Location Technologies Are Changing Our World


Dr. David RosenBy Dr. David Rosen

“There are three things that matter in real estate,” Lord Harold Samuel said in the early twentieth century, “location, location, location.”

By mid-century location, location, location became the mantra for retailers as well. Even today it remains true, although the convenient location may be under your fingertips, on the Internet. For US manufacturing it meant locating factories anywhere but the US (ABTUS) where cheap labor was plentiful.

Now, however, the importance of location has gotten a new twist. The hot technology called AR (Augmented Reality) takes your location and blends it with virtual worlds.

Think Pokemon Go, which fills our streets with pocket monsters. Or consider the new products from director Peter Jackson’s group that turn your family room into the set for a sci-fi movie. They make their magic through the same technologies that we find in smart boards that fill our classrooms. These use spatial sensing systems to locate surfaces and anchor virtual objects on them.

The applications are sometimes mind-blowing. Thinking about a new piece of furniture? The IKEA app uses AR to let you select a piece, position the piece in your space, look at it from all angles, and then order it.

Very slick. But other possibilities are even slicker. The technologies that can locate a surface also can guide a needle through cloth with amazing precision. In fact, if you feed the same stitched piece back into the machine, the new stitches will exactly match the old ones needle dip for needle dip.

Even more amazing, these machines can sew an entire tee-shirt in 22 seconds, error free, and each tee comes out exactly the same. And when that machine is located along side apparel distribution, the cost of manufacturing the tee is reduced by almost half, doing away with the need for cheap foreign labor. What would that mean for companies like Nashville-based VF Imagewear that produce lines like Wrangler work wear for a national market?

This advance could be industry-changing for locales like Middle Tennesse. With US production of apparel having dropped to 3% of world production in the last decades, this new technology can help re-shore US manufacturing jobs by making up for our lack of skilled, cheap sewing labor.

But apparel is not the only industry visual location technologies will change. Those same technologies are at the heart of autonomous and machine-assisted vehicles. Nissan are you listening? And, Vanderbilt Medical Center, they could be used to change cutting and sewing in the operating room.

All of this gives new meaning to the century-old adage: location, location, location. New high-speed visual technologies anchored in place-finding promise better place-making. They will improve our locations not just for fun, but in earnest.

About Dr. David Rosen

David Matthew Rosen, past president of O’More College of Design and Kendall College of Art & Design, advises in innovation, strategy, design and education. Follow Dr. Rosen on Twitter and Linkedin.