The covid-19 pandemic has changed the way people live and work; this in turn has changed how and where time is spent throughout the day. We have estimated an approximate 1.3 hours per person per week of newly found free time due to pandemic-based changes in working styles*. A potentially huge new market for businesses will surface as this free time is allocated to new activities that enrich people's lives.
People are using their time in areas around where they live, not just where they work; this is congruent to greater diversity in workstyles fueled by remote work. Examples include eating out around home, visiting the dentist between work hours for regular checkups, and using remote-office facilities at major stations close to home. Expectations will rise regarding services and public facilities as they see increased attention and use by residents.
The defining features of this situation, one where the range of people’s activities is expanding, can be analyzed by examing the aspects of a place of residence from two perpectives: current satisfaction and future expectations for each aspect. According to data from the Mitsubishi Research Institute Consumer Market Forecast System, mif,* residents have the same expectations for the same aspects regardless of how far they live from the major metropolican center (Figure 1).
We propose activity augmentation as the key factor to improving this value. Activity augmentation is the process of helping people select the optimal activity for their situation, raising the quality of each activity undertaken. This is important for three reasons: it enables a wide-range of activities based on an individual’s unique situation and values; thus raising the quality of time spent; and subsequently improving quality of life.
However, each individual yearns for a different lifestyle and way of life, and the errands of a busy day-to-day often obscure these ambitions. Such potential activities must be rediscovered at times.
Planners have turned to the development of hardware multiple times in the past in an attempt to improve the aspects of place and increase activity among residents. It has become clear that when the population declines, the activities of residents diversify. Hardware alone falls short in flexibly responding to resident needs and creating sustainable urban areas.
Moving forward, urban areas in Japan need a mechanism that promotes the effective use of existing urban facilities and spaces by connecting them to the right residents at the right time. Activity augmentation services are just that.
*Figures are for workers in the Tokyo metropolitan area and the Kansai area and include essential workers who have few options for working styles
†The area of a person’s daily life and that has a population anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 or more