With a short gap to fill between meetings in London recently, I found myself near the Museum of London at Barbican, and thanks to the privilege of free entry to our world class museums I ditched the usual hot desking in Starbucks and opted instead for a quick walk around the galleries.
Moving through the polish of elegant City offices on their mediaeval street plans, it’s easy to forget that ‘Londinium’ was settled by the Romans back in around 43AD. Indeed, Roman engineering prowess in bridging the Thames seeded the origins of London as a regional, a national and ultimately a global, trading city. And thanks to the benign nature of the sandy soil and mud underneath our modern day buildings, we have an incredible legacy preserved to the present day showing us what life was like for our Roman ancestors nearly 2,000 years ago.
Strikingly, some of the artefacts on display are almost identical to objects we still use in our daily lives, so perfectly does their form fit their function. Hair combs, belt buckles and perhaps most surprisingly, the folding pocket knife, which I would have guessed was a far more recent gadget. I wondered if a visitor from Roman times would be equally surprised to see that such things were still in use by modern day man, some 70 generations later? I was most struck however by two everyday things that have survived all this time in a similar form, but which may soon disappear in our rapidly changing digital world.
The first is physical coinage. On display at the Museum of London is a striking collection of beautiful small gold coins from the Roman era around AD 65-147. The clarity of detail showing the heads of various Roman leaders is almost as sharp as the Queen’s head on the coins in my pocket today. But for how much longer will we keep using these little metal tokens for trade with the rise of cryptocurrencies, contactless payments and digital wallets in our smart phones?
The other disappearing object may be keys. The world’s oldest key apparently dates back nearly 4,000 years and all of us still carry these little pieces of precision engineering with us everywhere we go to protect or give access to our most treasured things. But times here are changing too, and new digital technologies like biometrics, facial recognition and near field or blue tooth connections to our smart phones are changing the way we protect or access things with greater ease and with more security.
As I walked round the Roman galleries, it was amazing to think that after thousands of years, we may soon leave behind forever the little pocket treasures of coins and keys that we carry wherever we go. It also left me thinking about the fundamental changes we are yet to see in the places in which we live.
We know that technology is changing every aspect of our daily lives, but so far our living environments haven’t really caught up. While technology has been overlaid into our homes, it doesn’t yet sit at the heart of things in a way that links seamlessly with our otherwise joined-up digital lives.
Much of how residential buildings are managed and the experience of living in them still consists of a tapestry of disjointed technology, people and systems, often only loosely connected at an integration level. This leads to operational inefficiencies and customer service failures, with costly but unempowered human resources sitting at the end of many flawed processes.
Yet now, for the first time in history, we have the tools in technology to radically change the way we approach and manage shared living. We are on the cusp of technology driving fundamental changes, the like of which our ancient Roman ancestors couldn’t even begin to comprehend.
Build to Rent is likely to be at the forefront of introducing these technology changes, and as a niche consultancy in this sector, ResiGains has a small but privileged voice in shaping the development of technology that will support new ways of co-living.
So while our pockets may soon be empty of coins and keys, managing our daily lives in shared buildings is about to become whole lot easier. It’s going to be an exciting future, and it’s coming soon.