Digital tech can help communities create shared living space, says Ikea

A report from Ikea’s future-gazing lab Space 10 says digital technologies such as Blockchain, vitural reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) can improve the design, planning and operation of shared communities.

The report – Imagine: Exploring the Brave New World of Shared Living – suggests that shared living is the way forward in urban environments and new digital tools might help facilitate “more smooth explorative and collaborative design processes”.

It suggests that Blockchain, as used in a recent Eindhoven University of Technology project, allows for new methods of design and build and new contractual arrangements.

Blockchain technology, as explored by non-profit housing cooperative DOMA, offers a whole new way to design and produce contracts and organise ownerships – independent from traditional expensive and conservative middlemen such as banks and lawyers, says the report.

“Blockchain technology can open up access to ownership by redefining it not as floors and walls, but as shares in a company or building. It’s a company structure that is transparent and (once developed) does not need to be set up by banks and lawyers.”

The report also points to a range of existing digital apps that support shared living. “Technology can help enable shared living. The rise of the sharing economy suggests that people are ready to share more than we thought – and that there is a bigger potential still to be harnessed.

“An undercurrent of new apps shows how technology can also contribute towards creating and maintaining real-life communities, through sharing spaces, tools, knowledge, skills and services. Platforms like Omni, Borigo and Meetup bring people together in the real world and enable them to share things, communication tools and interests more easily.”

The report notes: “As we share more, we are also more vulnerable to social tensions and disagreements. We see developers such as Denmark’s Almenr that are looking into AI and algorithms that can assist in matchmaking processes for different types of potential housemates. Technology will not by itself solve the social challenges related to shared living, but it might help in both the making and the running of shared-living projects.”

Design and production tools are rapidly changing, too, says the report. The “makerspace” and “fab lab” movement “hints at how production can be transformed in the future, demonstrating how more local, custom-made and diverse forms of production might arise from generic tools like 3D printing, including printing entire houses and CNC routers. This can be the start of open-source digital innovation as shown by Open Systems Lab.”

Sounding a note of caution, however, the authors note: “There is a long way to go before we realise their potential. We need to push the technologies and their applications forward in the world of finance, design, construction and operations as well as potential communities in the making.”

The "share house" is an increasingly popular style of communal living in Japan. The Yokohama Apartment complex, designed by Osamu Nishida and Erika Nakagawa, features four micro-apartments.

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