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Those paper remnants, emblematic of the outdated voting systems that led to the Great Recount Event of 2000, prompted a new wave of spending on voting technology.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.

Government Agencies Move Slowly, Startups Are Here To Help

A San Francisco-based program is pairing startups with government agencies to help solve real-world problems.

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Dealing with any government agency can be extremely frustrating. Departments are usually using technology straight out of 1990s which means everything takes twice as long as it needs to.

Since 2014, San Francisco has been trying to build better government through the Startup in Residence Program (STiR) which pairs startups with civic agencies to solve real-world problems. Now the program has expanded to 11 other cities and is looking to grow to 100 cities in the near future.

At the most recent demo day, startups showed off new technology to help better direct 311 calls, organize engaged citizens and use artificial intelligence to better communicate through chatbots.

You can read more about the STiR demo day here.

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.

With Driverless Pilot Program In The Works, California Races To Create New Rules Of The Road

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With autonomous-vehicle enterprises fanning out across the nation, California is rushing to deal with the less sexy side of driverless transportation: regulation.

The California Public Utilities Commission is set to vote soon on a self-driving vehicle pilot program, and ahead of that, it’s sorting through what Wired calls “some of the thorniest questions about driverless taxi services”:

What’s the safest way to roll them out? How should you regulate a technology that’s not “finished,” and never will be? What does the public need to know?

So far, it looks like the commission doesn’t want companies involved in the pilot to charge for rides or provide service to or from the airport. Shared rides also would be verboten. And participating vehicles would have to undergo 90 days of road testing before carrying passengers. That’s on top of the data companies would need to provide during the pilot.

As Wired points out, California is leading the way on regulating this new industry. Other states will be taking careful note of the laws that emerge. Read more here.

Will California Amend The Constitution To Allow Sports Betting?

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Earlier this month, the Supreme Court ruled that states should be allowed to legalize betting on major sports such as baseball, football and basketball. Kyle Kirkland, of the California Gaming Association, argues that sports betting in the state could be a boon in terms of job creation and tax revenue. Others worry that legalized betting will encourage teams to throw games like we saw with the Chicago White Sox almost 100 years ago.

If sports betting is going to become an industry in California, the legislature will have to amend the state constitution. Merced Assemblyman Adam Gray says he is working on an amendment but it’s unlikely anything will happen this year. For more on California’s move to allow spots gambling read this, this and this.

Microtransit: The Next Big Thing For Los Angeles Transportation?

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L.A. Metro has a big challenge on its hands: How can it increase ridership when car-ownership rates are high and gas is relatively cheap? In this battle between public and private transit, the agency thinks it might find a solution somewhere in the middle: microtransit.

Before launching whole hog into microtransit (smaller-scale, on-demand transportation), L.A. Metro has contracted with three companies — RideCo, NoMad Transit and Transdev — to conduct feasibility studies over the next six months.

The idea of microtransit isn’t new, but as L.A. Metro’s Chief Innovation Officer Joshua Schank told Techwire, starting with a feasibility study is unique. “It’s really getting the private sector to put a lot more skin in the game, earlier in the process, before we leap into the service.”

Read more about the microtransit study here.