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Government technology is notorious for being old fashioned and out of date.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.

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.

Goal: Speed Security Lines At LAFC’s Stadium

Smarter security means quicker lines.

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Photo courtesy of LAFC.

Waiting in security lines sucks. It can sometimes feel like it takes as long to get into a venue as it does to enjoy the concert or the game. And as security needs increase, it’s likely only going to get worse.

The Bank of California stadium in LA, home to the city’s newest soccer team, LAFC, is hoping to make life a little easier through a partnership with CLEAR, a security company that uses biometrics to quickly move people through security lines. You can read more about the partnership here.

We Sail The Ocean Blue, And Our Drone Ship’s A Beauty

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If you see a flotilla of unmanned orange vessels making their way toward San Diego, don’t be alarmed. They’re here to help.

The autonomous sailing vehicles, made by Alameda, California-based tech company Saildrone in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), are sailing from Canada on a mission to collect information about fish populations. Each Saildrone has 18 sensors that collect data about the ocean below it: wind speed and direction, temperature, salinity, etc.

“Saildrones are 20-feet long and 19-feet off the water,” said Richard Jenkins, CEO of Saildrone, Inc. “Weigh about 60 pounds and can operate kind of indefinitely. Wind propulsion pushes it along, solar charges the batteries and computer for communication.”

See the Saildrones in action below:

Read more about them here.

California Is Ready For The Robot Revolution

Technology revolutions are nothing new in California. Local leaders say we can handle the way automation is changing the jobs landscape.

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The robots are coming.

Automation is expected to eliminate 1 million U.S. jobs by 2026. This has plenty of people panicked. But  a group of California political, educational and business leaders believe the state is well-prepared to handle this transition as workers who are displaced train and move into higher-paid jobs that either can’t be done by robots or work in human-machine harmony.

Says University of California President Janet Napolitano:

Every time we undergo a major shift in technology new jobs that haven’t yet been imagined are created. We need to educate the next generation with an eye towards this unpredictable future and retrain older workers for new types of work.

Read more from local leaders here.

 

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.

Our Voting Machines Are Older Than The Oldest iPhones

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Remember the hanging chads?

Those paper remnants, emblematic of the outdated voting systems that led to the Great Recount Event of 2000, prompted a new wave of spending on voting technology. Two years after the election, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act, which forced states to adopt new standards for voting systems. States bought lots of new voting machines. The nation moved on to new worries.

Guess what? It isn’t 2002 anymore. More than half of the voting machines used in the 2016 elections were purchased between 2002 and 2006, which — as Government Technology points out — makes them older than the oldest iPhones. And 5 percent of the machines were even older than that.

We toss our iPhones after just a couple of years, but it’s perfectly OK to keep using antiquated voting machines? Leaders in the push to modernize our democracy certainly beg to differ.

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.

 

 

 

How Silicon Valley Became Silicon Valley

It turns out, Silicon Valley was always ahead of the curve.

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Silicon Valley is a $3 trillion neighborhood where Teslas, mansions and startups are thick on the ground. And it turns out, the area south of San Francisco was always a tech-forward region. Check out this entertaining and informative video from Tech Insider to learn more about how Silicon Valley became Silicon Valley.