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Innovation

Incentives Crucial to Domestic Semiconductor and Chip Production, Senate Committee Hears

Technology companies, including Intel, are lobbying for legislation incentivizing domestic production of chips crucial to many sectors.

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Photo of Sens. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, and Richard Scott, R-Florida, at Wednesday's Senate Hearing, by Ashlan Gruwell

WASHINGTON, March 28, 2022 – Technology companies appearing before the Senate Commerce committee urged Congress to push forward legislation that would help finance the domestic production of semiconductors, which they said are primarily supplied by foreign companies.

On Wednesday, the committee heard from the CEOs of Micron, Lam Research, PACCAR, and Intel – the company that is scheduled to break ground this year on a $20 billion semiconductor manufacturing “mega-site” in rural Ohio, as was mentioned in President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address.

The hearing focused on semiconductors and chip manufacturing, including proposed legislation called the CHIPS Act — Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (Chips) for America Fund – that is expected to inject $52 billion to incentivize domestic production of the product that is used in computers, transportation and telecommunications technology.

Only 12 percent of chip manufacturing happens in America, and six percent of that comes from Intel. However, while Intel has remained primarily U.S.-based, other countries can make the same chips for 30-80 percent cheaper, according to the Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger, who said such chips are “foundational to every other industry.”

Gelsinger also said that many overseas companies have government subsidies and incentives, which makes it easier and cheaper for them to make the chips and is why Congress needs to pass the CHIPS Act.

“Now is the time for action,” Gelsinger said. “While clearly there are concerns on how capital is allocated…without such steps, our industry will be further undermined. We will lose critical mass, I believe in the near future, and we will never have the opportunity to restore this industry on American soil. That’s why we’re here.”

Innovation

Labor Official Sees Benefits in Virtual, Augmented Reality for Workforce Training

The virtual tools are being used to prepare workers coming out of lockdowns during the pandemic.

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Photo of Dan Risko, Governmental Relations Manger of TRANSFR

WASHINGTON, September 21, 2022 – The Labor Department is touting the ability of virtual and augmented reality tools to help employers train employees remotely, an industry event heard on Friday.

“You had companies like Talespin who was in the XR [extended reality] space particularly using XR for training, mailing headsets to folks learning to be claims adjusters for companies like Farmers Insurance, and you would put on that headset and all of a sudden you were in a house that had a fire and you learn how to do an investigation of a house with a fire so you could do a claims adjustment,” Chike Aguh, the Labor Department’s chief innovation officer, said at the AR/VR policy conference Friday.

“This was in the height of 2020 when frankly we didn’t know how that was gonna turn out,” he added.

Aguh added that the Lab for Applied Social Science Research at the University of Maryland is using XR to assist vulnerable populations that are returning to their daily tasks following the pandemic.

XR technologies have been used during the pandemic to train workers, but it also has been used to retain them as well, according to one company.

These virtual reality tools helped increase company retention rate, said Dan Risko, governmental relations manager of TRANSFR Inc., which helps students train for the workforce using VR. He said that the retention rate climbed from 30 percent to 90 percent using these XR tools.

Risko said the company saw the results after putting people in a pre-apprenticeship program where people would perform the job before they had the job. He added the company has partnered with a workforce agency in the south that was having issues of worker retention.

Risko said TRANSFR has expanded training to community colleges and technical centers.

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Innovation

Treasury to Release Three Reports on Digital Currencies in ‘Coming Weeks’

The reports will discuss digital asset implications on national security, financial inclusion, privacy and citizens.

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Photo of Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen

WASHINGTON, August 29, 2022 – The Treasury Department announced last week it will be releasing a series of reports about the security and state of digital currencies in the U.S. “in the coming weeks.”

The department said three reports will be released and will discuss the impact of digital assets on issues such as national security, financial inclusion, privacy and on consumers, businesses, and investors.

The department’s August 24 announcement will fulfill a commitment required by a March executive order from the Biden administration that mandates within 180 days the department produce a report about the future of money and payments systems, including adoption of digital assets, and the implications of technology and those assets on the country’s financial system.

The Biden administration has put “a high level of urgency towards research and development efforts into a potential U.S. central bank digital currency,” Julia Smearman, director of international financial markets at the Treasury Department, said Wednesday.

At an event earlier this year, experts pondered whether the U.S. was falling behind other nations, such as China, when it comes to developing their own digital currency.

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Blockchain

IBM Exec Touts Blockchain Technology as Economy Accelerator

Blockchain will be commonplace in the economy ‘within the decade,’ the IBM executive said.

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Screenshot of Jerry Cuomo, IBM vice president of blockchain technologies

WASHINGTON, August 23 – Blockchain technology will speed up the economy in the coming decade in part by making the process of verifying information – such as user identity – more safe, streamlined and efficient, said IBM’s vice president of blockchain technologies at a Tech Forward event on Tuesday.

Jerry Cuomo described blockchain as an “odd duck” type of database with a few defining features, explaining that each blockchain has several administrators, that each transaction must be vetted by the administrators before being recorded to the digital “ledger,” and that transactions, once recorded to the ledger, are essentially impossible to change or delete. Cuomo also explained that each data point – or “block” – in each blockchain is heavily encrypted, which creates high levels of security and user trust.

Although blockchain is most widely associated with the transactions of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Cuomo said it can used for a wide variety of purposes – including identity verification, food safety and intra–supply chain communication. For example, Cuomo suggested that instead of making hundreds of accounts on various websites, a user may soon be able to have a single, blockchain-based identity that would be accessible whenever verification is necessary.

Cuomo said he believes food safety, for example, can be improved by using blockchain technology to document salient information about food conditions during transport. IBM Food Trust is a blockchain-based service that the company says allows participants to track a food product throughout a given supply chain and to ensure that it is safe, fresh, and sustainably sourced.

The company said it offers a wide variety of blockchain services. IBM’s supply chain service, for instance, promises “data integrity and faster reconciliation,” features that are made possible by the immutability of each blockchain record once it is entered into the ledger.

As for the timetable on blockchain technologies becoming commonplace in the economy? “I think its within the decade,” said Cuomo. “This is not an ‘if,’ this is a ‘when.’”

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