In recent years, some of the best products and businesses have been created when local concerns are met with sophisticated solutions. There seems to be a magic formula developing: when city-based designers with an aptitude for technology can identify a unique concern of their neighbors and set out to develop a tailored solution, a beautiful invention is delivered. These advancements eventually spread, and are useful for society at large. For example, prototypes for low-cost DIY geiger counters appeared in Japan only weeks after the 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster. Similar sensors made their way into start-up Lapka’s product: a cord of sensors that plug into your iPhone for measuring radiation, humidity, temperature, and other conditions.
Technology development has become democratized and localized. No longer are tech devices the domain of corporate R&D houses inside Apple, Samsung, or Nokia. In fact, most of what we’ve seen in the past few years in New York City are city-based startups developing and selling their own hardware devices. Since these entrepreneurs and their development teams are embedded in the context and user-base they’re designing for, the process is quite focused, lean, and iterative.