California Has 4 Of The 10 Most Innovative Cities In The US

So. Many. Patents.

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In case there was any doubt that Californians are an inventive bunch, now there’s a list to prove it.

There are four Californian metropolitan areas in the U.S.’s 10 most innovative cities, according to a list compiled by 24/7 Wall St. based on data from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara area, which is home to Silicon Valley, tops the list, generating 14,618 patents in 2015, or 739 per 100,000 people.

Santa Cruz-Watsonville, which is home to the University of California at Santa Cruz, is fifth. San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont is seventh while San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos is ninth. 24/7 Wall St. compiled its list from  U.S. Patent and Trademark Office data for the year 2015, the most recent year that data is available. Read more here.

Big Idea: A Tech Dividend For Californians

How can the Golden State spread its wealth beyond Silicon Valley?

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California should consider a technology dividend to spread the wealth of the state beyond Silicon Valley, according to a leading academic. Such a scheme should be modelled on programs like Alaska’s Permanent Fund Dividend, which pays residents of that state an annual dividend funded by oil industry revenues.

Chris Benner, the Director of the Santa Cruz Institute for Social Transformation at UC Santa Cruz, argued in an editorial for the Mercury News that the dividend would be fair because of substantial public funding for technology. He cited the National Science Foundation’s grant that resulted in the creation of the algorithm that underpins Google’s search technology. Read more here.

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.