No Cell Service During The Tournament Of Roses? Not This Year.

30 small-cell nodes along the parade route and in Old Town Pasadena’s commercial district will ease network congestion.

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By Mike Montgomery

While it may seem premature to talk about New Year’s Day celebrations, the City of Pasadena has been hard at work preparing for the 128th edition of its Tournament of Roses Parade celebration. The iconic parade is a New Year’s Day tradition for Pasadena and the millions who watch on TV in more than 115 countries where the parade is broadcast.

This year’s festivities are expected to bring more than 700,000 spectators to Pasadena. Every year, the influx of people is a boon to the local economy. But, it comes with a set of challenges as the city’s population grows nearly five-fold over a four-day period.

One of the biggest problems affecting parade staff, residents, visitors and first responders is the lack of reliable cellphone service. Those who have has attended the parade can attest to the frustration of their phone appearing to have full service yet not being able to make a call, send a text, or access an app.

The reason for this lack of connectivity is simple: network congestion. Mobile-phone ownership in the U.S. is almost ubiquitous (95% penetration), which means that when 700,000 people flock to an area, nearly 1 million cellphones and other connected devices (e.g., smart watches, fitness trackers, etc.) also flood the area. This influx of devices overwhelms the communications infrastructure, which is why your device may not have a strong connection.

By striking a partnership with communications infrastructure provider Crown Castle, Pasadena officials have created a streamlined permitting process to strategically deploy nearly 30 small-cell nodes along the parade route and in Old Town Pasadena’s commercial district to combat network congestion.

While small cells certainly will help everyone share texts, pictures, videos and more, the biggest benefit of this upgrade is for the first responders working to keep all paradegoers safe. What most people don’t realize is that mobile has become one of the most valuable tools for public safety. You see, 80% of 911 calls today are made from a mobile phone, and Wireless Emergency Alerts have become the default method for first responders to push out important safety information at scale during critical events such as an active-shooter situation or when a child is missing.

These benefits are just the tip of the iceberg. Small cells will also serve as the backbone for the wireless revolution known as 5G.

Let me explain. 5G is the next evolution of today’s 4G network, but in reality, 5G will be a new kind of network that will be able to handle 10,000 times more capacity and provide speeds 20 times faster than 4G. This incredible speed and capacity will not only enhance mobile data speed on our devices, but it also will reduce latency to support new user experiences such as virtual reality and augmented reality.

Further, 5G will serve as the lifeblood for smart communities, where street lights will communicate with traffic lights to accommodate traffic patterns on the fly. It will be the conduit for self-driving cars to talk to one another for safer rides. And, it will even aid doctors in performing robotic surgery from hundreds of miles away.

Pasadena has set itself up to be at the forefront of wireless connectivity today and tomorrow by embracing next-generation communication infrastructure, but unfortunately not all municipalities across Los Angeles County have done the same. Now is the time for others to follow Pasadena’s lead and set the entire region up for the same kind of success.

Cali-Based Company Shows Genes Aren’t Always Destiny

New DNA discoveries show longevity might not be written in our genes.

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DNA may not influence longevity.

Google-backed biotech and research company Calico— which is short for California Life Company— has discovered that a person’s DNA has far less influence on lifespan than previously thought. The results were published last week in the journal Genetics. The Silicon Valley-based company analyzed the data of around 400 million people who lived and died in Europe and America going back to 1800 from the genealogy firm Ancestry.

“The true heritability of human longevity for that cohort is likely no more than seven percent,” said a Calico scientist. Previous estimates for how much genes explain variations in lifespan have ranged from around 15 to 30 percent. Read more here.

Self-Driving Cars Ready To Hit The Roads In California

Waymo, the robotic car company created by Google, gets the go-ahead in California.

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A Waymo car on the streets of Silicon Valley.

There was a huge leap forward for Google’s driverless cars last week when  California’s Department of Motor Vehicles cleared the tech giant’s robotic cars to cruise through the state at speeds of up to 65 mph without a human on hand to take control in emergencies.

To start, the fully autonomous cars will give rides only to employees of Waymo, the Google unit that is dedicated to driverless vehicles. The self-driving cars will only travel on routes in Google’s hometown of Mountain View and four neighboring Silicon Valley cities: Sunnyvale, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Palo Alto. Until now, a backup driver was obliged to be behind the wheel. Read more here.

This Latch Will Stop E-Scooters Falling On San Francisco’s Sidewalks

A company that operates a fleet of scooters in the city has come up with a neat onboard solution to keep the vehicles upright.

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Photo courtesy SkipScooter.

Electric scooters are our friends in the fight against city traffic and air pollution, and they are growing in popularity. But they can also be a nuisance to sidewalk users if they fall over, blocking the way of walkers, wheelchair users and stroller-pushers.

San Francisco-based Skip Scooters, which is one of only two companies with a permit to operate a fleet in the city, is addressing the problem with a new feature. It’s a simple high-strength steel wire with a latch that is neatly stowed in the blue casing that surrounds the scooter stem. The wire can be looped around a bike rack and then clicked back into the side of the scooter.

The scooters with the tethering feature are slated to be tested during a year-long pilot project in San Francisco. Skip is also testing in Long Beach, San Jose, and Oakland. Read more here.

As California Fires Rage On, Infrared Technology Is Helping Firefighters On The Front Lines

The tech allows drones to see through the smoke to the heart of the fires.

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This summer’s Thomas Fire was one of the biggest in California history.

This has been a devastating year for wildfires in California. In August, three of the biggest fires in California history were all blazing at the same time charring 820,000 acres across the state.

But even as the fire cycle seems to be getting worse, new technology is helping firefighters beat down the blazes more efficiently. The California Air National Guard is using drones equipped with infrared technology to fly above fires and see through the smoke. In one instance, the drone was able to see that firefighters who thought they were battling one spot fire were actually in a ring of seven fires that were closing in.

Read more about how this technology is changing the way we fight fires in California here.

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.