Government Accountability Office Calls for Faster Broadband

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report stating that the FCC’s current broadband minimum benchmark speeds — 25Mbps for downloading and 3Mbps for uploading — are too slow for many small business needs today. This benchmark was implemented in 2015 under FCC chair Tom Wheeler and was not updated by the next chair, Ajit Pai. Wheeler updated it from 4Mbps downstream and 1Mbps upstream during his four-year term, an increase opposed by Republicans and the broadband industry. Continue reading Government Accountability Office Calls for Faster Broadband

CES 2020: (Finally) a Fireside Chat With FCC Chair Ajit Pai

Following a discussion with FTC chair Joseph Simons, CTA chair/chief executive Gary Shapiro welcomed FCC chair Ajit Pai who has tried unsuccessfully to speak at CES for the last two years. Since the change in net neutrality laws, which met with a lot of pushback, noted Pai, “speeds are up, broadband infrastructure is up, more fiber was laid in 2019 than in any other year.” “We often heard that this was the end of the Internet,” Pai said. “But more Americans get faster Internet than ever before.” Continue reading CES 2020: (Finally) a Fireside Chat With FCC Chair Ajit Pai

Airbus, SoftBank and Bill Gates Invest in EarthNow Satellites

The EarthNow project, which plans to launch 500 small satellites to provide video coverage of the world, now has three notable investors: Airbus, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and SoftBank Group chief executive Masayoshi Son. Satellite entrepreneur Greg Wyler, who has also partnered with Airbus and SoftBank on OneWeb, another satellite Internet project, is a fourth investor. Project chief executive Russell Hannigan says EarthNow will cost more than $1 billion, but didn’t reveal tech details or a launch date. Continue reading Airbus, SoftBank and Bill Gates Invest in EarthNow Satellites

China Issues Plan to Become the World’s AI Leader by 2030

China’s State Council released a statement of intent to build a domestic industry in artificial intelligence worth $150 billion and become the world leader in AI by 2030. China is also planning a multi-billion dollar investment in startups and academic research related to AI, say two professors consulting with the Chinese government. At the same time, the U.S. is cutting back on investments in science, and budget proposals from the Trump administration aim to cut funds from agencies supporting AI research. Continue reading China Issues Plan to Become the World’s AI Leader by 2030

Super Bowl Halftime Show Offers Glimpse into Future of UAVs

During Sunday’s Super Bowl halftime show, about 160 million viewers saw something never seen there before: an army of 300 synchronized drones that morphed from stars to a waving flag above the Houston skyline. That effect was courtesy of the Intel Shooting Star drone system, which also has more serious applications, in search-and-rescue and agriculture among other possibilities. The Shooting Star squad has also performed at Disney World and, last year, set a world record by simultaneously launching 500 UAVs into the sky above Sydney. Continue reading Super Bowl Halftime Show Offers Glimpse into Future of UAVs

Drone Industry Is Under Rapid Change in Southern California

Drone operators are beginning to realize the commercial potential of UAVs. In Southern California, for example, drones are being used for film production, sports coverage, wedding photography, map-making and more. According to Los Angeles Daily News, drone operators are also making money with applications such as: “examining the health of agricultural crops,” “monitoring the progress of construction projects,” “documenting the installation of rooftop solar panels in order to claim federal tax credits,” “selling commercial, industrial and residential real estate” and “surveying electric wires, pipelines, railroad tracks, dams and canals for damage.” Meanwhile, companies including Amazon and Google are experimenting with drone delivery services. Continue reading Drone Industry Is Under Rapid Change in Southern California

Sensors Industry Group Sets the Bar, Sees the Future for IoT

At CES 2016, the MEMS & Sensors Industry Group held its fifth conference to focus on the technologies that quite literally enable the Internet of Things. The group’s executive director Karen Lightman notes that MEMS (MicroElectroMechanical Systems) are both sensors and actuators, the latter being the key differentiating factor. “Not all MEMS are sensors and not all sensors are MEMS,” she said. “What’s exciting is that MEMS and sensors still offer new science and new ways of addressing challenging issues.” Continue reading Sensors Industry Group Sets the Bar, Sees the Future for IoT

Drones Grow Up: More Use Cases, Capabilities, Regulations

With FAA drone regulations newly in place, industry pioneers gathered at CES to describe the issues roiling this growing category. Drones allow people to fulfill the fantasy of flying and thus in our DNA, says 3D Robotics CRO Colin Guinn. The use cases, however, from agriculture to movie making, are very real, generating more attention. That’s why Flytrex Aviation chief exec Yariv Bash predicts we’ll see many more consumer and pro versions, and Parrot chief exec Henri Seydoux notes the drone’s data collection as its key feature. Continue reading Drones Grow Up: More Use Cases, Capabilities, Regulations

Tethered Drones Offer Longer Flight Times and Better Control

Since most UAVs are limited by short battery lives and face the possibility of flying into other aircraft, some companies have introduced tethered drones that are connected to the ground by ultrastrong, lightweight cables. These drones offer longer flight times, more control, and faster data transmission. Several industries have plans for these drones: CNN plans to use them for news coverage, the military for surveillance, and industries such as construction and agriculture for data gathering on their operations. Continue reading Tethered Drones Offer Longer Flight Times and Better Control

U.S. Government Aims to Provide Nationwide Internet Access

The federal government this week announced plans to distribute $85 million in new funding for rural Internet access. However, the money is not coming from a telecom-related agency such as the FCC; instead, it is coming from the Department of Agriculture. Meanwhile, the Department of Housing and Urban Development unveiled its ConnectHome pilot program that will provide free or low-cost Internet access to residents of public housing. The USDA and HUD are among the federal agencies that now view the Internet as a basic necessity. Continue reading U.S. Government Aims to Provide Nationwide Internet Access

FAA Relaxes Restrictions on Drones for Film and TV Production

After negotiations with the Motion Picture Association of America, the Federal Aviation Administration has decided to grant permission for six film production companies to use small unmanned aircraft to shoot movies and television shows. The drones can only be flown within sight on closed sets by certified drone operators after notifying the FAA. The exemptions for production companies are only an interim measure while the FAA continues to write more comprehensive rules. Continue reading FAA Relaxes Restrictions on Drones for Film and TV Production

Iowa Newspaper Uses Oculus Rift for ‘Explanatory’ Journalism

The Des Moines Register, which reaches 420,000 readers, has launched a virtual reality story to examine how the demographic and economic changes in Iowa are affecting one farming family. The readers of the paper can step into the Dammann family farm and click on objects to learn about how different issues impact Iowa residents. Only 125,000 Oculus Rift headsets are in circulation, but this story may be one of the first steps toward integrating VR into journalism. Continue reading Iowa Newspaper Uses Oculus Rift for ‘Explanatory’ Journalism

FAA Considers Allowing Entertainment Industry to Use Drones

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) may lift current restrictions that prohibit the use of drone aircraft for commercial purposes. Seven companies in the film industry filed requests with the help of the Motion Picture Association of America to be able to use small drones at a low altitude in a limited airspace for aerial photography. Drones have already been used in the movie industry despite the ban, but this step could lead to further relaxation of the FAA’s policy. Continue reading FAA Considers Allowing Entertainment Industry to Use Drones