Here are five indicators, observations or articles that caught the eye of FA futurists today.

Image: The Great 8, Flickr.

  1. Nest’s smart thermostats are rolling out new peak-load management capabilities, enabling the company to offer participants cash discounts if they enable their thermostats to manage their electricity and A/C consumption during heavy load periods. Demand reduction for participants is always voluntary, and Nest thinks its positive image with customers may make them more likely to participate in the program than in the programs offered by utility companies.
  2. “Sensor journalism” is in its infancy, and will go beyond the handcrafted approach discussed in this piece to include distributed sensing on millions of mobile devices.
  3. Drugs to treat insomnia are plagued by side effects. A recent study in Science Translational Medicine reports “the prospect of a new class of compound with a new mode of action that may usher in a new era for insomnia treatment, with the potential for fewer side effects.” Promising results with rats and monkeys will need to be replicated in humans.
  4. David Girouard, writing for Wired, argues that the next stage of crowdfunding–the next disruption of the way capital is allocated–will be investing in promising people, rather than companies or ideas. Girouard is founder and CEO of Upstart, which lets backers invest in promising college graduates in exchange for a small share of their future income.
  5. Lego founder Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen is launching a new school in  Lego’s hometown of Billund. The school, dubbed Lego School, will follow the state education standards and offer IB degrees, but the educational focus will be “educational inquiry” and incorporate creativity and play. The aim of the schools is to turn out students who can “think and do.”


Image: Herkie, Flickr

I’m pleased to report that an article I co-authored for The Futurist in 2012 has landed on the magazine’s list of its most popular stories of the year. Co-written with my longtime friend and colleague Chris Carbone, who serves as director of insights and research at Innovaro, “From Smart House to Networked Home” describes how cutting-edge technologies ranging from cloud intelligence to 3D printing to personal analytics could reshape mainstream home life in the next decade. While “smart homes” have been predicted for decades, new social drivers and the rapid penetration of networked devices into everyday life are making this forecast more plausible than ever.

You can find the full list of The Futurist’s most popular articles from 2012 here. Happy reading!

Tiny houses are an American tradition, dating back to the 150sf cabin where Thoreau wrote his masterpiece on simple living. Now they’re back in vogue, driven by foreclosure woes, boomers downsizing, and eco-consciousness. According to an interesting update in the New Haven Advocate, at least two consulting firms—Rightsize by Design and Tumbleweed Tiny House Company—now exist to help consumers plan their live-in gazebo, while numerous blogs promote the movement. A home designed by Tumbleweed costs $16,000 for plans and materials, or about $39,000 ready-made. Tempting…. but honestly, can you imagine what this trend would do to US divorce rates if everyone started moving into tiny houses? Just give me the revolving hut that George Bernard Shaw used as his backyard writing studio — but let me keep my 4BR/2BA, and my relationship, intact please.

Image: nicolas boullosa (Flickr)

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