Signals: Living in (Smart) Glass Houses... and more

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Volume 1,
Number 12
April 16, 2015

Living in a (Smart) Glass House

Colder winters and hotter summers are why living and working in glass-fronted buildings is not smart. These beautiful but energy-inefficient designs are costly for owners and waste tremendous amounts of energy.

Buildings account for a huge portion of overall energy consumption—some 40 percent in Germany, for instance. Fraunhofer Institute researchers in Dresden are now working with students and professors at Weissensee School of Art in Berlin to develop better materials for use in glass façades.

The team is constructing a demonstration model of thermally reactive fabric blinds based on a concept by design student Bára Finnsdóttir. The design consists of a matrix of 72 flowerlike fabric components with shape-memory actuators integrated into them. As sunlight hits the façade, the pieces move noiselessly to shield the building from heat.

The researchers hope to have a commercially available system by mid-2017. Looking beyond smarter façades, they envision even better energy capabilities for the concept.

“It might be possible to store solar thermal energy and then release it when needed to heat the interior, for instance at night,” says André Bucht, department head at Fraunhofer IWU. “Another idea is to coat the flower fabric components with malleable, organic solar cells in order to generate electricity that can be used within the building.”

Source: Fraunhofer IWU. Image: © Bára Finnsdóttir, Weissensee School of Art Berlin.

Signals: architecture, design, energy

Food Regulators Urged to Define “Natural”

Food producers, consumers, and regulators all want to know what’s natural, and no one seems to agree. “Artificial” ingredients are a little easier to understand, such as added colors and flavors, but these additives cast suspicions on many food products that may actually be harmless.

With more genetically modified organisms creeping into the food supply, marketers have been put on the defensive to reassure consumers and regulators. Consumers have resorted to lawsuits to demand complete and accurate information on the stuff they stuff into their mouths.

“Though natural food lawsuits to date have disappointed, they encourage marketers to drop the claim of being natural or reformulate their products to avoid future lawsuits,” writes Ross D. Petty of Babson College in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing. “Perhaps this will persuade the [Food and Drug Administration] or [Federal Trade Commission] to consider creating, finally, a definition for the meaning of natural.”

Source: American Marketing Association

Reference: Ross D. Petty, “‘Natural’ Claims in Food Advertising: Policy Implications of Filling the Regulatory Void with Consumer Class Action Lawsuits,” Journal of Public Policy & Marketing (In Press). DOI:10.1509/jppm.14.147

Signals: consumers, food, GMO, marketing, regulation

Marketing for a Better World: Report from Timothy C. Mack

Psychology, behavioral economics, and even neuroscience are coming together with digital technology to change the mechanics of human decision making. The goal is to use feedback on consumers’ emotional reactions and to apply conditioning techniques (rewards) to promote the habits of pleasurable actions. Behavior engineering is flowering in such developments as Nir Eyal’s Habit Hook, driven by rapid advances in neuroscience and the emergence of continuous shopping.

But this approach isn’t just about reinforcing habitual consumption; it could also build habits that are actually good for you, such as encouraging more physical activity, getting more rest each night, or being more frugal. Nonprofit organizations could also use such benign behavior building techniques, benefiting from greater sharing of personal information and higher, more reactive transmissions speeds worldwide. Read more.

Timothy C. Mack is managing principal of AAI Foresight Inc. This report is adapted from the Foresight Signals blog. Download his Foresight Report “The Future of Retail Marketing” (Spring 2015).

Signals: addiction, AI, marketing, neuroscience, psychology

In Memoriam: Kenneth W. Harris

The foresight community was saddened to learn of the death earlier this year of Ken Harris, who served the World Future Society and its National Capital chapter for many years. He was also a field editor on transportation for TechCast Global and a member of the Association for Professional Futurists and the Lifeboat Foundation, in addition to his work as a consultant for the Consilience Group.

Ken was an avid sports and fitness fan, enjoying golf, biking, weight training, and numerous other activities, about which he wrote eloquently for The Futurist.

“His interests and expertise ranged from transportation to the sports industry to health, and worked on fundraising and outreach programs,” said AAI Foresight managing consultant Tim Mack. “He was diligent, reliable and indefatigable in his support of the interests of the World Future Society, and he will be greatly missed.”

Ken devoted more than 30 years to federal civil service, working principally at the Federal Aviation Administration. His work in helping the FAA navigate the future of aviation and the economy segued to his post-federal consulting and volunteer work, including leading book discussion groups.

“Ken Harris was among the most dedicated World Future Society volunteers relentlessly advocating for and actively supporting the activities of the futures community,” said former board chair Ken Hunter. “He worked tirelessly to support the WFS chapters and people around the world developing local groups. He also served on many special project teams always contributing time, talent and professionalism to enterprise. It was a pleasure serving with Ken over the decades.”

Ken lived in Bethesda, Maryland, with his wife, Carolyn. At the time of this writing, a date for memorial services had not been set. Condolences may be posted in the comments here or emailed to AAI Foresight and will be forwarded to Carolyn Harris.