Using smart home app on phone. Smart home control concept.

Smart Design und Smart Produktion

Designmonat Graz 2017 is dedicated to the topic Smart Design – Smart Production dealing with the age of digital networking and the diverse tools of the digital transformation.

The first industrial revolution started with weaving. The steam engine effected the mechanization of looms and the industrialization of the fabric manufacture. At the beginning of the fourth industrial revolution there is the web. Thanks to the internet products, machines and factories are connected, processes are carried out automatically and in an optimized way. ‘Industry 4.0’, ‘Internet of Things’, ‘Smart Production & Services’ – there are many names for the new age of digital interconnection. What is not in question, is the pace of change. The future is not anymore the linear adaptation to things already existing but the open-ended outcome of accelerating dynamics, hence processes of transformation that can be perceived either as a threat or a chance. The digital change, a disruptive occurrence, which gradually effects all economic areas and spheres of life.

Some of the tools of this fourth industrial revolution are simulation, modeling, platformization or additive manufacturing. What almost all of them have in common, is the fact, that creative professionals added them to the tool box of the Smart Factory. The driving forces of the technological change are solutions created by tinkerers and thinkers. Many of them started in basements or backyard garages, were first ridiculed and dismissed as geeks. They actually achieved great things and metaphorically close the circle from weaving in the first industrial revolution to thinking outside the box as a basis for the fourth one. Weaving 1.0 and Tinkering 4.0. The main product back then: fabrics. The current material: immaterial things such as software programmes, applications, solutions, platforms, apps, services, brands, etc. Actually, the protagonists of the creative industries – developers, researchers, programmers, and designers – are the creators and facilitators of the new technological age. Freelancers and one (wo)man shows, very often operating in small groups and flexible networks, encounter industrial companies for mutual benefit. Those develop, design, outline, and plan and hence inspire the big fish while the big fish support the little fish. At the same time, more and more little ones put pressure on big and prestigious companies, as they do develop business models, that could reach industrial dimensions by means of scalable products and services. Yesterday still a start-up and tomorrow already a global player – that is the best case logic in the global 4.0 business. A number does account for the fundamental change: five of the currently biggest and by market capitalization most valuable enterprises worldwide emerged out of garage start-ups of the digital modern age. Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft as providers of digital platforms have reached enormous power and an almost supra-industrial size. (The fact that there are just US-based companies, is something that Europe should think about.)

Little units and big dimensions – a special feature of this technological revolution is the elimination of apparent contradictions. Divides that were considered insurmountable have been bridged. Creative lone fighters and productive heavyweights – never have the interfaces been more open, the synergies bigger and hence the opportunities for cooperation more promising. The business of the future is a fluid system of flexible, versatile think tanks and powerful, manufacturing large enterprises, so the best out of two worlds: Smart Production and Smart Design ride off together into the sunset of a new era.

3D printer and E-Mobility
The example of the 3D printer shows the opportunities of this new alliance and prototypically stands for the smart era. The so-called ‘additive manufacturing process’ provides a highly individualized production, the so-called mass customization of single items. Thus, ‘Batch size 1’ is already reality and contributes to securing the business location of high-wage countries. The 3D printer, a product of the creative industries, does serve the traditional industries but its use also will dramatically change many sectors. Due to the fact, that in the future spare parts will more and more come from the 3D printer, spare parts management and warehousing in the automotive trade are facing enormous changes and consequently also entire fields connected to car dealers and service centres, just as the prototype and small series production in many industrial sectors. Smart solutions for the Industries! Also the whole area of mobility is undergoing a dramatic change due to the increasing digitalization. It goes from the development and production to the use of the vehicles. Via simulation and modeling, virtual development platforms manage the redesign of vehicles, intelligent sensors and microchips in the cars make them more secure, efficient and autonomous in use. Developments for driverless cars and applications related to the topic ‘E-Mobility’ are a currently highly frequented playground for creative developers and designers all around the world. They do not only design new applications and gadgets, but with their ideas do lay the foundation for the industries of the 21st century.

Smart cities for smart poeple?
Yet, not only the mobility of the future will be smart, especially urban spaces will also be required to show smartness. ‘Smart cities’ boom all around the world and the term has turned out to be the buzzword of politicians and marketing experts. Not always to the advantage of its deeper sense. Thus, more than ever, we need to question its core meaning, if the term should not degenerate into a commonplace in the small talk vocabulary or lean towards a far too one-dimensional interpretation. Without doubt, the hyped term ‘smart’ needs to be critically reviewed. Smart Home, Smart Living, Smart Shopping, Smart TV, Smart Meter, Smartphone, Smart People, Smart Everything. Yet, what does ‘smart’ mean when it comes to urban development? How much smartness do we need or how much is reasonable? Where does smartness turn into paternalism? When do algorithms interfere too much in the autonomy of humans and hamper independent thinking and behavior? Automation can become simplification, if the washing machine twitters about its current spin circle, the smart fridge deprives us of the beloved Gouda due to the smartly measured body fat data, and the press articles of online media were already presorted by algorithms based on personal preferences. Does too much smart technology in the end not really serve the so-called smart people, but does it foster the contrary? Thus, simple minds whose freedom of choice successively narrows, just like their conception of the world? However, only if the residents of smart spaces do also allow it. Real Smart People will be able to help themselves and use smart tools and thereby become even smarter, less smart people on the contrary might succumb to the simplifying effects of smart life assistance and possibly fall into a smartness downward spiral. The provocative thesis: due to ‘smartness’ smart people become smarter, while less smart ones get even less smart. All in all, the currently often complained growing gap of society will also be a challenge in the context of Smart Cities.

Social inclusion
Or have we expectantly fallen into the trap of the problematic nature of the term ‘smart’? By interpreting the term ‘smartness’ just in a technical sense? A frequently alleged and justified reproach. After all, ‘smart’ – not least due to the linguistic smartphone connotation – is in theory and reality indeed considered too many times on a purely technological level. A perspective that is not only ‘not smart’ but does also exclude the holistic smart city view. It does eventually not only comprise digital processes in the field of home electronics and household appliances or efficient systems of energy management, but goes much further. ‘Smart’ stands for a broad understanding of life quality which most of all also highlights social and interpersonal factors. In a smart city social inclusion is as important as an honest effort in terms of sustainability, which ranges from smart mobility to share economy and conservation of resources in all fields. Also the political decision-making processes in a smart city should not be excluded and take place in a transparent and participatory way. The keywords for this are E-Democracy, Open Government and Citizen Participation. Thus, smart life for smart people. Are we ready for it?

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