Mentor Speak: German Aparicio

June 28, 2012 1:36 pm

German AparicioGerman J. Aparicio Jr is a founder, faculty member and consultant whose work revolves around the future of cities and how technology can enable and support that future. Talking with him is our equivalent of having a crystal ball:

German, your skills seem to cross several disciplines: architecture, interaction and urban design. What do you see as the commonalities these disciplines share and what attracts you to them?

All three of these disciplines deal with the built environment and the people that inhabit them, be it at the product, building or urban scale. I would say that at the core of each discipline lies design, technology and user experience. In architecture, an architect designs the spatial experience of its occupants. In interaction design, an interactive designer, designs the user experience of a product or software and in urban design an urban designer designs how a city inhabitant experiences their city. It is through the design of these experiences that we are able to create better places to live, work and play.

What attracts me most to these disciplines is their ability to change the way that people behave, understand and inhabit our physical spaces. I am most passionate about exploring emerging technologies that allow us to drive these changes and make better, more informed decisions that affect our built environment.

As a relatively young techie with exposure to some of the hottest topics around, what emerging trends or developments seem most promising to you?

Top of my list is big data and infinite computing. Today, data is being captured at growing rates. Sensors are being embedded in many places: in cars, appliances, cameras, roads, pipelines, medicine and even livestock. We are now generating zetabytes – or a billion trillion bytes of information – every year and that number is only growing. These large datasets offer the opportunity for an analyst to begin to spot business trends, combat crime and even prevent diseases.

Simultaneously, computing is becoming more powerful, accessible and cheaper; it is the cheapest assets you can apply to any problem. Computing, unlike humans, can be scaled and can be considered to be an infinite resource. Additionally, computing is becoming ubiquitous allowing us to leverage the amount of computing power everywhere we go through smart phones, tablets and other mobile devices.

Together big data and infinite computing offers great potential for planners, architects, designers, city officials, city inhabitants and businesses to make better more informed decisions related to our built environment and business processes.

I know you have a personal passion for envisioning future cities. If you had the power to instantly transform SF to its future self, what would you make happen?

I would transform San Francisco into a city driven by real-time digital data, systems and networks. The city would sit on a platform in which new ideas could be tested, refined and implemented. This platform would allow for citizen input through social media and serve as a test bed for future cities worldwide. Ideas related to zero net energy and negative energy for reducing carbon emissions and dependency on fossil fuels would be integrated. Each building would have a roof garden that could produce enough food to feed its inhabitants. High-speed rail and mobility on demand would be the norm. The city of San Francisco would be interconnected, sustainable and continuously innovative.