The Telephone’s History & The Internet’s Future?

In my presentations, I have pointed out that the Internet is still very much in its early stages.  There are tremendous gaps in the availability of high speed, low latency Internet everywhere.  It will only be at some point in the future that we could truly expect to have a visual conversation with almost anyone, almost anywhere on the globe. 

Beyond expanding connectivity, there are other factors standing in the way of ubiquitous high quality visual communications.  First, the software – the interface that users have to deal with – is quite awkward.  Second, the mindset or culture of users seems not to have changed yet to readily accommodate visual conversations over the Internet everywhere.

Indeed, I use a rough parallel that we are today with the Internet about where we were with the telephone at the end of the 1920s.  That was more than fifty years after the telephone had been invented.  Of course, we’re not even fifty years into the life of the Internet.

While there were many articles written at the time about the impact of telephones on society, the economy and life, even in the 1920s (or 30s or 40s or 50s …) telephone usage was not taken for granted.  Among other things, long distance calling was not widely considered to be something most people would do.  Mobile telephony wasn’t anywhere close to existence.

The chart below shows the pattern of historical adoption of telephones in the US from 1876 until 1981. 

image

From the perspective of 1981, never mind 2014, the first fifty years of telephony were the early age. 

And since 1981?  We’ve seen mobile phones overtake land lines in worldwide usage and become much more than devices for just talking to people.

So imagine what the next 100 years of Internet development will bring.

[http://njacknis.tumblr.com/post/82994025117/the-telephones-history-the-internets-future]

Mapping The Future: Technology, People & Rural Prosperity

This Tuesday, Queen’s University of Kingston, Ontario held its last annual conference on Rural Prosperity in Canada.  As Senior Fellow leading the Rural Imperative for the Intelligent Community Forum, I was asked to give the opening, keynote speech. 

My overall theme was that the countryside has a new opportunity to flourish, considering developments in technology and broadband, as well as the major post-industrial trends in North America, Europe, Japan and elsewhere.  I also emphasized that broadband, while a necessary condition for community development, is not sufficient and must be integrated with other elements that build quality of life.

I won’t go into more detail here, since my presentation will be posted on their website.  Instead I’ll report on some of the items presented by others that caught my attention.

1. Research on the economic impact of broadband

The researchers at the Monieson Centre of the university’s Business School presented the results of their analysis of the impact of broadband on employment and wages.  They found that broadband deployment, from 1997-2011, had only a minor positive impact on employment in urban areas, but had a significantly more positive impact in rural areas.  However, broadband was associated with wage increases in both rural and urban regions.

Moreover, they found there was no impact on employment at firms producing physical goods, but a major positive impact on employment and wages for services (although not all services). 

Although we didn’t coordinate, it was nice to see results that tracked with the broad trends I’ve been highlighting for the last few years.  In a way, my presentation explained the research results.

2. Rural broadband network in eastern Ontario

The association of the key leaders of rural counties in eastern Ontario (called the Eastern Ontario Wardens Caucus), with others, have spearheaded a project called EORN that is wrapping up its initial deployment this year.  The Eastern Ontario Regional Network is building out rural areas with broadband that provides its 500,000 residents with 10 megabit connections — much more than is common even among most urban users of the Internet in North America.  EORN officials think it is the most ambitious project of its kind in the Americas or possibly the world.  They are certain it is the “most sustainable rural network” in the world.

Later in the day, Bo Beaulieu of Purdue University’s Center for Regional Development spoke about the necessity and value of regional cooperation among rural counties.  My observation was that, with broadband and regional cooperation, these areas can present themselves as the virtual equivalent of a city and be able to compete economically in many ways not otherwise possible.

3. Creative uses of the countryside

There were various presentations on how the new countryside is more than just farming.  One example was a “multi-functional” farm – yes, it grew food for sale, but also was an environmental education center, alternative energy demonstration site, publishing office, and a bed-and-breakfast set up by a “refugee” from Toronto. 

Since, especially in this area of Canada, much of that nation’s history is better preserved in the countryside than in cities, historical and cultural resources have been used as a basis for economic development.  See, for example, History Lives Here which has a variety of products, from videos and guided tours to History labelled wines from local wineries.

All in all, a very interesting day that provided strong evidence of the energy and innovation which is creating the future of rural areas in Canada and the rest of the world.

[http://njacknis.tumblr.com/post/82290687838/mapping-the-future-technology-people-rural]

Internet Everywhere Where It Isn’t Yet?

Here are some news items that caught my eye as part of the ever expanding Internet and associated technologies – to places where people don’t have it yet, to personal things near you and even into your head.

Facebook’s Connectivity Lab aims to spread Internet access via satellites, drones and lasers : Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, a prime backer of Internet.org, aims to connect the several billion unconnected people in the world, using a variety of technologies.  With all the emphasis on fiber optics for broadband over the last few years, this is a useful contribution to the discussion because it points out that there is more than one way to provide Internet connectivity.  And, as he said: “connecting the whole world will require inventing new technology too.”  There’s video with Yael Maguire explaining the Connectivity Lab at http://thenextweb.com/facebook/2014/03/27/facebooks-connectivity-lab-looking-drones-satellites-lasers-provide-internet-access/.  I hope Internet.org succeeds in its goals.

MLBAM completes initial iBeacon installations — Petco Park, Dodger Stadium first of 20 ballparks to receive cutting-edge technology :  Major League Baseball is deploying iBeacon proximity sensors in ball parks to personal the experience in various ways.  Apple’s iBeacon has so far mostly been a retail store phenomenon.  It will be interesting to see how much it will be used in sports venues and other large public venues.

OCHO introduces world’s first cloud-connected smart key tray : This is another example of proximity devices that consumers will be offered.  OCHO is now raising funds on Kickstarter, but their goal is clear.  As they say “OCHO technology connects common items people rely on every day, such as keys, phones and wallets, to notifications that help organize time and their daily routines”.

Electric “thinking cap” controls learning speed : Getting even closer to your body, there’s Vanderbilt University’s announcement about two of their psychology researchers who have developed a “thinking cap”.  This device helps a person learn better by the application of electric current to the brain.

3D-printed skull implanted in patient : Not quite the Internet inside your head (yet!), but certainly an intrusion of technology.  A surgeon at University Medical Center Utrecht, Netherlands, has replaced the complete skull of a young woman with a 3D-printed skull, as pictured here.

image

[http://njacknis.tumblr.com/post/81584125232/internet-everywhere-where-it-isnt-yet]

Urban Farming?

Urban farming would seem to be an oxymoron.  Yet, the idea of bringing farming into the heart of urban regions is – pun intended – cropping up everywhere. 

(In this post, I touch upon on a small subset of recent activities on the urban farming front.  If you’re interested, you’ll find lots more urban farming documented on the Internet.)

A couple of weeks ago, a New York Times article “Farm-to-Table Living Takes Root” reported on Agritopia, a neighborhood in Phoenix that focuses on farming. There have been as well reports of other farm-focused urban neighborhoods around the country. 

Lack of available land at street level is also no limitation.  Rooftop farms are being added to the tops of buildings in many cities.  But why just stop with the tops of buildings?

Columbia University Professor Dickson Despommier has been the modern prophet of the vertical farming concept that encourages building agricultural skyscrapers in large cities.  One example – the largest in the USA – is FarmedHere, which last month opened an indoor vertical farm in Chicago.

In a much bolder vision last year, the architect Vincent Callebaut proposed a Dragonfly shaped vertical farm for the south end of New York City’s Roosevelt Island.  (This is, alas, the same location of the future high tech, entrepreneurial campus of Cornell University and Technion Israeli Institute of Technology that former Mayor Bloomberg commissioned to emulate Silicon Valley.  Silicon Valley, in turn, was once filled with orchards, not tech companies.)

image

If a real island, like Roosevelt, is not available within the city’s borders, then the answer is to build an artificial island.  The folks at Blue Revolution Hawaii are hoping to do just that in Honolulu and follow in the early footsteps of other cities around the world with farming on artificial islands – see the article “Floating Farms” in this month’s Modern Farmer magazine.

This may seem like some new trend and, in some ways, it is – as it reflects the ways that the Internet is opening up possibilities for people. 

But it is not completely new.  My favorite examples come from New York City, yes, New York City.  In the Queens section, John Bowne High School with a special focus on agriculture – and the program has been around since the end of World War I, originally in the old Newtown High School.  Even in Manhattan, George Washington High School in the north end of the island has a chapter of the Future Farmers of America. 

So the graduates of these schools won’t have to leave New York City to become farmers, even in the densest urban area in America.

[http://njacknis.tumblr.com/post/80777085555/urban-farming]

The Intelligent Community Forum’s Rural Imperative Program

Just a short note that the Intelligent Community Forum has asked me to be responsible for its Rural Imperative to build and create a renaissance of rural life through the power of high speed Internet and technology combined with community development. For more details see http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/02/prweb11614027.htm

Also, yesterday, Government Technology magazine’s Digital Communities website featured an article by me about the role that technologists need to play to help rural communities achieve their potential.  See “The Rural Imperative Needs Tech Creativity and Leadership” at http://www.digitalcommunities.com/articles/The-Rural-Imperative-Needs-Tech-Creativity-and-Leadership.html

The Rural Imperative is one of the very few activities that I’m undertaking – projects that will be fun, challenging and help change the world.  What more could anyone ask for?

 [hhttp://njacknis.tumblr.com/post/79359023162/the-intelligent-community-forums-rural-imperative]

National Association of Counties Innovation Summit

As the first Senior Fellow of the National Association of Counties (NACo), I had the privilege to be part of their recently concluded five-day Legislative Conference in Washington, DC.

It was also an opportunity for me to introduce to the counties the Rural Imperative of the Intelligent Community Forum.  Since I blogged about the need for a new connected countryside a couple of weeks ago, ICF announced my new role, which you can read about at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/02/prweb11614027.htm.   There’s also a brief video that I did at http://youtu.be/d0fD6rguvwQ.

For three days, there was a special focus on technology and more interesting presentations than I can summarize here.  Sometime next week, you will be able to see video of Saturday’s Innovation and Technology Summit at NACo.org.

Here are some of my observations:

  • The VP of the Maui Economic Development described their strategy.  I cheered when she said that, notwithstanding the traditional incentives and approaches of economic development, the most important thing is to “grow your own”.  She went on to describe how they are focused on workforce development and all kinds of creative, only-in-Hawaii learning opportunities.  But much of that targeted children.  In an economy where adults need to keep refreshing their skills and knowledge until well past what you used to be retirement age, adults also need access to learning opportunities.
  • The Directors of the Health and Human Services Departments of both Montgomery County, Maryland and San Diego County, California both focused on outcomes.  This too is an important step forward beyond the usual output measures that have dominated performance data in government.  Montgomery County also puts as much emphasis on social return on investment as on pure financial return on investment.
  • One other part of the San Diego presentation caught my attention: that counties need to lead the “higher levels” of government.  In the face of Federal government dysfunction for the last several years, most local and state governments have taken the approach of go ahead without waiting for the Feds to take action.  So we’ve seen much more innovation at the sub-national level than at the national level.  Now it seems that some sub-national governments are actively upending the pyramid of power and hoping to guide the Federal government to a more innovative posture.
  • There was a keynote speech by a White House staffer on open data and much discussion of open data on various panels.  Rich Leadbeater of ESRI rightly pointed out that “open data is not an end in itself.  It’s what you do with it.”  This is a refreshing attitude since too many governments seem to spend a lot of time congratulating themselves for making the data available on the Internet and leaving things at that. 
  • Some governments have encouraged private companies to develop apps with this data.  Curiously, those governments have not usually embedded the apps into their own systems so these companies are left on their own to get citizens to know about them.  Worse, too many government think that asking private companies to create these apps absolves them of their own responsibility.  The reality is that not all the applications that are needed or can be developed with open data will generate the revenue a private company seeks, but those apps are still useful for the public too have.  The only way they will be created is if the government does the development itself or pays for the app to be developed.  Considering that the costs of software development have gone down considerably over the past decade, this is not something that can easily be dismissed as out of budget.

In my end-of-day review and commentary on the sessions, I offered my reaction to the data being put out on the web – “TMI, TLK”.  Too much information, too little knowledge.  Governments should recognize that they and their constituents have to start working together to make sense of all that data and use it to make improvements in policies and programs. 

[http://njacknis.tumblr.com/post/78650683108/national-association-of-counties-innovation-summit]

Zooniverse: The Next Wikipedia?

Nearly everyone who uses the Internet has heard of Wikipedia and likely used it at least once.  Wikipedia has often been held up as the poster child for the way that the Internet enables people all over the globe to collaborate with each other and produce an incredibly valuable result.

While Wikipedia itself has had some growing pains – or is it maturity pains? – there have been other more recent examples of virtual collaboration.

One of my favorites – and a potential successor to Wikipedia as the poster child for virtual collaboration – is Zooniverse (https://www.zooniverse.org/ ).  Recently, Zooniverse passed the 1,000,000 mark – that is more than a million people have registered to help out.

image

This is a large number that is even more impressive when you consider that Zooniverse is not a fan site or a fantasy sports site, but is all about the participation of “everyday people” in science.

Their projects range from analyzing data collected in space to biology, nature and the environment.  They even have room for what might be considered scientific analyses applied to the humanities.

Unlike Wikipedia whose users vastly outnumber its contributors and whose rules specifically exclude original research, Zooniverse is intended to make everyone a volunteer and to create new science.

It’s a very ambitious goal, one that seems to be working well under the leadership of the Citizens Science Alliance (CSA).  CSA describes itself as:

"a collaboration of scientists, software developers and educators who collectively develop, manage and utilise internet-based citizen science projects in order to further science itself, and the public understanding of both science and of the scientific process. These projects use the time, abilities and energies of a distributed community of citizen scientists who are our collaborators."

It’s exactly this kind of project that provides hope for the positive value of the Internet as an unprecedented tool of the knowledge age. 

And it also should raise the awareness of public officials about their citizens’ thirst for participation of all kinds.

© 2014 Norman Jacknis

[http://njacknis.tumblr.com/post/77908986686/zooniverse-the-next-wikipedia]

Is There A Rural Imperative?

As readers of this blog know, I’ve spent a lot of time in the last few years helping cities figure out the impact of new technologies and broadband on their future role in people’s lives and also helping mayors figure out ways of using those technologies to create new kinds of urban experiences and reasons for people to live in their cities. 

Cities were the winners out of the industrial age and attracted vast numbers of people from the countryside.  You can see that pattern repeating itself today in the newly successful industrial countries, like China, or those areas that are just starting to industrialize, like Africa.

In the already developed countries, even though the change from the industrial to the knowledge economy has been wrenching for many cities, urban areas are still ahead of the game by comparison with rural areas and are better positioned to take advantage of these changes.

In theory, though, the global Internet and the increased availability of inexpensive technology should have had an even greater impact on rural areas.  For if it were really true that people can work anywhere and quality of life becomes the key factor in where they choose to live, then many people would choose to live in the countryside and not in the more metropolitan regions.

It hasn’t happened that way.  As you can read from my post last week which, among other trends, noted that telecommuting has increased dramatically among urban residents, but not for those in exurbia.

There are many reasons why the countryside hasn’t realized its potential.  Partly, this is a residue of the industrial age – it is not yet true for everyone that they can take their work with them.  For many without college educations, making a living requires a commute to a manufacturing plant or a service location or a farm.

As has been true for declining urban areas, in some rural communities a social pathology sets in that reinforces decline and is evidenced in the increased use of drugs and other forms societal breakdown.  Even though it wouldn’t be called a pathology, the out-migration of many of their young adults has also been a concern of the remaining residents of rural areas.

Another part of the story is that many rural communities have not yet become fully connected to the global economy.  In his recent rural strategy announcements, President Obama pointed out that there is a 15% gap in broadband between urban and rural households.  Many technology providers have ignored rural communities.  That should change. 

While cities will still be attractive, they are not for everyone all the time.  Many people would indeed prefer to live in the countryside if they had economic opportunity, decent health care, a means to learn and in other ways overcome the sense of isolation that has historically been the downside of rural living. 

Many countries have come to realize that they cannot just move all of their rural residents into cities.  As India has learned, there is not enough economic opportunity in their cities and the urban infrastructure cannot support the migrants who have already moved there.   The New York Times recently reported that, even the Chinese, with a relentless urban focus, have started to worry that their nation’s traditional culture and identity is getting lost in the process.  Indeed, there has been a reverse migration from the cities to the Chinese countryside.

None of this is a surprise to those who live in rural communities.  What may be better news is that there is now an imperative to bring technology and global connectivity to the countryside – and to help them build those communities into attractive and sustainable places for people to stay and to return to.

We’ve seen this in President Obama’s rural broadband program and in the recently announced Canadian rural broadband investment of $305 million.

With this background, the Intelligent Community Forum started its Rural Imperative program last year.  It will apply to the world’s rural areas its unique, global perspective on how broadband and technology can be mutually reinforcing with community development and growth.  This is an important step in helping the new connected countryside go from potential possibility to a reality.

© 2014 Norman Jacknis

[http://njacknis.tumblr.com/post/77176290055/is-there-a-rural-imperative]

Do Good Ideas Bubble Up From The Crowd?

Almost five years ago, President Obama launched an open government website that asked for average citizens to suggest the most pressing public policy issues and then vote on the relative importance of those issues.  In the words of IdeaScale, the company that has developed the software platform for these kinds of crowdsourcing activities, these efforts at Internet-based collaboration are intended to bubble up the best ideas.

So it was with some embarrassment on the part of the White House that the subject of the legalization of marijuana came out as one of the top issues in 2009.  The opponents of the President took him to task about letting a tiny fringe minority dominate his Open Government efforts.  As reported in an article “Clay Shirky: online crowds aren’t always wise”, this resulted even in one of the leading scholars and advocates of crowdsourcing discussing checks and balances on full national scale popular engagement on public policy.

Various explanations were given and there was lots of hand-wringing by the digerati and open government advocates, including this one in Wired and this one on the Personal Democracy Forum blog.  The White House ultimately responded only to those important issues it thought politically acceptable to respond to – not including marijuana.

Then all this passed into arcane history.  But I was reminded of this history when Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana in the elections last year, various governors announced their reduction in enforcement of anti-marijuana laws or even effective decriminalization and, indeed, even the Obama Administration has softened its stance.

Whatever you might think of these decisions as matters of public policy, it seems that the rush to negative judgment about the marijuana issue “bubbling up” in 2009 was perhaps inappropriate.  It may well be that these crowdsourcing efforts, while not perfect and potentially manipulated, can act as a kind of leading indicator of public opinion.  Clearly the supporters were a bit more than a tiny, fringe minority. 

For now, we see that public opinion on marijuana laws is the opposite of what the media commentators would have had us believe in 2009.  For example, there have been two stories this past year about the survey work of the respected and non-partisan Pew Research folks:

In 2009, this was apparently still not a majority but on its way to becoming one.  That is perhaps one reason that the organizations who use crowdsourcing also have found it to be a valuable means of developing innovative ideas and solutions – which are not yet, but will be, conventional wisdom in a few years.

So we do indeed need to get smarter about open government efforts, which is not the same thing as saying they don’t work.  As leaders represent ever larger constituencies and thus have more difficulty understanding what’s on the minds of those constituents, crowdsourcing can be a useful instrument. 

It is also something that voters will very much appreciate as a promising countervailing tendency to the disengagement from civic affairs that many have felt in recent years. 

On top of that, leaders may also realize how much wisdom there is “out there” and look smart for adopting it early.

© 2014 Norman Jacknis

[http://njacknis.tumblr.com/post/75798707019/do-good-ideas-bubble-up-from-the-crowd]

Who & What Is Tech For In The Inner City?

The Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) was created twenty years ago by the famed strategy professor at Harvard Business School Professor, Michael Porter.  ICIC focuses on economic development strategies for inner cities.  Their stated mission is “to drive economic prosperity in America’s inner cities through private sector investment to create jobs, income and wealth for local residents”.  

As part of their What Works For Cities series, last Thursday, ICIC held a webinar for about two hundred attendees on “How inner cities can increase the impact of technology clusters”.  On behalf of the Intelligent Community Forum, I was one of the invited speakers.

ICIC wanted to address three questions:

  1. What can city governments do to create technology-based economies in inner cities?
  2. How can cities ensure that inner city residents have access to technology so that they are prepared, skilled, and able to participate in a tech-based economy?
  3. What is a local governments’ role in building the capacity of innovative businesses so that they create jobs for inner city residents? What policies have worked?

So I took this as an opportunity to discuss technology-based economic growth from a global perspective, based on my own experience and that of the hundreds of cities and regions who have been identified as intelligent communities by the Intelligent Community Forum over the last fifteen years. My focus was especially on innovation and inclusion.

There were two underlying themes in my presentation.

First, technology-based economic development should not mean solely creating software and other tech companies.  Partly that is because good social policy doesn’t just replace current poor inner city residents with newcomers who are programmers and web designers. 

Helping existing residents learn programming is a key part of the story that the two New York City public officials presented during the webinar.  NYC’s focus is to fulfill the demand for programmers, web designers and engineers from among those who have been unemployed – recognizing that in the tech industry, aptitude is more important than degrees, an important consideration for inner city residents.

I’d add that there are a variety of places and ways that people can learn programming from the Internet, including the well-known Code Academy.   In his recent post “Can Tech Help Inner City Poverty?” Michael Mandel reviewed the generally positive results of these programs.

But the world needs more than just programmers, as was well discussed in a recent NPR report, “Computers Are The Future, But Does Everyone Need To Code?”.

A successful technology-based economy strategy for inner city residents should also help non-programmers and low-tech businesses benefit from being connected digitally to the greater opportunities of the global economy.

Second, in this century with its digital, knowledge-based global economy, innovation is the key to competitive success.  I described several ways that cities can be an example of innovation and facilitate innovation among their residents, including, or perhaps especially, among inner city residents.

While the full presentation will be on the ICIC website later, here is a summary of the various aspects of the strategy that I presented.  The 21st century city:

  • connects residents to the global economic opportunities
  • connects residents to open innovation
  • provides a platform for lifelong learning for residents
  • has a culture of innovation
  • creates places that inspire residents to innovate

© 2014 Norman Jacknis

[http://njacknis.tumblr.com/post/75049511867/who-what-is-tech-for-in-the-inner-city]

Intellectual Property?

Last, the Metropolitan New York Library Council held its Annual Meeting at the vertical campus of Baruch College/CUNY.  [Disclosure: I’m President of the board, although the staff does all the real work.]

METRO has turned this into quite an event, filled all day with various breakout sessions.  But there is still a keynote address, given this year by Jessamyn West who discussed her views on copyrights and how libraries are and will continue to be affected by copyright law.

You can see the slides from her presentation at http://www.librarian.net/talks/metro/ , although you can’t see and hear what she had to say about each.  You can get a flavor for her entertaining presentation style by noting her concluding slide.

image

If I had to summarize her message to the library world and to others in one sentence, it is this: aggressively apply your “fair use” rights for copyrighted material.  (You can read this article for a summary of “fair use”.)

The Wikipedia entry on fair use provides this conventional summary:

“In United States copyright law, fair use is a doctrine that permits limited use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission from the rights holders. Examples of fair use include commentary, search engines, criticism, parody, news reporting, research, teaching, library archiving and scholarship.”

The traditional copyright that the writers of the US Constitution had in mind – fourteen years for printed material – has been buffeted by the pressures of copyright owners, on the one hand, and developments in technology on the other.

The copyright owners have succeeded in extending the life of copyrights to seven decades after the death of the original copyright holder.  They have also tended to generalize what was a fairly limited monopoly into the much larger concept of “intellectual property”, which often translates into a monopoly on an idea. 

The Internet, of course, has made things more complicated. There is the increasing digitization (scanning) of existing printed material.  There is also an ever increasing percentage of published material that is born digital.  The Internet has also made possible a boom in self-published works, usually in e-book form.

All of these trends mean that traditional copyrights, which were managed by a small set of big publishers of printed books can no longer be so easily managed.  Readers can more easily copy digital books than printed books, so having a copyright is no longer as strong a protection of a monopoly as it used to be.

Indeed, the very idea of a fixed book – something with a finite number of printed pages, contained within hard covers – is challenged by the digital form.  We are already seen and can expect to see more mash-ups that might take a paragraph or a chapter here and another from there and so on in order to create something that some readers might find more efficient than reading all the original material.

Who owns what in that mash-up? How much can be used from the original sources?  How are rights affected if the original material is modified in some way?  What if those original sources are also some form of mash-up?   These are just some of the questions that will grist for the legal mills in the future.

Indeed, whether ideas can be considered non-sharable, protectable property will be one of the big policy debates of this century – perhaps on a par with the labor vs. capital conflicts of the 19th and early 20th centuries.  Ms. West’s presentation gave the attendees of METRO’s meeting a taste of what that battle will be like.

© 2014 Norman Jacknis

[http://njacknis.tumblr.com/post/74279930335/intellectual-property ]

Images Of Moving?

I’ve written before about spaces that blend the virtual and physical, but those spaces didn’t move.  Now we have new vehicles planned that take this blended reality on the road.

Below are just some news items that caught my eye over the past few months featuring the frontiers of vehicle technology, beyond the well-publicized self-driving cars.

First up is Lexus’s Art in Motion, which analyzes the way the car is being driven and reflects that in a portrait of the driver on the display screen in the car, as in the next picture.  For more information see http://www.artismotion.com/ and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8cqJptwNVI

image

Toyota’s FV2, “Fun To Drive”, concept vehicle is not quite a car. But it combines features of a car, a motorcycle, augmented reality, robotics, human/machine communications and sensing of the driver’s mood.  Like other concept cars, it may never hit the road, but it’s fun to think about.  Here are two pictures and read http://www.toyota-global.com/tokyoms2013/fv2/ for more information from the company.  Oh, and they also have a smartphone app, that you can get now, to simulate what the FV2 is like.

image

image

We’ve seen self-parking cars on the road, but for those really tough parking spaces you may need to ask your passenger to get out and guide you in inch-by-inch.  But what if you’re driving alone?  Well, you’ll have to be your own passenger.  Just get out of the car and park it using your smartphone.  See how this is done with a VW car at http://youtu.be/PfcHm70BHL8

Prof. Michael Ferreira of Portugal’s University of Porto has developed what he calls a “see through” system that lets you see through the vehicle ahead of you.  The project has a video that sort of shows the system — http://youtu.be/Esh1EjgBQaI . More information, in English, can be found at http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22029394.600-augmented-reality-system-makes-cars-seethrough.html

MIT Professor Berthold Horn has developed a system that would tame traffic jams by coordinating cruise control among all the cars.  For more information, see http://web.mit.edu/press/2013/algorithm-could-mitigate-freeway-backups.html

Finally, for those drivers who end up being pursued by the police, law enforcement agencies have a new tool from StarChase that’s being tested now.  It enables the police to shoot GPS locators on the target vehicles so they don’t have to engage in one of those dangerous car chases.

© 2014 Norman Jacknis

[http://njacknis.tumblr.com/post/73512317522/images-of-moving]

Are MOOCs Failing?

There have been recent articles featuring primarily Sebastian Thrun, the earlier leader of massive open online courses (MOOCs) and founder of the company, Udacity, which specializes in developing and delivering MOOCs.

The first was a piece in Fast Company about how Thrun has been disappointed by the experience of MOOCs.  This was followed by a more positive piece in the New York Times about changes in MOOCs that are being considered in order to address their failures.  The failures turn out to be the small percentage of people who actually attend the full course and the fact that most of them already have degrees.

However, the discussion might be misleading.  It not so much whether online courses are good or bad, but how it is very difficult to succeed with a new innovation by casting it as a minor modification of something that already exists.  In this case, the idea that online learning should be very much like a typical college course, but just online, may not have been an innovative enough idea.  For example, the Khan Academy, which packages learning into ten minute videos that anyone can access, is a much greater change from convention and has also been much more successful.

Indeed, the fact that many in the MOOCs already have degrees maybe should make MOOC developers reconsider their target.  Perhaps MOOCs will be much more appealing as a cost-effective means of lifelong learning for those who cannot afford the time or additional money to attend college than for those who would be college students.

In a knowledge age, the biggest challenge is how to provide learning opportunities for all adults – all of whom need to continue to learn.

(Disclosure: While this blog has had previous posts on higher education, it is now more relevant since I was recently appointed to the board of the Westchester Community College.  Of course, my views do not represent those of the College now, or as it may turn out, even in the future ;-)

© 2014 Norman Jacknis

[http://njacknis.tumblr.com/post/72768461219/are-moocs-failing]

Large County Innovation Summit

The National Association of Counties’ Large Urban County Caucus – LUCC, as it is known – represents the largest counties in the country, where a significant percentage of Americans live.   LUCC held its 2013 County Innovation Symposium in New York City last week from Wednesday through Friday. 

(I was invited in my new role as the first Senior NACo Fellow.)

Although Thursday’s schedule included sessions on health care, criminal justice and resilience, the meeting on the other two days focused on economic development.  Bruce Katz of the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program and co-author of the recent book, “The Metropolitan Revolution: How Cities and Metros Are Fixing Our Broken Politics and Fragile Economy” kicked off Friday morning.

He and other panelists noted the evolving role of counties and NACo itself, as the old suburban vs. urban disputes are overtaken by important socio-economic trends. 

First, there is an increased understanding and recognition among public officials now of the metropolitan, really regional, nature of economies.  The old game of providing incentives to companies to move within a metropolitan area, resulting in no new jobs in the region, is wearing thin.

Second, the global nature of the economy implies that regions are now competing with each other, not localities.  And only a regional scale can generate the funds necessary to compete on a global basis.

Third, the demographic differences that used to separate suburban and urban areas are diminishing.  The two are beginning to look a lot alike.  Brookings’ research indicates that today there are more poor people in suburbs than in cities. 

Along with this discussion of economic strategy, there was a strong interest in encouraging innovation and in learning how to get good innovations to diffuse quickly.  This interest is one reason why NACo has appointed Dr. Bert Jarreau as its first Chief Innovation Officer.

With that in mind, the group went to visit Google’s New York labs.  (It is interesting to see Google’s entry into the sub-national arena over the last year or so, as more traditional IT companies have withdrawn somewhat from this market.)

A predictable big hit was the demonstration of Google Glass and a discussion of Glass apps, called GlassWare, that might be of value in the public sector.

There were also presentations of two applications that were extensions of Google’s search and other tools.  One was for integrated predictive policing, with heavy use of video cams (both public and private) and unstructured, narrative data.  Similarly, Macomb County, MI (population 900,000) showed how it uses a search tool, called SuperIndex, for text and images of land records.  The latter, by the way, is financially self-supporting.

By the end of the meeting, NACo LUCC decided they will make this innovation symposium an annual event.  It is often these kinds of unexpected, under-the-radar, developments that surprise people later.  County governments has not had a reputation for innovation, but keep your eyes open for what develops with this group.

©2013 Norman Jacknis

[http://njacknis.tumblr.com/post/70392255080/large-county-innovation-summit]

This blog explores the future of government, the economy, business and knowledge. It will be a combination of my own thinking and pointers to interesting stuff that I see. You can follow me (@NormanJacknis) on Twitter to learn when blogs are posted.

twitter.com/NormanJacknis

view archive



Ask me anything