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Generation Z: vision and hopes (vs. the establishment’s)

Any parent knows that kids want to get what they wish for now, and in the form and shape they like, and without wasting energy and time to get it and enjoy it, and, and, … This is typical of youth, when parents begin to slowly ‘unleash’ their kids, and they feel that the much-awaited freedom of realising their dreams, or at least of trying to, is within arms’ reach, aiming to live their life the way they imagine.
Imagination, fantasy, sensibility and a freely roaming mind: these are the ingredients that generate a number of positive and quickly-changing thoughts, and that fuel a positive and demanding attitude to discover and shape any aspect of life so as to fulfil one’s own expectations.

These were the impressions given by the young panellists who participated at Eureka 2017 in Berlin on 11-12 December 2017. They belonged to the so-called Generation Z, which collectively refers to people born between the mid-1990’s and the mid-2000’s 1.
In brief, they want to make the most of their time by living healthily and respecting the environment.
First of all, life must be enjoyable, which implies that Gen Zers want to have many choices to select from for every aspect of their life, and that all those options must be easy to obtain: job, social activities, practising sports, eating, moving, and so on, are all parts of our existence, so why struggle for them, as it seems possible to do more and more stuff with just a few taps on a smartphone? Connectivity is the underlying, key concept! A concept initially reserved for the “distant” world of hardware and software, is nowadays expanding its meaning and implications to our everyday lives, because smartphones, apps and social media allow us to quickly order home-delivered food, or to rent an apartment, or to pay for a shared car, or to get in touch with others so as to rearrange our agenda at a click or touch. Interestingly, this connectivity is related to the idea of pay-per-use of what is needed, without owning it; and this potentially leads to greater mobility, as if you don’t own a house, you have less links to a place, and are freer to move where life/jobs/friendships take you.
More mobility, when using today’s vehicles, causes more pollution. And being enjoyable is not enough for life to be good: it must also be healthy. Apart from staying fit (thanks to connectivity, people should have more time to dedicate to themselves), food, as a minimum, must be local, seasonal produce so that it will travel shorter distances from field to table and create less pollution due to transport; even better if the vehicles are electric with electricity generated from renewables. Also indoor air quality is on Gen Zers’ minds, because they are well aware that breathing fresh, unpolluted air avoids and relieves our body from the typical tiredness due to stuffy air. And do they expect to take good IAQ for granted? Yes, because spending time on understanding and (continuously) tuning the HVAC system to get good air would be a waste of time that could instead be used more pleasantly. In other words, systems and equipment should self-tune to provide the best result; indeed, they should provide alerts for preventive servicing to avoid downtime or, better still, be redundant and self-repairing. This is what IoT should be for Gen Zers: at their full service, essentially with “customisability on demand and on time”, and without neglecting privacy and data protection.


What can the current players do?

In OECD countries, the industry is moving towards IoT by adding features to equipment, by inventing new products and solutions, also driven by future legislation (for instance, in the EU Ecodesign Lot 33 on smart appliances and the development of the smart grid are both moves in that direction). On the building side, investments for improving energy efficiency (both in new and existing buildings) will hopefully pick up pace, and should be accompanied by interventions aimed at enhancing IAQ. At the same time, an increase in the amount of renewable electricity produced and used is expected to diminish the indirect pollution created by “black” electricity2; in general, the electrification of products and services is forecast to double in OECD countries between now and 20403 because electricity is a very flexible form of energy, whose use can be optimised in various ways.

2 That generated from fossil fuels
3 EIA’s “International Energy Outlook 2017” 

However, the industry cannot just satisfy the vision of the Western Gen Zers (those described above in this article); it also has to provide viable solutions for developing countries. For instance and more basically, a cold chain that avoids the waste of at least part of around 1/3 of the food4, and possibly green enough to respect the Montreal Protocol and the Kigali amendments; feasible solutions for generating renewable electricity and for expanding their power grids; affordable dwellings with heating and cooling; and, above all, training to create skilled personnel who can teach others to design, make, use and service the products that are so-much needed. Consider that the electrification of products and services is forecast to almost quadruple in non-OECD countries between now and 20405, and this justifies the great attention of the industry also on the demands on non-OECD countries.

4 “Reducing Food Loss & Waste”, by Clementine O’Connor, Think Eat Save, at the World Cold Chain Summit, Nov 30-Dec 2 2017, Singapore
5 EIA’s “International Energy Outlook 2017”

All in all, Eureka 2017 represented a positive give-and-take between the Generation-Z panellists and the current industry and institution representatives, because each of the two sides presented their visions and explained to the other what could and/or should be done. The current, respective positions appeared quite distant from each other, like those between parents and kids, yet convergent in the medium and long term because both seemed aimed towards a more respectful use of our planet’s resources.

P.S.: one of the unasked questions was: how will Gen Zers change their attitude when they form a family? Will the pay-per-use concept still be more important than owning a home? Not forgetting all the rest that goes with it. Maybe the future Eureka’s will sort this out.



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