Digital transformation of the Fourth Industrial Revolution holds the potential to redefine the very basis of our materials-reliant industrial economy. Enabled by the internet of things, a new model of growth gaining independence from finite resource extraction is emerging. Can pervasive connectivity become the new infrastructure enabling effective material flows, keeping products and materials at their highest value at all times, thus enabling the coming of age of the circular economy?
The circular economy is a concept by which materials and products are kept at their highest possible value at all times. The rapid and pervasive development of digital technologies, along with an understanding of circular economy principles, will drastically change life for the average urban citizen much sooner than we think.
Consider the smart shareable home. On walking out the door of your home, smart thermostats will trigger the heating in the apartment to turn down to a minimum, saving energy (and lowering bills). Citizens could make even better use of their assets by converting an extra room into a secure office, rentable on a city-wide sharing platform. Should someone want to rent it on a given day, the heating will quickly power up in time for the temporary resident to feel comfortable and welcome. Demand is likely to be strong — the connected city will have more remote workers and contractors who would appreciate the quiet space.
In a circular economy, products no longer have a life cycle with a beginning, middle and end, and therefore make less waste and add value to their ecosystem. The scale of what we design has shifted from products, to companies, to economic systems.
Who we design for has expanded from a solitary user to an intimately connected web of people spanning the globe. New tools such as AI, the internet of things, and biomimicry mean our design ambitions are limited only by our imagination. The global economy is stuttering and disruptive technologies challenge established business models. A new mindset for business is emerging. It’s worth around a trillion dollars, will drive innovation in tomorrow’s companies, and reshape our lives.
The Circular Design Guide helps innovators create more elegant, effective, creative solutions for the circular economy. Solutions that are invaluable for people, give businesses a competitive edge, and are regenerative for our world.