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The Future of Homes: From Smart to Autonomous

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For years, consumers have been promised that their homes will be connected and smart, integrating the latest technology to optimize and control lighting, heating, energy consumption, electronic devices, and security features.

However, the future has come a little slower than expected. By the end of 2017, it’s estimated that only 16.3% of Americans will live in a smart home, though this percentage will increase to 35.6% by 2021.

Examining the Smart Home Market

Today’s infographic comes from Insurance Quotes, and it helps to give an overview of the current market as well as the reasons for hesitation in the switch to smart homes.

The infographic also provides a future outlook, including the impending movement to “autonomous” smart homes.

The Future of Homes: From Smart to Autonomous

In 2016, smart systems were installed in about 45% of all homes in the U.S. that got renovated.

However, they are far from ubiquitous yet – many consumers still have concerns that are holding the market back from reaching its full potential.

Top Trepidations

The largest hindrance to smart homes for now is cost, which is cited by 42% of consumers as an obstacle.

However, there is also evidence that a fear of devices being hacked is also a challenge for many wanting to adopt the technology – in fact, 17% prospective buyers cite privacy and security concerns as a top hindrance. Further, about 10% of consumers have already had smart home devices hacked, and 87% of them had to shell out money to solve the issue.

Paradoxically, even though technologically superior security systems are a top reason that homeowners want to have smarter homes in the first place, the vast majority of IT experts say that IoT apps such as those used at home are far harder to secure than regular mobile apps.

Autonomous Smart Homes

After smart homes, the next logical step is an autonomous smart home that can learn based on your habits and behaviors. Such a home would recognize you and other family members, adapting things like temperature, lighting, or recommendations to you automatically based on your lifestyle and activities.

For this to work – everything would need to be truly connected: your mattress would assess how you sleep, your alarm would connect to your coffee maker, and the morning lighting would be shifted to match your evolving preferences.

While there are many uncertainties about what an autonomous smart home would mean, the inevitability of their rise is clear.

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Markets

From Novelty to Necessity: The Growing Tiny Home Movement

Tiny homes have grown into a multi-billion dollar industry—but is it just a millennial novelty, or a necessity for every generation?

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Visualizing the Rise of Tiny Homes

Born out of the desire for a simpler, more affordable way of life, the tiny home movement has spread at a furious pace—with the global market estimated to grow by a CAGR of almost 7%, adding nearly $5.2 billion in market size by 2022.

Given the economic pressures of today’s world, these alternative housing solutions have become not only a viable option for many people, but a vital one.

Today’s infographic from Calculator.me illustrates how the tiny home market got so big, and how it fares against traditional housing when it comes to providing environmentally friendly and affordable options.

How Did Tiny Homes Get So Big?

It was not until the 2009 recession hit the U.S. that tiny homes became more of a realistic option, as the benefits of downscaling became more apparent.

From then on, three things propelled the popularity of tiny homes: rising house costs, shrinking incomes, and a greater consideration for the environment.

Today, 63% of U.S. millennials would consider living in a tiny home. However, the need to go tiny is not only confined to millennials, as 40% of tiny home owners are over fifty years old.

Tiny Vs. Traditional

According to the infographic, a home is considered tiny (or micro) when it is between 80-400ft², and is at least 8ft in height.

Tiny homes also come with a tiny pricetag, costing just $23,000 on average to build—meaning tiny homes are almost ⅒ the price of traditional homes.

MetricTiny HomesTraditional Homes
U.S. Median Cost$59,884$312,800
Average Cost To Build$23,000$206,132
Home Ownership78% own their home65% own their home
Mortgage32% have a mortgage64.1% have a mortgage
Credit Card Debt40% have credit card debt37% have credit card debt

Other benefits of tiny home living include:

  • Avoiding mortgage debt
  • Less maintenance required
  • Allows for a more flexible lifestyle

Further, tiny homes are providing people with alternative solutions for more sustainable living.

An Environmentally Friendly Way of Living

Certain models of tiny homes use energy from solar panels—presenting ample opportunities for an independent off-grid lifestyle. Moreover, research from Virginia Tech shows that living in tiny homes reduces energy consumption by up to 45%.

Using less energy can also be attributed to tiny homeowners using the space outside as an extension of their home. In fact, when there is usable space available outdoors, tiny home living may not seem as drastic in comparison to living in a traditional home.

Room For Improvement

There are however, some challenges for those who are considering this way of life. Zoning laws and building codes in the U.S. can be restrictive, with some states more supportive of the idea than others.

Despite these barriers, there are numerous organizations and initiatives that have been created in order to eliminate the pain points that come with tiny homes, and legitimize the industry.

Not Just a Passing Trend

With the promising trajectory of tiny homes, it is inevitable that the interest from global retailers continues to grow.

Japanese minimalist company, Muji, released their own tiny homes in 2017, costing $26,000 on average. At just under 107.6 ft², these tiny homes are prefabricated, meaning they are constructed in a factory off-site.

Amazon also recently announced their foray into the tiny home space, with dozens of models available on their website—delivering new homes right to their customers’ front doors.

The Future Comes in All Shapes and Sizes

Beyond the typical tiny home formats we see entering the market en masse, there are other alternatives which will become more readily available to consumers, including:

  • Traditional modular homes
  • Shipping containers
  • 3D printed houses
  • Recreational vehicles

It is also worth pointing out that tiny homes and these alternative models don’t have to be restricted to under 400ft². Flat packs and do-it-yourself tiny homes can be as big as 1,000ft², with some of the largest models housing up to 24 people.

It is clear that the tiny home movement is not just about going back to basics, but rather, about making home ownership a reality for everyone—potentially disrupting the current housing market in the process.

The question is not if tiny homes will become the new normal, but when.

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Cities

Form and Function: Visualizing the Shape of Cities and Economies

Economies create distinct spatial patterns. This week’s chart visualizes the relationships businesses and industry imprint on the urban environment.

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Visualizing the Shape of Cities and Economies

The Industrial Revolution changed the form and function of cities. New patterns of work resulted in massive wealth and distinct advantages for certain regions. Urbanization emerged as a defining characteristic of this age.

During the latter part of the Industrial Revolution, Cambridge School economist Alfred Marshall looked at a particular question: why did certain industries concentrate in specific places?

Marshall argued that the local concentration of industry created powerful economies promoting technical dynamism and innovation.

This Chart of the Week highlights the spatial patterns and business relationships created at the urban scale. Marshall’s insights from the past help us understand present-day tech and media economies and the massive growth of urban regions.

The Logic of Concentration

Marshall observed that industrial concentration led to long-term tendencies such as increasing returns on capital and compounding regional advantages.

The heart of this observation is that knowledge resides within the companies that make up a particular industry. Over time, these companies can accumulate even more information and direct the flow of new and innovative ideas. This creates local specialization and increasing profits, while also concentrating success, knowledge, and wealth into one key locale.

He defined this pattern as a Marshallian Industrial District.

An Evolving Landscape: Four Patterns

Marshall’s work would later influence the work of Ann Markusen, who created a typology of three additional industrial patterns. The patterns identify what makes a city attractive or repellent to income-generating activities.

District Type: Description: Example:
Marshallian Industrial District This is a clustering of firms in a similar industry, operating within a certain geographic area. Social media marketing companies in San Francisco
Satellite Platform District A set of unconnected branches with links beyond regional boundaries, each part of its own globally oriented supply chain. Suburban neighborhoods
Hub and Spoke District An industrial sector with suppliers clustering around one, or several, dominant firms. Airplane manufacturer Boeing and the region of Seattle.
State-anchored District Industrial activities are anchored to a region by a public or non-profit entity, such as a military base, a university, or a concentration of public laboratories or government offices. Madison, WI and Columbus, OH are examples of university towns, as are many cities with large defense installations such as Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.


There are both benefits and problems—called “externalities”—associated with the spatial agglomeration of physical capital, companies, consumers, and workers:

Advantages Disadvantages
  • Low transport costs
  • A great local market
  • A large supply of labor
  • Increased chance of supply and demand for labor
  • Lower search costs and fast matching of products and labor
  • Knowledge spillovers between firms
  • Strong environmental pressures
  • High land prices
  • Bottlenecks in public goods (e.g. poor/overburdened infrastructure)
  • Corruption
  • High competitive pressure
  • Economic inequality

Clusters for a Digital Age

In the past, the physical constraints of an area defined the structure of cities. Now that so many companies are free from the shackles of producing physical goods, does geography still matter?

Researcher Marlen Komorowski re-examined the concept of clustering with this question in mind. Here are five types of media clusters identified in her research.

The Shape of Media Clusters

District Type: Description: Example:
The Creative Region A metropolitan region that provides advantages due to readily available infrastructures and institutions, and encourages the development of face-to-face interaction and collaboration networks. Berlin, Singapore, Amsterdam
The Giant Anchor A location defined by the activities of one or several large media institutions, which attract complementary firms to agglomerate. Similar to the hub-and-spoke cluster model. Seattle, (Microsoft, Amazon), and Cambridge (Harvard, MIT)
The Specialized Area A media cluster that is located either in a neighborhood within a big metropolitan area or in a small urbanized area. The Specialized Area is marked by a readily available, large pool of employees from a specialized field. Soho (London), Silicon Valley
The Attracting Enabler Determined by the location of certain facilities or resources that can be shared that enable media activities. Movie studios are a prime example. Los Angeles, Vancouver
The Real Estate This type of cluster is centered around office space, sometimes purpose-built for media and creative companies. This space can also include incubators / accelerators. Dubai Media City, Dublin’s Digital Hub


Four rationales drive these patterns: agglomeration, urbanization, localization economies. and artificial formation.

The Shadow of the Industrial Revolution

Alfred Marshall made the argument that local concentration of industry can offer powerful economies and technical dynamism and innovation.

We now see this pattern with the emergence of megacities that accrue the majority of the financial and knowledge returns. These megaregions set the perfect stage for dynamic economic exchanges between skilled labor, technology, and networks.

What does your city look like?

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