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Technology should be embraced, not feared


There are more than 40,000 empty shops across the UK, and for many people a trip to the high street is not an enjoyable experience. But it could be so much better.

Imagine using phone identification to check into your high street and a host of real-time events and offers flashing up on your smartphone. Imagine not having to fret about parking – being directed to free spaces by your phone. This technology is already being used in Spain.

The future of shopping will see many stockless shops where customers sit on sofas and view new collections, for example, through high-definition touchable holograms.

You will be able to browse just using your fingers in the air. If you wish to check a fabric on the garment you can touch the hologram and feel the delicate silk or harsh denim. If you like the dress you see you can order it through your phone and it'll be delivered to your house in two hours.

Technology is already transforming shopping, but it also has the potential to transform public spaces such as libraries into vibrant community tech hubs. In the US there are civic hacking days where software developers and local people gather to invent new solutions to community problems using publicly released data, code and technology. We need this spirit on our high streets to foster a keen sense of digital citizenship.

Mary Portas famously referred to the threat of new technological developments to the high street in her review. I take the opposite view – there needs to be more technology, not less.

Over the last few months I've worked with Eva Pascoe, a retail technology expert, to develop ideas around "networked high streets", which will be launched in my alternative review this week.

We mustn't fear technology. We have to embrace it to make our communities stronger.