All around the world, construction methods have begun an accelerated shift towards increased innovation and efficiency, whether in building design, the implementation of constructive solutions, or the distribution and placement of building materials. One dimension of this revolution is the energy efficiency of buildings. Insulation solutions, in particular, are undergoing an unprecedented wave of innovation.
Autolib' is a technical, operational and commercial success. This electric car-sharing service which started in Paris and operates in several French cities is now going global: the latest city where the scheme has been adopted is Indianapolis. This rather risky venture was made possible by the alliance between a giant and a startup. Here is its story.
Mathematics and technology are increasingly used in decision-making. The current trend is even to replace human decisions by machine decisions. But in some experiences, technological innovation helps to reinvigorate the most human of all decision process: democracy. This is the purpose of the Democracy 2.1 experiment, launched by the Czech mathematician Karel Janeček: a radical innovation of the voting system, based on mathematical intuitions derived from game theory.
As crowdfunding becomes more accepted, it's moving into new areas. One with a lot of promise: commercial real estate, where deals under $10 million are not worth the efforts of big investors, says Dan Miller, co-founder of Fundrise. These large investors do not want to have a lot of $1 million investments, they won't be able to manage it. That has left an opening for crowdfunding firms like his.
In February Elon Musk boldly predicted Tesla motors would go where no car company has ever gone before, to a $700 billion market valuation by 2025. To put that in perspective, Apple became the most valuable company in history when it reached a $700 billion market valuation in November 2014. Compared to the automobile industry, $700 billion dwarfs the market value of the five biggest public automobile companies. Together, Toyota, Volkswagen, BMW, Ford and Honda have a market cap of just $522 billion. Is Elon Musk crazy? Or is he planning something only he can see?
Ever heard of maps 2.0? Yes, just like web 2.0, they are not only digital but also social and personal. You can make them yours, as well as use your friends' knowledge and experience of a city. What do they show, how do they work? Citymaps is probably one of the most innovative startups in the game. CEO and cofounder Elliot Cohen tells us about the dreams that lie beneath the map – with a glimpse of the technical challenges and the business model.
Following suit to the Guggenheim Museum, a number of Western cultural institutions have launched a series of spectacular offshoring operations, exporting their trademarks and their specific know-how. Playing somewhere between influence diplomacy and cultural marketing, museums and universities in the Western world are trying their luck in the new Paradises of the Middle East or Asia. What are the expected benefits and what are their strategies?
A short distribution channel is defined either by direct sale from producer to consumer or by the indirect sale, provided that there is only one intermediary. Long confined to activist circles, this alternative model is now moving out of the margins. What are its prospects? Can it prove a game changer?
Asia and key emerging countries have embarked in an impressive movement of infrastructure urbanization and modernization. And while these major projects mobilize international expertise, they are however quite different from those conducted in Europe or the United States. The decision-making processes are not the same, and today's architects and planners are putting an emphasis on the very experience of space, which varies considerably from one culture to another.
In emerging economies, the question is now being raised: will a parallel development of middle class and car driving paralyze the megacities? Advanced countries are already experimenting new solutions. How can we banish the spectre of urban immobility?
The advent of intelligent transportation systems creates opportunities for many players, from the Internet giants to the pioneers of the sharing economy... including smart public authorities. But who will invest? How to share costs and profits? And who will own the data?
Urbanization isn't just about cities. The impact of emerging megacities on the surrounding resources is a growing concern for both experts and local authorities. One shouldn't forget that every large city owes its growth to a generous hinterland, able to feed its inhabitants. The equation is changing. But it still has to be solved.
Fifteen years ago, with the advent of the “new economy”, brick and mortar businesses embodied the ancient world. But the energy transition has just turned the tables: the construction sector is going through a phase of unprecedented innovation. And the industry of brick and tile is at the heart of this revolution – a revolution which focuses on the energy performance of buildings but also on the life cycle of materials.
20 years ago, they were considered a true revolution. Today, ecodistricts are growing fast and in many ways it seems they constitute a promising solution towards inventing the ultimate sustainable city. But they are also a cause of debate, and their ability to prevail outside Europe is also in question.
How does one manage fire hazards in a hospital, an airport or on a plane? If detection technologies are evolving, the key today lies in consolidating and processing information, with Danger Management Systems which also monitor security breach risks and transit management. By specializing in the design of system architectures, major industrial players have evolved into becoming service providers. Fire protection, thus, increasingly appears as one of the most technical elements of a wider business line: security.
For a long time, the one and only mission of public water service was to provide the best possible supply, both in quantity and quality. But the increasing stress on water resources and the rise of other environmental issues now force suppliers and local authorities to completely rethink their approach. Technical innovation is part of the solution, but the whole models are to be reinvented. Along which lines?
The urbanization of the world now takes place in the digital era, where connectivity is a core feature of urban functions. New, smarter cities are emerging. But technology falls short of creating urban dynamics by itself. Rather than just implementing smart devices, the challenge is empowerment and participation.
How do we ensure that exponential increases in demand for bandwidth continue to be met both today and tomorrow? What hurdles must be overcome in the race to deploy ultra-high speed networks in the face of a less than favorable economic climate? Reflection on Europe provides fertile grounds for debate over some of the more delicate issues which, at their heart, revolve around new approaches toward network management and a more pragmatic idea of the network neutrality principle.
The first automated metro lines opened over thirty years ago. Today, new projects are being launched and older lines are being upgraded to automatic systems. These choices are driven by technical as well as economic reasons. But do the edges of the automated metro live up to the investments? Recent projects in and around Paris provide some valuable feedback.
As a theme, social innovation emerged in the 1960s, driven by management theorists like Peter Drucker and social entrepreneurs such as Michael Young, founder of the Open University. But only in the last decade has it really taken off, by redrawing the sometimes blurry line between business and civil society, one drawing inspiration from the other and vice versa.