As more people move from smaller communities to big cities for work, they often experience feelings of isolation and stress, which lead to a growing worldwide epidemic of loneliness. In fact, 1/4 Australians experience loneliness. Affiniti combines the built environment, art & design, data collection and real time feedback loops to create an interactive spatial experience within the common spaces that connects residents and fosters interactions.
Cities are the crystallization of wisdom around the world. It’s the place where we enjoy better resources and a platform for our dreams. According to statistics, in 1800, only 2% of the world’s population lived in cities. In 2016, that number had reached 55%. By 2050, the world’s urban population is expected to reach 2/3 of the world’s population.
Australia is one of the most rapidly urbanizing nations. Many young people migrate from the countryside to cities, with 90% of the population living in just 0.22% of the country’s land area. According to the Australian 2016 Census, more than 2/3 of Australians lived in a capital city, with 40% of the population being in the two largest cities of Sydney and Melbourne.
Rapid urbanization is a cause of social changes. With the population gathering in the city, the economic structure and regional landscape will change a lot, and people’s lifestyle and cultural activities will also change. There are many differences between rural people and urban people in their way of life, ideas and behaviour. It’s not easy for young people moving from rural areas to adapt to the rules of urban life and establish a connection to the community.
Our solution is an interactive spatial experience that offers local residents opportunities to connect and enhance their living experiences. Affiniti is a technological intermediary for community development. The users are local residents in apartment blocks or neighbourhoods, with specific targeting at young people who have recently relocated for work. Our customers are local governments, to whom we offer a localized, interactive and effective way to improve resident wellbeing and mental health, minimizing the negative impacts of loneliness and related mental health issues, which, in Australia alone, cost the government 9.1 billion AUD a year. By proactively monitoring and preventing mental health issues, the local governments can create happier, safer, and more inclusive communities, as well as empower residents to be content and engaged citizens.
Our solution is unique and innovative as it combines the built environment, art & design, data collection and real-time feedback loops to fight loneliness on the apartment block or neighbourhood level. Having conducted extensive market research around tools and platforms for community engagement, we have not identified any previous attempts to combine all these factors into a single comprehensive solution. We are using existing tools and technologies, and reappropriating them to a new purpose that fosters micro-interactions that connect, empower and strengthen individuals and communities.
The technologies involved in the solution are still relatively new, hence why they’ve not yet been reappropriated into a single comprehensive solution to create engaging and inviting community spaces. For this reason, the project will be initiated with a pilot in Melbourne.
We are providing the local governments with an interactive solution to foster connection and interaction between residents within an apartment block. Affiniti encourages “micromoments” of friendly interaction, which subsequently translate into more long-lasting connections between residents. As our solution is based on data collection, it also empowers the local governments with a unique tool to obtain accurate, real time data on the residents’ mental health and wellbeing, which allows the local governments actively target its mental health initiatives to the most pressing challenges. As Affiniti collects data on resident wellbeing continuously, it also gives the local governments a tool to measure long-term trends.
The implementation plan is to get seed funding to undertake a 6m pilot in Melbourne, Australia.
Phase 1: Scope the pilot
We will work with the University of Melbourne team who have done research about the impact of the built environment on mental health and loneliness. With the research partner, we will scope the technology requirements and data capture strategy. The specifics include:
– defining the data ethics strategy
– understanding the technical feasibility
– mapping the wellbeing component
– outlining the budget and proposal.
Phase 2: Identify location
Our priority is to work with the City of Melbourne or another city council to identify an apartment block to trial for 6m with monthly check-ins with the residents and data analysis.
Phase 3: Expand
After the pilot, a report will be generated with recommendations. The next phase will be expanding to another location close by in Melbourne as well as trialling another international location to understand the different cultural contexts.
We are looking for technology partners in the fields of machine learning, video mapping, AI, facial recognition and big data visualisation. We are further looking to work with data artists or architects with experience in community engagement. We’re also looking for funding to prototype and pilot our solution. City councils and other local actors are welcome to get in touch with us to discuss opportunities to discuss potential collaboration on tackling the issues of loneliness and isolation within their locations.