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Taking a 'Breather': How start-up plans to unlock city space

By Irene Chapple, CNN
June 6, 2013 -- Updated 1304 GMT (2104 HKT)
Julien Smith says rooms like that pictured above will be available for around $20 an hour with his Breather app
Julien Smith says rooms like that pictured above will be available for around $20 an hour with his Breather app
  • Author Julien Smith has launched Breather, a concept for distributing space
  • Breather allows real estate owners to let their spaces for around $20 an hour
  • Starbucks is the closest to a city pit-stop, but around it are likely empty office spaces
  • Breather has partnered with Lockitron to create an app which allows access to the space

(CNN) -- Julien Smith, writer, speaker and now start-up chief executive, says he's good at "predicting and following trends." And now he's getting into another: Distributed space.

Smith, co-author of books including Trust Agents, which explores how to use the web as a tool of influence and reached The New York Times bestseller list, revealed Breather at Le Web in London.

Le Web's theme is the "sharing economy," with Airbnb given top billing. Breather works with the same idea -- utilizing space that would otherwise be empty -- but for a city pit-stop at a cost per hour.

Le Web: The Google glasses view of sharing economy?

Smith says he is "obsessed" with private space where one can take time out, without obligations, at any time.

"I notice sound, and space, a lot," he says. And in the rush of big cities such as New York or London, finding a time-out zone can be difficult.

Starbucks is the closest existing outlet for an on-the-run office, but around each coffee store are likely empty commercial spaces, Smith says. He plans to unlock them.

The idea is "obvious," Smith says. "In 2050 we're not going to be walking around thinking 'where can we go'," he says.

Read more: The end of consumer culture as we know it

Smith is connecting the owners of real estate in New York, London, and San Francisco to open "millions of square feet" of real estate that can be used for around $20 an hour. Space can be reserved from an hour to the entire day.

It will be done through an app for which Smith has partnered with Lockitron, which featured at Le Web in Paris last December. The Lockitron locks will be installed at the Breather spaces, allowing users access at a time that suits them.

Those who use the app will be screened and assessed after use, meaning anyone who breaches standards will be banned from using Breather again.

Read more: My year of living open source

Breather has the credit card details and phone details of those using the app which Smith says will ensure security for the "private club...we can ban anyone at will," he said.

The app will be available to a limited number of people in 60 days, with a fuller roll out in October.

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