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Smart Cities

Collaborative Smart City Pilots Show Promise in Improving Internet Access

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Photo of Gov. Mike DeWine by the U.S. Department of Justice used with permission

May 21, 2020 — The implementation of smart technologies may be a key in solving economic challenges at the regional level, said panelists in a BroadbandUSA webinar Wednesday.

The webinar focused on how smart city initiatives could improve sustainability and quality of life, including broadband access, featuring panelists from the Global City Teams Challenge Smart Regions Collaborative, such as Dominic Papa, vice president of the Smart States Initiative for the Arizona Commerce Authority.

“With the rise of COVID, one of the first big challenges that we saw was the inequality of remote education, and students not having the broadband connectivity at home to really download and complete their homework assignments,” Papa said. “Add on the fact that places like Starbucks and our libraries were closed due to the pandemic, it makes it extremely difficult for these students to keep up.”

“We actually saw kids sitting with their backs against the wall of the library, trying to access the internet from the outside in,” he added.

In response, the region formed a partnership with Cisco and announced a new initiative to expand Wi-Fi internet access at state libraries. The proposed solution is being tested at five libraries, Papa said, with the goal of improving the technology and then commercializing and scaling to libraries across the state.

This process of going from pilot to scale has proven difficult in the past, with Papa calling it “the main challenge that we’d really hit on in our region” and citing limited funding and staff as major roadblocks.

The model that has ultimately proven most successful in scaling, he added, is that of bringing several separate jurisdictions together in a consortium comprised of industry leaders, university researchers and greater Phoenix communities.

The consortium collaboratively designs and develops new innovative technology pilots to ensure that all communities in the region have the necessary tools to prosper in the digital age, Papa said.

Bringing technology to the urban environment can have both positive and negative outcomes, said Jonathan Fink, Director of the Digital City Testbed Center, Portland State University.

“We can make resources more accessible and get better health outcomes, which is something we’re focused on quite a bit right now around the world, reduce carbon emissions and so on,” he said. “But the negative aspects of bringing technology into cities are that there are privacy issues, there are questions about monopolization — who owns the data, how equitable is the access to the new services that can be provided?”

In order to evaluate these competing concerns and plan for successful smart city integrations, Fink presented three questions.

First, among all of the options available, how do cities evaluate which technologies are best for their urban environment? Second, how can the general public be involved in asking that same question?

Finally, how does the private sector foster collaboration and align the various components of smart city technology with each other in order to meet the needs of both the cities and the public?

All three of these groups — cities, the general public and the private sector — rely on careful testing and cooperation, Fink said.

Smart region technologies include possibilities for improved mobility, sustainability, education, cybersecurity, agriculture and more, said Mark Fisher, President and CEO of the Council of the Great Lakes Region.

The Great Lakes Region contains a third of the combined workforce of U.S. and Canada, Fisher said. If it were a country, it would have the third largest economy in the world. The scope of the binational region makes the process of demonstrating and scaling smart solutions all the more important.

“A key to this project’s success is being able to leverage and connect to the many strengths and assets that these partners have and really trying to work on these problems in a collective collaborative way,” Fisher said.

The region’s initial pilot project was undertaken was in Defiance, Ohio, which Fisher noted was an ideal location because Gov. Mike DeWine has made goals such as state-wide broadband a top priority.

According to Fisher, the next steps for the region involve vision development, funding procurement and the launch of a webinar series to share best practices.

The region will also attempt to promote and scale the Defiance pilot project by inviting new collaborators and funders to support it.

Development Associate Emily McPhie studied communication design and writing at Washington University in St. Louis, where she was a managing editor for campus publication Student Life. She is a founding board member of Code Open Sesame, an organization that teaches computer skills to underprivileged children in six cities across Southern California.

Smart Cities

FCC Asks for Public Comment on Spectrum for Internet of Things

Internet of Things devices are expected to increasingly flood the market as 5G networks light up.

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Illustration about the Internet of Things by Pete Linforth used with permission

WASHINGTON, October 8, 2021 – The Federal Communications Commission is seeking public comment on spectrum allocation for the Internet of Things, or devices that are connected to the internet.

In its Notice of Inquiry released September 30, the agency seeks comments that “consider and evaluate various related factors” that will hinder the growth of IoT, including “barriers that may hinder the provision of spectrum needed to support uses relating to the IoT” and the role that unlicensed and licensed spectrum plays in the growth of IoT.

The IoT broadly refers to network-connected devices that can collect and transfer data. The number of IoT devices has grown over the past few years. Experts expect this number to continue rising as more households and industries use IoT technologies and as the connectivity-dense next-generation 5G networks facilitate more connections.

According to the FCC, a large amount of spectrum has been licensed using a flexible-use approach that allowed licensees to develop technologies and services according to consumer demand since the 1990s. The FCC asks whether the licensed spectrum made available or “will be available in the future is adequate to support the needs of the IoT.” The commission also asks whether there are spectrum rules that could be modified to facilitate greater spectrum access for IoT deployments.

In a statement, FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks said the the Internet of Things is “transforming our way of life.”  While reaffirming his commitment to addressing the digital divide and internet inequality, the FCC noted that “many Americans will not realize the benefits of IoT; until broadband service is available and affordable to everyone, those without broadband will be left behind during the IoT revolution.”

Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel issued a separate statement emphasizing that although the possibilities for IoT have yet to be fully developed, “[i]t’s still early days in the Internet of Things.” The Chairwoman remarked that because 5G wireless systems and low-orbiting satellites “expand the availability of high speed and high-capacity networks, we can expect the pace of innovation to increase” but that the FCC should allocate adequate spectrum for this purpose.

The FCC seeks comment on these issues as directed by Congress in the William Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act. The Act directed the FCC to inquire into the spectrum required to support IoT growth. This comes as the FCC begins auctioning 3.45 GigaHertz mid-band spectrum this week for licenses for 5G use.

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Drones

Aron Solomon: The New Horizon of Drones and Your Privacy

We have yet to wrap our minds around the impact of drones in our own lives and in society.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Aron Solomon, head of digital strategy for Esquire Digital

While so many more of us understand what a drone is today than we did even two years ago, we have yet to wrap our collective minds around the impact of drones in our own lives and the inner workings of our society. Like everything else that’s new and odd for us to see, yet then becomes commonplace, there’s going to be a massive drone adjustment period for people and we may be in it now.

For those of you who might be living on a remote island – wait, there are even drone-flying YouTube celebrities there. Okay, for any of you who actually don’t know what a drone is and can do, a drone is also known as a UAV or unmanned aerial vehicle. While drones themselves are obviously a technology, what is important about them are the other technologies a drone can house.

A drone can have GPS, lasers and many other technologies that are controlled by a user or users on the ground through ground control systems (GSC). In short, a drone can pack whatever the latest technology is. Think of James Bond’s spy shoes, except they fly, look cooler than a pair of brogues, and can easily surveil or even kill you.

Drone usage started small and is getting big. Back in 2016, there were bold predictions that drone usage would triple by 2020. The reality has exceeded that number. A report from June shows that the commercial drone market is growing fairly rapidly with no signs it will slow down:

“The drone manufacturing industry is maturing – and so are drone customers.  As the capabilities of drones increase, they are used for more sophisticated and specific applications.”

While almost anyone could buy and fly a drone a few short years ago (obviously not very close to an airport or a takeoff or landing path) there are a lot more rules today than there ever have been:

  • New FAA rules require all drones to be registered unless they weigh less than 0.55lbs and are used recreationally. There are two types of registration in the United States, part 107 and recreational.
  • You must now mark your drone physically with the registration number.
  • For business usage of a drone, FAA suggests you keep a flight log. They can request information if there is a situation they choose to investigate.
  • It is now illegal to shoot down a drone even if it’s over your own property and you suspect it of recording you. Drones are protected by the NTSB as aircraft.

Tim George, an Erie, Pennsylvania lawyer, cautions us against believing we are still in the Wild, Wild West of drone flight:

“Anyone choosing to operate a drone needs to follow all registration and licensing requirements where they live. It’s important for every drone operator to remember that there might be municipal law they need to follow, as well as state and federal law. Being unaware of applicable drone laws will be no defense to criminal infractions or potential civil claims.”

But how well are people following the law?

Not very, as this iPhone picture I actually took while writing this story highlights. This was taken at the observatory on the top of a mountain in a large North American city, with the premise being that this athlete and his team were using a (pretty intrusive) drone to film him running down a set of stairs.

It is worth noting that I had the same permission in taking that picture as did the person in the pic and their team did in capturing my image, as the drone circled above and around me. In other words, absolutely none.

Ricky Leighton, a Maine-based certified drone pilot and video expert, cautions us that this type of poor behavior will lead to together regulation:

“There are two things to consider here. The first is that drone pilots need to closely observe any rules and legislation where they choose to operate their drone. The second is a bit more nuanced in that there has to be common courtesy as to where, when, and how we operate our drones. The less courtesy we give, the stricter the regulations will eventually be.“

And don’t think that drones are or will be limited to consumer use. While relaxing in the park and having someone send their drone to hover ten inches from your face is pretty annoying, more serious drones for enterprise use are dramatically on the rise.

A year ago, Skydio announced that they had raised an additional $100M financing round to continue what many fees is controversial work with governments and private enterprise. More simply put, some fear that this rockstar ex-MIT and GoogleX team are making mass surveillance drones and less than savory deals.

Given that one of their competitors, DJI, owns nearly 80% of the commercial drone market, multiple aggressive startups flush with cash are seeking to shake loose some of that market share as they grow their market cap.

As drones become more prevalent in our daily lives, our initial pushback against them may be dulled by their ubiquity. Like any other new technology, even one that can be pretty scary when we consider all of its dimensions, time usually gets us comfortable with things we expect would always stretch our comfort zone.

Aron Solomon is the head of digital strategy for Esquire Digital and has taught entrepreneurship at McGill University and the University of Pennsylvania. Since earning his law degree, Solomon has spent the last two decades advising law firms and attorneys. He founded LegalX, the world’s first legal technology accelerator and was elected to Fastcase 50, recognizing the world’s leading legal innovators. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views expressed in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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Smart Cities

Utah Ignite Leverages Partnership with Smart Cities Fabrication Lab for Broadband Growth

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Screenshot from the Utah Ignite meeting

February 14, 2021 – Orem, Utah, enjoyed a better-than-expected economic year in 2020, partly thanks to technology-focused resources offered in the city, including the Smart Cities and Fabrication Lab at Utah Valley University, a new resource within the university’s business resource center.

The fabrication lab’s mission is to bring in startups and new technology ideas that can test and deploy new software and hardware products for smart cities, said Peter Jay, director of economic development at the Business Resource Center at UVU, speaking at a Thursday meeting of Utah Ignite.

Smart cities, he said, are those with “technological networks, internet of things, and data analysis to increase efficiency in our systems and improve our everyday lives–but on a larger scale.”

The UVU initiative is aimed at improving community transportation and utility operations, and the lab has partnered with Utah Open Source, a network boasting over 15,000 software engineers, to run the lab.

Giving the local community a lab to try out new technologies and refine them as they grow is the goal, said Jay. There was a gap between tech companies and cities in Utah, and the lab bridges the gap.

Jay also highlighted the work of Utah Ignite, a local chapter of the national non-profit group, U.S. Ignite, which is designed to promote the adoption and high of high-speed broadband applications and capabilities.

The monthly discussion also highlighted potential Utah state legislation – H.B. 218, called the “Regulatory Sandbox Program” for Utah businesses – that would allow startup companies to create new products without having to abide by certain regulations.

However, according to Utah State Rep. Cory Maloy, “anything related to public safety, consumer safety, those kinds of regulations are not waived.”

There are approx. 18 companies incubating right now at the lab, and UVU President Astrid Tuminez expressed support for it.  Jay said the lab center is even going to host an extension office to the state’s World Trade Center office.

The lab itself will be equipped with 10 gigabit per second (Gbps) broadband connections provided by UTOPIA Fiber. It powers the servers handling artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and high-end graphic simulations.

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