our online portals.

Trends Digest: What new technology applications are you looking at across the spectrum in creating an overall better guest experience?

Fairmont: As a luxury hotel group, we place great emphasis on providing engaging service that enhances the guest experience. In support of this, a good portion of our technology focus will be on supporting human resources, ensuring we have new generation tools on hand to hire the most talented individuals available. A new integrated, online recruitment platform is planned and will play a critical role in the area of talent acquisition.

Trends Digest: How are you thinking about technology applications in future hotels? Guest rooms?

Fairmont: What Fairmont guests expect in the way of technology today, in large part mirrors what they want from an overall stay experience perspective –  an enhanced level of personal service, good value for their dollar, and a commitment to quality and service excellence that they can rely on.

Trends Digest: What new technology applications are you looking at across the spectrum in creating an overall better guest experience?

Fairmont: As a luxury hotel group, we place great emphasis on providing engaging service that enhances the guest experience. In support of this, a good portion of our technology focus will be on supporting human resources, ensuring we have new generation tools on hand to hire the most talented individuals available. A new integrated, online recruitment platform is planned and will play a critical role in the area of talent acquisition.

Trends Digest: How are you thinking about technology applications in future hotels? Guest rooms?

Fairmont: What Fairmont guests expect in the way of technology today, in large part mirrors what they want from an overall stay experience perspective –  an enhanced level of personal service, good value for their dollar, and a commitment to quality and service excellence that they can rely on.

On the product front, a number of our hotels have piloted projects to bring the latest and greatest technology offerings to guests. At The Plaza in New York, an old world hotel that is one of the most legendary on the planet, the property recently introduced iPads in every guestroom. In San Francisco, the Fairmont has debuted a new media lounge called Intersect where travelers can play interactive games, listen to music, download photos or bond over spirited “Guitar Hero” and “Wii Golf” competitions.

Trends Digest: At Trends Digest, we picture the future holding more visual display phones, 3D and holographic applications, and advanced features that would expand entertainment for guest rooms and most importantly a better reach for business travelers who need to have the highest tech in-room office for web conferencing, etc. What new applications are you looking at?

Fairmont: From mobile and customized content to database capabilities and improving the speed of online transactions, we have a number of key technology topics on our radar. First and foremost though is the in-room guest experience. Our core focus from a technology standpoint will be to provide our guests with a seamless and integrated guestroom environment that is technology enabled and supports their business and personal needs.

Trends Digest: In terms of business trends, how have you seen traveler demographics change, and how do you view this equation changing as we move toward 2020?

Fairmont: Technology is an area that remains very fluid and ever-changing. A perfect example is in-room internet access. Less than a decade ago, Fairmont was the first hotel company to offer high-speed and wireless internet brand-wide. Now, seamless, secure, and fast connectivity is the norm in almost any hotel you visit around the globe. Change is inevitable, so our focus is on trying to identify and deliver technology that improves the guest experience, while also ensuring our core technology platform is competitive and aligned with Fairmont’s business strategy. Any new technology initiatives or investment in infrastructure will be measured against and/or driven by market trends, the needs of our guests, and the leading business priorities of the company.

TD 

Copyright Trends Digest All Rights Reserved  2013

Drones to Swarm the Energy Market in the Next Decade

Drones Swarm Energy Market

UAVs mature, their roles of sensing and monitoring will eventually give way to robotic functions allowing them to operate as hybrids.  Drones soon will take on far more complex tasks.  Flying drone robots may soon be able to perform not only inspection but engineering modifications using onboard toolkits.   The UAS market in the U.S. hasn’t had the commercial jump start of growth from the energy sector seen in Israel, the U.K.  Much of this revolves around the regulatory challenges. Congress’s recently passed legislation requiring expedited integration of UAS into the national aviation infrastructure by 2015 should finally start the engines. UAS operation has historically been expensive when you add up the cost of hardware, software, training, technical support, and the occasional crash and burn event.  However, as the market continues to grow as does more affordable solutions.  Operators coming back from Afghanistan may find themselves met by more opportunities in the civilian world.  Soon UAVs might be familiar terrain features in the sky above the U.S.  However, integration of aerial vehicles may be easier said than done given the already crowed air space.  However the next decade unfolds, you can count on the fact that unmanned aerial vehicles and their even more robotic successors will be a big part of it.

UAV’S HAVE PLENTY OF ROOM TO LOOK AFTER THE BAAKEN

Civilian airspace might be crowded, according to the FAA, but as you can see from the image, it’s a little less crowded in Eastern Montana and Western North Dakota.

All of our technology connections are creating the Virtual Electronic Enabled Hive (VEE-HIVE) presenting unfolding opportunities as disruptive technological and business trends take hold.      Use our “Contact” page to request a free Introductory issue of the VEE-Hive Report. Copyright 2012 Trends Digest – All Rights Reserved

The New Mobile Madness for Wine Lovers

Courtesy of Hahn

The Wine industry is on the verge of a major marketing shift as mobile wireless devices offer enhanced ability to send and receive data making marketing, selling, tracking, and packing a less laborious process. Here’s where wine and technology meet. The door of opportunity is wide open for an endless supply of apps that make the marketing, supply chain, inventory, data collection, and order fulfillment more economically possible.  Even more importantly, bridging the gap between sampling and buying may get a whole lot easier for the average wine enthusiast.

Wine apps are currently available in the mainstream marketplace. What is yet to come is a better ability to connect with bottles, labels, and interact with the product and supply chain. Just picture yourself enjoying a new wine at a restaurant. You love the ‘2010’ Cabernet and want to order a case for your wine cellar. So, you hold your phone close to the wine label, and zing! Up pops a tantalizing description of your wine with links to ratings and ordering information. All you need to do is enter “yes” to the “order now?” prompt. Undoubtedly, there are some complexities like individual state laws, but where there is complexity, there is also opportunity and an “app for that”. Well, pretty soon, you might be in luck because if all goes well, RFID/NFC enabled cell phones are likely to open up a whole new avenue of shopping.

Ok, just on the off-chance you haven’t heard of Radio Frequency Identification or better known as RFID, it’s basically a little radio signal chip that gets embedded into a label, money, credit cards or whatever the object and transmits a signal to a reader. Of course, right now, RFID works best in situations where the object has the right proximity to the reader. Quite intentionally — because you don’t want the object you are connecting with to be confused with other tagged objects. However, RFID has shortcomings since applications are beginning to be more precise as the tagged object is further and further from the reader, such as driving your entire grocery cart through a scanner. Near Field Communications (NFC), a subset of RFID which works with closer objects (about 4 inches or less), has become a more preferred standard and may supplant many other short range data transmission options. Future cell phone generations equipped with RFID/NFC readers will have some major uses for marketers. Thus far, the RFID industry has been a bit sluggish — stalled by privacy issues, costs, trying to get better scans of the target, and mitigating signal interference issues. The recreational uses present a new frontier for marketers looking for innovative ways of breaking through all of the messaging noise to sell their products. Future iPhone generations are supposedly planned to be equipped with NFC readers. Imagine all those new apps! According to the NFC Forum, Near Field Communication (NFC) technology provides global interoperability of contactless identification and interconnection technologies. NFC operates in the 13.56 MHz frequency range, over a typical distance of a few centimeters. The underlying technology is based upon common technology standards supported by global communication device manufacturers and network operators with the intention of being compatible with hundreds of millions of cards and readers already deployed globally. There are many mobile phones already on the market sporting NFC technologies today with more coming online. Given the significant bash made by QR (Quick Response) codes, those ugly little imprints used by airlines and websites for transmitting data, many assumed QR would steal the show for some time. However, QR requires image capture, which is often awkward and a bit tricky. Mobile phone manufacturers like HTC, Lenovo, Huawei, Samsung, ZTE, Nokia, Motorola, and Apple have either announced or rumored roll out plans for NFC in upcoming generations of handsets. However, it is more likely that NFC and its successors will come out on top. The next decade holds an unprecedented roll out of device on device interaction that is sure to keep wireless networks humming and you and I wondering if we’re going to get radiated in the process as we’re caught in the cross fire.  At least if we do, we’ll do it over a good glass of cab. TD

Copyright Trends Digest  2013All Rights Reserved.

When Public Safety Joins The Hive

The Hive

In the U.S., with the signing of one piece of legislation, the Congress changed the technology direction of an entire marketplace by moving from the typical digital two way radio  standards, in use by public safety today, to those already adopted by the mobile wireless industry.  Of course, as with anything in government, don’t expect it to happen quickly.  But do expect it to have an impact on companies in this sector.

An Alternative Future Becomes Clearer

Standards, already adopted by the cellular phone world, will now begin to envelope public safety, ushering in a brave new world of interconnection.  Now, the public safety world is on its way to unlimited device connection and accessing real-time data at a moment’s notice.  In fact, we’re entering the onramp to a world where billions of devices are not only connected to us, but to each other, and are busy pulling double-duty and forming their own networks.  In the near future, emergency responders may be able to electronically cut off power and other utilities to a building, check vitals on people inside, and send commands to robotic team members to begin search & rescue operations – all before physically arriving on the scene.

An Unveiling of Things to Come

From a layperson perspective, our techno-future might begin looking a little too good, or perhaps, even a bit “Orwellian” given the advanced level of technological homogeneity that is being put into play.  As we watch the future unfold, we see a very mobile world of extensive and intricate interconnection between devices, advanced processing power, and smaller antennae, creating the emergence of the “Virtual Electronically Enabled Hive” .  Technologies are in-place to offer connectivity across an ever broadening range of devices, creating ubiquitous access to data, voice, and video interoperability for Total-Data-Communications On the Move (TDCOM).  Handsets that can connect via cellular, two way radio, WiFi, WiMAX, satellite, “Lego” style “build your own” configurable base stations, redundant centralized cloud processing with virtualization, next generation encryption, drop down apps, and secure/lightning speed/mobile applications, are all part of the nascent technological framework that will blanket the nation.

The U.S. Government’s allocation of radio spectrum in the so called “D block”, tipped the scales in favor of a standard known as Long Term Evolution (LTE).  This move is a bit disruptive as it means that Uncle Sam has finally drawn a line in the sand of technological direction – 4/G paving the way to 5/G.  As this tide turns, the landscape quickly begins looking more like the mobile wireless and cellular landscape, along with the associated supply chain.

We can begin to gain some insight into the future by looking at R&D investments in future technologies and the imprint they will have on the techno-landscape.  Companies like Alcatel-Lucent, Nokia-Siemens, and Motorola spent 12-26%  of their revenues on R&D.  This has yielded some incredible technologies that will fundamentally change mobile wireless and public safety communications as we move into 2020.  Evolving technologies have profoundly changed network and end user functionality in this virtual enclave, and will continue to do so.  An example of these emerging technologies is Alcatel Lucent’s light radio, 2×2” configurable cubes that have sought positioning in the marketplace to replace cell tower functions.  Edge of network devices like Motorola’s LEX 700 (which can leverage LTE and carrier networks, and interactively offer push to talk, video, and voice interoperability through P25 gateways) give us an idea of how user devices are defining the new landscape.

While it may take years to roll out, LTE eventually holds the promise of not only rich broadband data transmission for public safety applications, but also voice over LTE.  Many in the public safety community have already weighed in on the concerns for LTE eventually carrying mission critical voice.  Do we remember the early 2000’s when voice over IP (VOIP) made conversations sound like we were in the bottom of a rain barrel?  Even the early stages of second generation VOIP systems like Skype have had their challenges.  So have commercial VOIP systems that originally cannibalized internal bandwidth until better bandwidth management applications came along.

As public safety becomes part of the “virtual electronically enabled hive” (VEE-Hive), the environment beyond 2020 looks quite different than it does today.  P25 gives way to LTE/4G, and 4/G gives way to 5G or whatever becomes the accepted standard post 2020.  The 5G concept may not be as much about speed as it is about network loading and efficiency given the sheer number of devices communicating over the network.  The idea is to prioritize traffic and automate the process of prioritization.  P25 at least puts us in the modern electronic world.  Think of it as leaving a wash-boarded gravel back road and pulling onto a highway.  P25 to LTE is the onramp to the superhighway that connects us into the world of digital broadband devices and interoperating protocols that connect voice, data, video, sensors, and even robotic/unmanned systems.  The M2M (machine to machine) world of sensors and devices communicating with other devices will provide instantaneous updates, enable rapid, highly granular/high-fidelity life-saving capabilities, and enable time saving multi-step process reduction that can spare lives and reduce costs.  In the future 5G world, groups of devices talk to each other and are pre-programed for priority to make way for emergencies and free bandwidth to avoid mission-critical network congestion.

After 4G comes 5G, likely delivered through IMT Advanced (International Mobile Telecommunications) a specification of a collection of technologies for high speed global broadband approved by the ITU.  This bundle of technologies includes 802.16E (basically, souped-up WiMAX) and advanced LTE.  Since network traffic could grow 1000-fold between now and 2020, newer networks will accommodate growth by offloading processing functions to the cloud, and by getting machine to machine interfaces working effectively so latency can simultaneously be decreased.  Incorporating cognitive radio will also simultaneously enhance spectrum efficiency.

Glimpses of the Future Today

Even though the network may look more like a cellular carrier as we transition to 4G/LTE and 5G, the end user experience is often another story.  Have we ever been in the middle of sending an email or making a critical call when our “smart” phone decides to do something really dumb (like update handset operating system and reconfigure all applications to baseline in the middle of a busy work-day)?  These are the nightmarish visions first responders often have when they think of moving into the 4/G 5/G enabled world.  Automatic software updates, screen fades, power conservation, and loading data from the cloud onto the device all constitute potential ongoing challenges for unfettered end-to-end emergency coverage.

However, you can expect the bold move to 4G/LTE in the public safety market to continue the evolution of players in this market.  It is unlikely that the public safety community has yet grasped the impact to supply chains.  From a core network standpoint, where data/voice switching and routing occurs, the evolution of the supply chain leaves few U.S. manufacturing companies.  On the edge of the network we find device manufacturers who will have to focus on consolidation, specialization, or market exodus.  Trends Digest™ will continue to bring to you our specialized analysis of how we anticipate this market will unfold.  TD

Copyright Trends Digest™ all rights reserved.

The Next Decade: Chicken Soup, Peanut Butter, and Prozac

PBJ and ProzacPBJ and ProzacThe financial crisis of 2009 didn’t just change the last few years, but also the next decade — how we live, how we work, how long we work, and how we perceive the future.

And most people are not seeing the future very positively right now, other than the occasional uptick in housing and a few other bright spots out there.  Everything hurts and we want to be comforted. The doldrums might last longer than people think. So, while it’s not pretty, I think we’ll all be sulking looking for tiny little comforts that make us feel better. At least the next five years should see an uptick in the sale of comfort foods, anti-depressants, alcohol, and, of course, movies and entertainment to round out the escapism. People will be tight fisted in their spending habits unless they can justify that spending a few dollars makes them feel better even if it’s only for a short time. So, to pump up those coffee shop sales, how about getting some Kava tea on the menu?

So if the next decade remains a little frosty, what will people be spending their hard earned cash on?  People don’t give up cheap entertainment easily. It makes them feel better. So cable and satellite TV companies should do well if they figure out how to price and package their products. Hollywood seems short on memory when it comes to uplifting movies. But, this will be a decade where uplifting movies will do well if they’re put into play.

This is also not going to be a good decade for the “great smoke out” where the American Cancer Association encourages people to kick the habit. Giving up cigarettes just got a little harder. In fact, I expect tobacco sales to rise even further and possibly pick up a new following. Designer beers and wines are out and cheap imitators are in. This will be the decade for the “substitute” products. So you wanted the Mercedes, get the Chrysler 300 instead if Chrysler manages to survive. You wanted Prada? Don’t worry, the fact that you bought used on E-Bay is our little secret (and it’s also the secret of the woman you just admired coming out of SAKs).

Things That Should Do Well

Things that we expect to do well besides, soup, cigarettes, peanut butter, and Prozac.

What’s In:

Cigarettes, Comfort Food,  Alcoholic beverages,  Mood Drugs,  Cheap Gyms,  Used books and movies,  Generic brands,  Used everything

What’s Out:

Steak and Lobster,  Super mansions, Wines above a 92 Wines Spectator Rating,  Luxury SUVs

Copyright Trends Digest 2013-2015 Al rights reserved.  Trends Digest is a Trademark of Reperi, LLC.

RFID Enabled Cell phones – What it Means for Marketing

NFC Enabled Courtesy Microsoft

NFC Enabled
Courtesy Microsoft

Just picture yourself enjoying a new wine at a restaurant.  You love the ’91’ Pinot Noir and want to order a case for your wine cellar. So, you hold your phone close to the wine label, and zing! Up pops a tantalizing description of your wine with links to ratings and ordering information. All you need to do is enter “yes” to the “order now?” prompt. Well, pretty soon, you might be in luck because if all goes well, RFID enabled cell phones might open up a whole new avenue of shopping. Ok, just on the off-chance you haven’t heard of Radio Frequency Identification or better known as RFID, it’s basically a little chip that gets embedded into a label or money, or credit cards or whatever the object and transmits a signal to a reader. Of course, right now, RFID works best in situations where the object is closer to the reader. Quite intentionally — because you don’t want the object you are connecting with to be confused with other tagged objects. Future cell phone generations equipped with RFID readers may have some major uses for marketers. Thus far, the RFID industry has been a bit sluggish — stalled by privacy issues, costs, trying to get better scans of the target, and mitigating signal interference issues. The recreational uses present a new frontier for marketers looking for innovative ways of breaking through all of the messaging noise to sell their products. Future iPhone generations are supposedly planned to be equipped with RFID readers. Imagine all those new apps! According to the NFC Forum, Near Field Communication (NFC) technology provides global interoperability of contactless identification and interconnection technologies. NFC operates in the 13.56 MHz frequency range, over a typical distance of a few centimeters. The underlying technology is based upon common technology standards supported by global communication device manufacturers and network operators with the intention of being compatible with hundreds of millions of cards and readers already deployed globally. TD

It’s Downtown or the X-urbs

Houston, Texas, skyline.

Downtown or X-urbs?

A Nation on the Move?  And what’s causing this trend? Gen-Xers, and Gen-Yers want to raise their family in quality of life locations, while baby boomers are trying to locate another nest and retire early. While downtown, in cities across America, people are living closer to work, often deciding not to own a car at all.

Suburbia Moves Closer to the City

Downtown areas are being revitalized at record rates as condos, apartments, mini-grocery stores, and car rental companies cater to the city dweller.

Cities to Watch: Houston, Washington, D.C., Dallas, Chicago

So what will downtowners need? Better shopping, more variety in grocery stores, urban, organic landscaping, kid-friendly developments, community-oriented housing, more convenient rental car locations, and healthier food choices. What is driving the back to the city trend? Incentives for fuel and emissions savings, suburban congestion, the commoditization of suburbia, and new opportunities created by the decline in housing and property prices.

Telecommuters Take Commuting to the Next Level

As rural dwellers, we can’t help but be fascinated by the exodus of America’s knowledge workers and professionals to more rural destinations. Pollsters and journalists seem to miss the mark when they try to point their finger at how, for example, states in the West are shifting demographically and politically. Well folks, people are homesteading again – very well, not the kind that happened at the turn of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, but this time it is tech-homesteading. The acceptability of web conferencing, text messaging, and technology that, while reducing physical/personal human contact increases virtual and qualitative human contact, has freed up individuals to telecommute and perform their work functions from “virtually” anywhere.

During the last decade, this was a gradual progression as organizations allowed telecommuting and small businesses and consultants began mo

This is particularly appealing to Generation Xers and Yers who are more focused on quality of life than their parents. A major contributor to this trend has been the massive investment in telecommunications infrastructure, which is essential to the telecommuter. Rural telephone cooperatives, satellite providers, and local phone and cable companies have made broadband both real and affordable. Don’t forget overnight mail. Internet shopping has changed the world. Being able to get the same goods and services delivered to your door in Fessenden, North Dakota is a necessity. What will the next decade hold for these new rural settlers? Be prepared for more changes in local political structures, at least some small town urbanization as commuters, in getting away from the city, seem to bring some of the city with them.

These new settlers tend to be between 25 and 48, well educated, and more socially and environmentally conscious. Over the next decade, what will these urban transplants need? More small business and home office technology tools, better grocery stores and pharmacies, pet care, healthcare, social organizations and networking to keep them from getting bored. Other needs might include better convertible options for home and home office combinations that deliver voice, data, video, for work and entertainment. Additionally, some smart state and local governments might be able to think up a few tax incentives to lure these telecommuters to their areas. Join TrendsDigest in February 2009 to help us select the top new homesteading communities for telecommuters. – TD

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