Talk provides glimpse at near-future technology
By Jake Wray, News Editor
What could the next few decades have in store for New Westminster?
That was the central question of a talk by Nikolas Badminton, a Vancouver-based researcher and futurist, at the Laura C. Muir Theatre in Douglas College May 31.
Humanity is in the midst of exponential technological expansion, Badminton said, and this technology is being integrated into city systems to create “smart cities,” a crucial process as more people move to cities.
“By 2030, nearly 9 per cent of the world will live in 41 megacities,” he said. “That’s a huge responsibility that the people have running those cities to make it as efficient as possible, and comfortable, and humane.”
Cities will use more solar power as the cost of producing solar power plummets with improved technology and global reliance on oil for energy diminishes, Badminton said. He pointed to a transparent solar panel prototype developed at the University of Michigan that can double as a window.
“What if every window in every city was a solar panel?” Badminton asked. “[The prototype is] not as efficient as normal solar panels, but you can have a larger area of coverage and it’s not really an issue.”
The issue of solar panels only being effective on sunny days is effectively solved, according to Badminton.
“People in Finland have actually built a black silicone solar cell using nanotechnology that works as efficiently in cloudy days as it does in sunny days,” he said. “It’s a game-changer.”
Cities are increasingly using sensors, cameras, and other smart technology to increase the efficiency of various civic systems, Badminton said. Barcelona sought to save money by using smart technology in response to the Spanish financial crisis and managed to save $95 million annually after implementing smart technology in things like city lights, water systems, and parking.
The global market for smart city sensor technology and consultancy will be $3.48 trillion in 2026, according to Badminton, up from approximately $622 billion today.
Cities could eventually have central operating rooms with dashboards displaying city-wide data, similar to a NASA control room, Badminton said.
There are also a number of technological advances coming in the transportation sector, including self-driving cars, electric vehicles, and increased use of car-sharing services, according to Badminton, and housing density will also see technological improvement in coming years.
Approximately 50 people attended the speaking event, hosted by the New Westminster Chamber of Commerce, including Jonathan Coté, mayor of New Westminster.
“Technology seems to be changing faster and faster,” Coté said to the audience prior to Badminton’s talk. “I think it’s very critical, from my perspective and those in the community, to really say ‘how are these changes going to impact us?’”
Dave Taylor, associate vice president, public affairs from Douglas College, also spoke at the event.
“At Douglas we have the somewhat challenging task of educating a generation of young people for jobs that haven’t been invented yet using technology that we can’t yet currently even imagine,” he told the crowd. “The task is daunting, but it’s also extremely exciting.”