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Futurists, Technologists Predict Arlington’s Digital Future

A panel of futurists and technologists made their predictions for Arlington’s future in a video released this week on the heels of the county receiving recognition as the top “digital county” of its size in the nation.

Due to the District’s building height restrictions, the panelists predicted increased urbanization is coming.

“I think that Arlington is uniquely positioned to be an urban center around a city that has height restrictions around its buildings,” said Shawn DuBrevac, chief economist for the Computer Technology Association. “We globally have this push towards urbanization. It will happen in an interesting way in the D.C. metro area because you can’t build skyscrapers in Washington, D.C. They’ll start to show up in Arlington and in other places.”

The panelists also noted that as the county becomes more digitized, more data will become available to analyze. That includes data gleaned from communication platforms, including social media and messaging apps.

“I don’t think the public square is physical. We’re on the cusp of virtual reality,” said Cheryl Foil, principal of Kiddar Capital’s tech ventures. “People right now are using Snapchat and other messengers. What’s great about that is when it’s not in person, it’s already digital, it’s already data. You can measure and analyze it.”

The futurists and technologists said community leaders can take the data they get to make decisions to improve residents’ lives. For example, Capital Bikeshare stations and retail outlets could have better locations based on street traffic data.

But brick-and-mortar retailers will face increasing competition from online retailers, the panelists predicted. Today, about 7 percent of purchases are made online. By 2050, DuBrevac sees that number increased to 40-60 percent, something he attributes computers making purchases without any human input.

“The retail environment that we visit today will not be the retail environment we need 40-50 years from now,” he said. “The infrastructure that we have will need to shift as we move towards these types of environments. The digitization of retail is going to change everything I do today in my home, in my building, how I walk, where I go to, the shops that I visit, all that could change.”

A video of the predictions and other discussions can be found above. The first part of the discussion can be viewed here.

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