Dubai Is Lit: A San Francisco Company Brings Vertical Farming To The Middle East

A San Mateo-based company is bringing greens to the desert using hydroponic farming.

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Growing greens without using soil is all the rage. Photo via Flickr.

San Mateo-based Crop One Holding is bringing the best of the Salinas Valley (otherwise known as America’s salad bowl) to Dubai thanks to a new deal between the farming  company and Emirates Airlines. Crop One will build a 50-foot high sealed warehouse next to the Emirates runway where it will produce 3 tons of leafy vegetables per day for the airline to use for onboard meals.

Crop One grows its greens hydroponically which means it doesn’t use soil. Instead, it nourishes the plants with a nutrient-rich water and LED lights. For more on this cool technology you can check out this story in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Stuck Waiting At The DMV? Blame The 40-Year-Old Computers

DMV working to update “40-year-old dinosaur” computer system, but the going is slow.

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If you’ve been to the Department of Motor Vehicles lately, you probably noticed that what was already an unsavory experience is now taking even longer than before. And one of the main reasons is the state’s decaying computer system.

Although the DMV cites a rise in customers seeking Real IDs for the 46 percent increase in wait times over the last year, it acknowledges that that its IT system is a “40-year-old dinosaur” that’s suffered dozens of crippling outages over the last 20 months.

DMV Director Jean Shiomoto has said it would take three years to modernize that technology and bring its systems into the 21st century. “Our system is an old, antiquated system. We are working to modernize that and are working on that project right now,” Shiomoto said at a hearing last month.

At the heart of that project is a new digital ticketing system, which in theory should help with customer flow but currently doesn’t play well with the DMV’s more analog processes. The California Department of Technology estimates the total project cost at nearly $18 million, according to the Sacramento Bee. You can read more about the DMVs aging-IT problems and proposed solutions here.

Thirsty California Takes A Deep Breath

This animated GIF seems to show the state breathing as water moves in and out of aquifers.

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Credit: Bryan Riel and Mark Simons

Water is California’s most precious resource and as global warming continues to take a toll, managing that resource is going to become increasingly important.

To help water managers better understand the underground aquifers that store the state’s water, geophysicists at Caltech used satellite photos that tracked the deformation of the earth over 18 years as Southern California aquifers were filled and emptied. The result is this GIF which seems to show the state breathing. Learn more about the study and its implications here.

 

5G Networks And Infrastructure: The Prescription For Improving Telemedicine

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By Kish Rajan

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in July announced its $100 million “Connected Care Pilot Program” to support virtual healthcare, or “telemedicine.” It’s an important program to bring high-quality care to our veteran, low-income, and minority communities — especially those living in rural and underserved areas.

The program’s success depends on reliable, high-speed wireless internet connections, as those who need the program the most disproportionately rely on mobile access. Specifically, 31% of Americans making less than $30,000 a year do not use broadband at home but own a smartphone, while 24% of black and 35% of Hispanic adults also predominantly rely on mobile to access the internet.

The new FCC program comes at a time when rural areas in particular are facing a healthcare crisis. The National Rural Health Association estimates that as many as 700 rural hospitals are at risk of closing in the next 10 years. Those fighting to stay open often slash services, such as women’s healthcare. Less than half of women living in rural areas are within a 30-minute drive of the nearest hospital offering obstetric/gynecologic services. That makes telemedicine services vital to the health of millions of Americans, particularly women.

Telemedicine allows patients to connect with physicians and other providers in larger cities, sometimes hundreds of miles away. It saves patients long and difficult rides in cars or ambulances and allows smaller clinics to offer specialist services such as psychiatry, rehabilitation, and prenatal care. In Beatty, Nevada, the only healthcare clinic within 60 miles nearly shut down last year. But thanks to a new fiber optic broadband connection, it continues to serve patients by connecting them to doctors in major cities like Las Vegas, located over 120 miles away.

Telemedicine has significant benefits in urban areas, too. It offers low-income, urban patients a way to access healthcare services more efficiently and at less cost than using an emergency room. It cuts wait times for appointments — a huge benefit as wait times have increased 30% since 2014. And it’s already been proven to significantly improve outcomes when used in urban schools. Telemedicine also benefits physicians by allowing them to see more patients faster and without the overhead cost associated with an office.

However, without high-speed wireless connections to allow for quality videoconferencing, telemedicine isn’t a viable option. It requires fast, reliable, and secure connectivity to ensure patients and doctors can see each other and communicate clearly — which is often a problem.

A big reason connections today are often sub-par is our communications infrastructure is too congested to meet current telemedicine demands — and it’s only going to get worse. Wireless data consumption has increased 238% in the last two years alone and according to projections, by 2020 more than 50 billion devices and 212 billion sensors will be connected to our wireless networks.

To deal with the demand today and to lay the foundation for the 5G networks of tomorrow that will allow telemedicine to reach its full potential, we must upgrade and densify our communications infrastructure by expeditiously deploying more fiber optic cable and densification devices known as “small cells.”

“Small cells” are small, inconspicuous wireless nodes most commonly installed on streetlights and utility poles that immediately improve 4G service by relieving strain on existing infrastructure, and will serve as the backbone for 5G networks by significantly expanding coverage and capacity.

While the immediate benefits of small cells to 4G networks can’t be ignored, enabling 5G stands to change lives. 5G promises to move data 20 times faster than 4G, and according to an Accenture report, has the potential to create $160 billion in benefits and savings. As it stands, we have no national plan for 5G deployment and state and local governments have thrown up barriers that have slowed infrastructure development that is necessary to make 5G a reality.

The primary problem is that the regulations and permit reviews required to install “small cells” are unnecessarily convoluted and time consuming. There’s no reason to have the same regulatory requirements for “small cells” that are required for a 200-foot cell tower. If we are to realize the powerful potential of telemedicine, policymakers at the local, state and federal level must be willing to streamline the approval and implementation of “small cells” that are vital to our 4G and 5G success.

As we become more dependent on fast data, it’s time to stop thinking of high speed internet as a luxury and start treating it as a requirement for full participation in today’s mobile world. The future of telemedicine and so much more depends on it.


Kish Rajan is chief evangelist for CALinnovates.

As Fashion Industry Embraces 3D Prototyping, It Finds Seeing Is Believing — And Buying

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Virtualization has transformed the manufacturing sector. By creating 3D renderings of parts and testing them virtually, companies can design, prototype and mass-produce goods faster and and with smaller margins of error than ever before. And now the fashion industry is getting in on the fun.

As the Los Angeles Times points out, retailer Betabrand is making good use of this technique. Its designers create 3D renderings of products — detailed enough to give customers a good idea of what they’d be buying — poll their audience to gauge demand and then ship the designs off for manufacturing.

Not only can this method shave half a year or more off companies’ go-to-market timelines, according to the paper, it also gives them a better idea of whether a product will sell like hot cakes — or sit on the shelf until the next 50% off sale. “Retailers and brands who are embracing this are going to be winners of the future,” David Bassuk, managing director of consulting group AlixPartners, told the Times. “This is flipping the business model on its head.”

Read more about how digital techniques are transforming the fashion industry here.

Technology Is Helping To Save Lives In The Northern California Fires

Text alerts, Twitter, Nextdoor — California local governments are using any means necessary to alert people early about coming fires.

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A truck burned by the recent fires in Northern California.

The fires in Northern California have already burned thousands of acres and forced residents from their homes, but thankfully, the death toll has been relatively low. That’s because the counties around San Francisco have gotten savvier about using technology to alert people to leave their homes before the danger gets too close.

According to one article, the number of people who signed up to receive alerts in Sonoma County has jumped from 20,000 to 275,000. Governments are taking advantage of everything from Twitter to artificial intelligence to better reach people who need to evacuate. You can read more about the state’s efforts in this article on Xconomy.

The Millennial Dilemma: Too Many Smartphones And Not Enough Bandwidth

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By Mike Montgomery

There is no denying that we live in a world dominated by “connected” technology. Since the internet was introduced to the public in 1990, the U.S. has been riding an unprecedented wave of innovation powered by the web.

It seems like a crazy concept at this point, but many Americans still remember using an encyclopedia instead of Google, plotting a road trip on a paper map instead of asking a virtual assistant for directions, and physically going to the bank to make a deposit instead of taking a picture on an app.

And while many of us still remember these “hardships” (wink, wink), explaining the “pre-internet” world to most millennials and Generation Z youths is equivalent to prior generations trying to explain to Baby Boomers what life was like before electricity – simply unfathomable.

Millennials are going to overtake Baby Boomers as America’s largest generation in 2019 – officially making the millennial generation the driving force behind the US economy. This means that moving forward, the majority of the US population will have largely grown up in a world where connectivity has been an essential utility. The same way Baby Boomers have always expected the lights to come on when they flipped the switch, millennials and all future generations will expect to connect when they tap the screen of their smartphone.

The Pew Research Center says 100% of Americans age 18 to 29 own a cellphone, with 94% owning a smartphone. The numbers are nearly as impressive for those ages 30 to 49, where 98% own a mobile phone and 89% of those are smartphones. Further, nearly 30% of 18- to 29-year-olds have no internet connection at home and solely rely on mobile for internet access.

The frequency of use is also mind boggling. A separate survey from Pew found that 89% of smartphone users go online daily, while nearly four out of 10 18- to 29-year-olds go online “almost constantly.”

This insatiable appetite for connectivity has led to a 238% increase in data consumption over the last two years alone. Further, Cisco predicts that global mobile data traffic will increase to 49 exabytes per month by 2021 – a seven-fold increase from the average in 2016.

While the increased use of connected technology has certainly made our society more efficient, we are at a tipping point where our networks and infrastructure must be modernized to deal with the massive demand for data.

In short, our networks must be upgraded from 4G to 5G. 5G will be 20 times faster, handle 100 times the capacity and decrease latency 10 times compared to 4G. This increase in speed and efficiency will not only create a better smartphone experience, but also will ultimately allow 5G to enable innovations such as autonomous vehicles, drone delivery and more.

However, before 5G can become a reality, we must lay the foundation. 5G will require much denser networks and more connection points. Robust deployment of next-generation infrastructure known as small cells underpinned by fiber optic cable is a requirement for 5G.

In addition to serving as the foundation for 5G, small cells will help immediately relieve network congestion today, improving users’ immediate 4G experience. You may not know it, but if you have been to a major sporting event, rally, or concert and noticed your phone was still working despite the large crowd, you likely have already reaped the benefits of a small cell densification.

Despite being the adoption leader in mobile technology, the U.S. ranked 43rd in the world for mobile download speeds in the first half of 2018 – a big reason being slow small cell deployment.

Why is infrastructure deployment moving slower in the U.S.? As most things do, it starts at the local level. Far too many municipalities are actively impeding small deployment in communities with long wait times for permits, unreasonable fees and convoluted regulations.

The Federal Communications Commission took steps to speed up the permitting process earlier this year by streamlining the federal review process for installing small cells and voted again earlier this month to make additional spectrum available to support 5G networks.

But we need more help.

The FCC should move more aggressively to eliminate regulatory barriers to 5G and localities should do all they can to encourage 5G deployment by establishing a transparent and simple process for small cell deployment.

Getting 5G up and running as fast as possible and ensuring we have the best available 4G access in the interim is vital to the continued success of our country. The wireless industry alone contributes around $475 billion annually to the total U.S. GDP and supports 4.7 million jobs.

As our country continues to evolve and mobile-centric generations become the backbone of society, wireless connectivity will continue to grow in importance. As such, we must do all we can today to ensure we have the best available networks now and in the future.

Nike Goes Digital With LA Concept Store

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Nike has always been excellent at marketing its Swoosh according to each generation’s whims. And now that Nike has launched a data-driven store in Los Angeles, the 54-year-old sportswear and apparel retailer just might be even more appealing to digital-age shoppers.

Curbside service, “swoosh texting” for immediate customer attention and NikePlus app purchases that are delivered to a locker are all part of this new concept store’s plan. The Nike Live concept store — called Nike by Melrose — will also organize its floor and stock its shelves according to real-time purchases and trending desires. “It certainly differentiates Nike, will generate lots of traffic and make their brand more valuable,” retail brands expert Denise Lee Yohn told the Los Angeles Times. “The future of retail is personal—customers want what they want, when/how/where they want it—and it sounds like Nike is using tech devices and data to help serve customers’ individual needs.”

Read more about the store opening, its digital perks and how it fits into recent retailer strategies here.

Do You Want Fries With That? Burger Bot Will Hook You Up.

The future we’ve been waiting for is finally here: a robot that makes burgers.

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The future we’ve been waiting for is finally here: a robot that makes burgers.

The robot, developed by San Francisco-based startup Creator, is a transparent culinary wizard that makes customized burgers in a matter of minutes. It automates the process from start to finish: preparing the bun, grinding the meat, slicing the vegetables and melting the cheese — all made to order, for what Creator hopes will be the freshest burger available in a restaurant.

Creator is on the verge of opening its first robot kitchen in San Francisco, according to Wired. Until then, we’ll have to settle for watching (and drooling) from afar:

Alexa, When Is Garbage Day?

Amazon’s Alexa technology is helping residents get the information they need from local governments.

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Government technology is notorious for being old fashioned and out of date. Just go into any local municipal office and gaze in wonder at the green-screened desktop computers straight out of the 1990s.

But some towns are zooming into the future. Raleigh, N.C., has turned to Amazon’s Alexa to help citizens get answers to common questions about zoning, police and fire and even traffic conditions. You can read more about how the AI future is coming to local government here.