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.

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.

The Key To The Future Of Self-Driving Cars: 5G

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By Mike Montgomery

It’s been six years since Nevada became the first state to allow self-driving cars. Since 2012, we have seen an additional twenty-one states pass legislation related to autonomous vehicles – including several bills in California.

While autonomous technology is still largely in its infancy, we’re still a long way from the imagined future of people sitting back and reading the paper while their car drives them to work.

In addition to the obvious convenience-oriented benefits, there are serious safety and economic implications tied to self-driving cars. In 2016 alone, 40,000 people died in motor vehicle accidents – with distracted driving or human error being the top cause. According to a report from Strategy Analytics, driverless-vehicles could save an estimated 585,000 lives.

Saving lives and limiting traffic accidents are undoubtedly the biggest benefits of autonomous technology, but the economic benefits can’t be ignored. The same report from Strategy Analytics, noted that autonomous vehicles could become a $7 trillion industry by 2050 and could save as much as 250 million hours of commuting time around the globe.

Considering the massive benefits of self-driving vehicles, the natural question becomes, “where do we currently stand?”

In short, we have seen some progress over the past 6 years. Today, a driverless eight-passenger van is making the rounds of downtown Las Vegas, and similar shuttles are popping up around the country. Uber is testing self-driving cars in Pittsburgh and Waymo, a Google spinoff, is offering self-driving taxi rides in Phoenix.

However, there are still more than a handful of barriers to broad deployment.

Let’s start with the less concerning reason – public perception. The self-driving car industry isn’t developing at the anticipated pace, at least in part, due to consumer angst. A recent AAA survey showed that 73% of American drivers say they would be too scared to ride in an autonomous vehicle, up from 63% a year ago. The uptick in apprehension is likely due to some recent high-profile mishaps, but overall the mistrust of the new technology is largely emotional and not data driven. Nonetheless, this is still an issue facing the industry.

Writing in Fortune, Eric Ellis of consulting firm Kotter, says that in order to overcome this reluctance, autonomous car companies have to slowly earn peoples’ trust. And while most people may not acknowledge it, we are already giving more control to our cars through lane departure assist, blind spot detection and self-parking features.

It is likely that autonomous vehicles will follow a similar adoption and perception cycle as the smart phone. When Steve Jobs released the first iPhone 11 years ago, there was no shortage of skeptics. Most infamously, former Microsoft CEO and current Clippers owner, Steve Ballmer said of the iPhone, “[t]here’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance.” Much to Ballmer and other skeptic’s dismay, by 2011, 35% of the population owned a smart phone and today a whopping 77% of the population uses a smart phone.

This leads us to the bigger problem — our communications infrastructure needs to be modernized. Specifically, we must deploy next generation wireless infrastructure to support the colossal amount of data required to power autonomous vehicles. For self-driving cars to be able to react appropriately, they must have instant access to information about the environment and be able to share and receive information with other self-driving cars on the road. The average autonomous vehicle will use around 4,000 GB of data a day.

While today’s 4G network can support a small amount of these vehicles, self-driving cars cannot be deployed at scale until our networks are made much denser, and ultimately transition from 4G to 5G. Obviously, having a self-driving car “buffer” or “lag” like a video download on a mobile device is not an option.

Infrastructure upgrades, particularly network densification via small cells underpinned by high-capacity fiber optic cable, are crucial to making our autonomous future a reality. You see, small cells will serve as the backbone and fiber will serve as the life-blood for future wireless networks such as 5G. According to tests conducted by technology giant Qualcomm, 5G will be 20 times faster, support 100 times the network capacity and reduce end-to-end latency by 10 times. This type of speed and efficiency provided by 5G is the key to the future of self-driving cars.

However, small cell and fiber deployment, much like autonomous vehicle progress, is not happening fast enough. The reality is, we will need thousands of small cells connected by thousands of route miles of fiber for our mobile networks to reach their full potential.

Prioritizing communications infrastructure buildout now is not only fundamental to speeding the adoption of self-driving cars, but enabling countless innovation that stand to make our communities smarter and safer through the power of 5G.

The Immediate Answer To Connectivity Problems Is Under Our Noses (And Seats)

While Americans wait for 5G to roll out, we have a real, immediate need for increased capacity, says Mike Montgomery, and a practical means for achieving it: small cell antennas.

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The benefits of 5G are obvious: lightning-fast video downloads, zero-lag streaming playback, fewer dropped calls, and the capacity needed to create truly smart cities.

But while the switch from 4G to 5G is exciting, writes Mike Montgomery of CALinnovates, this technology is still years from rolling out. In the meantime, he says, we have a real, immediate need for increased capacity, and a practical means for achieving it: small cell antennas.

As their name implies, these 4G-boosting devices are small enough to sit on utility poles, traffic lights and even under the seats at stadiums. And, as Montgomery points out, they’re essential for laying the groundwork for 5G. So what are cities waiting for?

Read the rest of Montgomery’s post here.

The Battery That Could Solve California’s Excess Solar Problem

Right now, California has too much of a good thing when it comes to solar power.

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Almost every day California is breaking records around how much solar power the state is generating. One one day in March, the state generated enough power to account for 50% of electricity needs.

That should be good news but it’s actually proving to be a problem. Because all solar energy is generated during the day, the state is actually producing more solar power than it can use before the sun goes down, so it’s being forced to pay some other states to take that excess energy off of California’s hands or risk disturbing the delicate balance of supply and demand that keeps the electricity grid in working order.

The solution to this problem is giant batteries that can store energy during the day and release it at night. But so far, battery technology is not up to the challenge. Check out this podcast from Planet Money to learn more about how new kinds of batteries could eventually help California continue to generate lots of solar power.

Small Cells For The Win: Powerful Connectivity During Major Events is No Longer a Wish List Item — It’s Now a Must

Great connectivity is no longer optional at sports arenas. Now it’s time for the rest of America to catch up.

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By Mike Montgomery

When the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers tipped off earlier this month in front of 20,000 fans at Oracle Arena, there were at least 20,000 (likely more) wireless devices in the audience. Those lucky enough to have scored the golden ticket didn’t hesitate to text, post on social networks, browse the web and yes, even stream live video during the game. And make no mistake about it, users expected that their messages, posts and videos would process without a hitch.

As anyone who has been to a sporting event, concert, rally or even a large graduation ceremony recently can attest, the absence of even a single bar or two of connectivity can be a frustrating experience. Networks quickly get bogged down when thousands of people with thousands of devices compete for the attention of the local communications infrastructure.

The most extreme example of this is the Super Bowl. In 2015 Verizon handled 7 terabytes of data at Super Bowl XLIX. In 2017, that number was up to 11 terabytes.

Stadiums use a hodgepodge of different methods to deal with the increased traffic. Today, most stadiums (including Oracle) have Wi-Fi — others work with communications companies on temporary solutions around large events.

Recently, we have seen stadiums take a more progressive and effective approach by installing antenna systems made up predominantly of a network of small cells — discreet nodes that can fit under seats or in the rafters. These antennas help build a more robust network inside the arena, specifically densifying the network by adding much needed capacity to deal with increased demand. That’s what U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis did before the most recent Super Bowl. Verizon upped its small cell count to 1,200 from 900, according to the Twin Cities Pioneer Press, and AT&T and Sprint each deployed 800 small cells.

As demand for data grows, these tight-knit small cell networks must be expanded beyond stadiums and venues. Data traffic grew 238% over the last two years driven mostly by video and social networking. Further, traffic per user in North America is set to grow from 7 gigabytes today to 22GB by 2022.

The good news, small cells are already popping up in cities across America. Communications companies are investing heavily in small cell deployment understanding that our infrastructure is the bedrock of present and future connectivity. You see, not only do small cells add much needed capacity to power our current networks, but they are the key to ushering in the era of 5G – which will allow data to move 10 times faster than the current 4G network.

The bad news, largely due too unnecessary and dated regulatory red-tape, antennas are not being deployed quickly enough —a big reason the U.S. currently lags both China and South Korea is the race to 5G.

Just as the Warriors solidified themselves as the basketball dynasty of this generation with their clean sweep of the Cavaliers, America must establish itself as the technology dynasty of this generation by keeping us connected today and winning the race to 5G tomorrow — both of which start with infrastructure.

 

 

 

Want 5G? Form Government Tech Partnerships

In order to move to the next level of cell phone service, governments are going to have to work with companies to build out 5G networks.

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To stay competitive globally, the U.S. needs to embrace 5G. The next level of cell phone service is going to move data 10 times faster and handle 100 times the capacity of the current network — unleashing serious innovation.

But to get there, governments need to start partnering with private companies to build these dense networks. That’s happening today in a surprising place: Sacramento. Check out this story to read more about how the city partnered with Verizon to build out a new network.

 

Can 911 Find You As Fast As Uber Can? If Not, Blame Our Mobile Infrastructure

Small-cell antennas are crucial for ensuring the public can get the information and help needed during an emergency, says Mike Montgomery.

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A whopping 95 percent of Americans own a mobile phone, and nearly two-thirds have a smartphone. That extra layer of communication should keep us safer in emergency situations, says Mike Montgomery, but only if first responders can trace our calls to our locations, and if warning systems are robust enough not to fail when we need them most.

(The wildfires that ravaged California last year with insufficient warning to some residents spring to mind as an example.)

“It is mind-boggling to think that more often than not, your pizza delivery person has more accurate location information than the paramedics — especially when you consider the fact that upwards of 80% of 911 calls originate from a mobile device,” says Montgomery, who argues that the first step in resolving the communications gap is updating our wireless infrastructure — in particular by deploying a network of small-cell antennas. Read what that entails here.