What if we told you there was a city in the United States that has the following: The “smartest” hotel in the world, housed in an AI-informed glass building designed to resemble a wavelength of energy and serviced by a robot named Rosie, the largest autonomous shuttle network anywhere, available to ride for free, and an open-air entertainment park so eco-conscious it’s built entirely from repurposed shipping containers.
Sounds futuristic, fantastical even.
Well, welcome to Lake Nona, a “city within the city” adjacent to Orlando International Airport where such perks are available to all or, if not, in the process of being tested by its “living lab” community.
Tens of thousands of residents and employees for on-site companies including Johnson & Johnson, KPMG, and the U.S. Tennis Association already inhabit this 17 square-mile master designed development—and those joining now, including Disney, understand why. Cisco chose it as its first domestic Smart+Connected city because of its capacity for innovation. The Global Wellness Institute has called it “the most sophisticated example in the world of what master planning for wellness can accomplish.” And no less than Deepak Chopra—whose first Mind-Body Zone and Spa is on the premises—has said, “I feel that Lake Nona is going to…create a movement for what I’ve longed for all my life: a critical mass of people who will engage in personal and total transformation for a more peaceful, just…healthy and enjoyable world.”
How does the neo-urban community do it? A finely calibrated and collaborative relationship between an ever-growing cadre of top businesses which are encouraged to test new products among residents, and residents who are eager for such collaboration is key.
Of course to attract both, Lake Nona has had to be cutting edge from the get-go. Among the perks currently offered, and continually informed by and updated according to residents’ desires: Gigabit internet, which gives inhabitants 100 times faster connectivity than standard setups, and 5G mobile service offered in collaboration with Verizon. The aforementioned autonomous shuttles, courtesy of industry-leader Beep (headquartered in Lake Nona) are also available—and will soon be joined by the nation’s first vertiport, a mobility hub designed for aircraft that takes off and lands vertically, and that will ultimately provide transport to any major metro area in Florida in less than an hour. Lake Nona has buildings equipped with View Smart Windows that keep inhabitants at optimal temperatures and protect them from sun damage without the need for blinds; easy access to on-site businesses like the Tony Robbins-founded Fountain Life, which specializes in AI-informed tests to enable early detection of cancer and other diseases; and a wealth of expertly-planned nature trails and a sculpture garden featuring works by artists including Henry Moore and Fernando Botero…It goes on.
Business to business collaboration is also emphasized in Lake Nona. Verizon, in addition to providing 5G for the community, has one of its seven Innovation Hubs there, allowing other businesses to test its super-fast network and brainstorm about how 5G can best be employed by them. (Among current trials: a collaboration with Beep that would further perfect the shuttles’ capabilities.) Startups taking part in the Lake Nona leAD Sports and Health Tech Accelerator, which incubates companies from around the globe, also work with the larger businesses—and benefit from introductions to the latters’ clients. Explains Juan Santos, the Senior Vice President of Brand Experience and Innovation at Tavistock, the development company behind Lake Nona, “Whenever Verizon is bringing a prospective customer to show them their different technologies, if it’s appropriate, we take twenty minutes to bring one of the startups in and educate them about possible collaboration.” Quite often, it leads to deals.
Another iteration of B2B collaboration—and resident interaction—is encouraged by the “Wellness Home built on Innovation and Technology”, aka WHIT, that stands in the middle of one of Lake Nona’s many neighborhoods. The house acts as a sort of “lab” allowing companies to test products in a real life setting, and in some cases offering residents exclusive access to test and implement the latest and greatest technology—and businesses to see what their commercial neighbors are up to. In addition to circadian lighting to maximize sleep ease, a six-stage air filtration system, a “Serenity Cove” for meditation, and more, WHIT currently features “immersive windows” by View which double as ultra-vivid displays for everything from FaceTime calls to TV screens. Santos says a company like Fountain Life, which is continually looking for new ways to monitor health within homes, loves it—and hopes to test products of its own there in the future.
One might wonder if all of this cutting-edge technology allows for a true sense of human connection among residents and professionals. Locals point to the 1,000 community events held annually, which range from the Impact Forum—a multi-day “conversation” about wellness featuring speakers like Bill Clinton and Sanjay Gupta—to the Oh, What Fun! holiday festival fostering a sense of belonging. One can be sure Lake Nona’s self-selecting community of “citizen scientists,” as they’re sometimes called, also has a sense of camaraderie from taking part in things like the Lake Nona Life Project wellness study, a longitudinal study in partnership with the University of Central Florida, which looks at the relationship between lifestyle and health, together.
Santos points out that Lake Nona actually offers extra comfort in our fast-changing culture. “Change is not something that’s easy for humans,” he says, noting that it’s happening regardless of where people live. “But because Lake Nona is a community of people who have both each others’ support and that of our business partners when it comes to pushing the wheel forward, it’s a little bit of an easier environment” in which to adapt. Santos adds that, while change isn’t made for its own sake in Lake Nona, it is made with great speed—and as a result it’s an ideal home for businesses who want to test and perfect their products in such a streamlined “living lab.”
“There’s a lot of places that [claim to be] of the future,” Santos sums up. “I know not to say, ‘Hey, we have a plan for 2030’ because if the 2030 that we imagined is different than the one that actually arrives—which it will be, guaranteed—we’ll be too far down the path of something else” to change course. Instead, he says, Lake Nona is remaining open to possibilities yet ready and at the cutting edge—and ensuring that its future will be as set up for success as its present.
For more information on joining Lake Nona’s business community—and collaborating with its “living lab” of residents—visit: https://www.lakenona.com/work/