The first month of a new year is traditionally one where we all indulge in some wild speculation to see where the industry might be heading over the next year.

The beginning of February brings with it some perspective on where we’re actually heading and something has already become clear – there’s a definite tension between the excitement around smart cities on the one hand and simple sustainable practices on the other.

This has been reflected in our own coverage. Vegas tech show CES hinted at how new technology we’re already familiar with is being further integrated into our homes, businesses and cities. It turns out Toyota is even building its own “city” to this end to test such endeavours.

There is growing interest in the future of personal mobility. Cars as electric, sometimes autonomous vehicles, which read and respond to cities are becoming a reality now. In parallel, cars are turning into comfortable entertainment spaces where voice control AI plays an increasing role. (Incidentally, voice controlled AI has a lot of growing up to do). Autonomous ride-sharing road vehicles have their place in this world too, especially if as many predict, car ownership goes down.  Ben Hubert designed a ride-sharing concept only last week.

While designing sustainably, thoughtfully and in sync with nature is nothing new we were fascinated by what designer and academic Julia Watson calls the age of Lo-TEK. Whereas “low-tech” might be interpreted as unsophisticated, Watson’s “Lo-TEK” stands for Traditional Ecological Knowledge.

She explained to us that her book Lo-TEK: Design by Radical Indigenism eschews the idea of our future cities just being improved by tech-based solutions. Instead, she offers countless examples of how traditional practices observed by indigenous communities for thousands of years can be blended with tech and design thinking so that they are incorporated into our living environments.

Read the rest of Tom Banks’ article at Design Week