Designing cities for our work future

The changing nature of work will have a large impact on where we spend our time in the cities of the future.

Researchers from CSIRO’s Data61 team have undertaken research into trends that will impact employment markets over the coming 20 years, as well as the set of skills and mindsets needed for the future.

Their recent report Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce: Megatrends and Scenarios for jobs and employment in Australia over the next twenty years examines the changing nature of work in Australia due to technological, economic, social, environmental and geopolitical trends.

“With increasing knowledge of emerging trends, comes new opportunities to design our cities to accommodate the changing face of our workforce and to harmonise with the evolving nature of work itself,” said Andrew Reeson, an economist with CSIRO Data 61.

“Designing cities to account for growing employment opportunities in service industries such as healthcare and professional services, is one case in point.

“We are likely to see continued growth in jobs that require creativity, complex judgement, advanced reasoning, social interaction and emotional intelligence rather than those that can more easily be managed through automation or artificial intelligence.”

It is not only the work itself that is changing. Technological advances are also offering us new ways to get to and from work, such as in autonomous vehicles, or online-booked and GPS-tracked share vehicles. These can reduce commute times and the demand for car ownership and double garages.

We can also expect more people to be working from within their local neighbourhoods but providing services globally. CSIRO has been pioneering techniques that let experts use consumer hardware to complete physical tasks over the internet regardless of geography, according to senior research engineer with CSIRO Data61, Matt Adcock.

“Smartphones and tablets are gaining 3D sensing capabilities and that means a 3D video can be streamed to someone who is trying to help you,” said Mr Adcock.

“The remote expert can draw onto 3D video and the local user can see those drawings overlayed onto the physical world using augmented reality.”

Another example could be for roadside assistance.

“Instead of waiting hours for roadside assistance to reach you, someone at any location connected by phone could help you triage and troubleshoot the problem in 3D,” said Mr Adcock. “You could get back on the road much sooner.”

The hypothetical scenarios are endless with the open-ended opportunities of advancing technology. For example, a community hub at Ginninderra could be home to a classroom where students are being taught a physical task (craft, art, DIY handiwork, cooking, etc.) by an expert ‘beaming in’ from another country using data projection and remote guidance technology like that being developed at the CSIRO.

At Ginninderra there could be the opportunity to create ‘smart working hubs’ within walking distance of homes, resulting in less traffic and environmental burden, and provide access to a broader range of skills and expertise.

Accessing the Macquarie University 'OneNet' network via a laptop.