Category: Technology

Amazon at its Prime

amazonTwo years ago, Amazon announced an ambitious plan that quickly went viral: a new delivery service called Prime Air that would make same-day drone deliveries to participating Amazon customers. The service was not expected to come out for a couple years at the very least. As of now, it is still just an idea that might possibly never become a reality. But what is becoming a reality right now is a new Uber-like service for Amazon deliveries.

Not a company to fall behind on great new innovations for long, Amazon is planning to integrate crowd-sourced drivers into its Prime Now delivery service. The plan is that

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We’re All Going Loony

For most of us, access to the internet has become old hat. We can check emails on our cell phones while skyping on an iPad, and simultaneously stream instant video to our laptop. Our ability to function and perform daily tasks relies heavily on the availability of an internet connection. But what about the two-thirds of the world that has little or no access to the internet?

In 2013, a small Google initiative was started and dubbed Project Loon or simply, Loon. The stated goal of Loon is to provide global internet access, using balloons sent up into the stratosphere. Thirty balloons were launched in 2013 from New Zealand, and Google hasn’t looked back since. Up in the stratosphere (higher than aircraft fly or weather systems occur), the balloons network together using the popular LTE telecommunications system. This networking of balloons aims to fill coverage gaps, bringing the internet community to the remotest parts of the world, while also serving to bring people back online after a disaster.

How Does It Work?

Upon reaching the stratosphere, the launched balloons are caught in the stratified wind currents that are present at those particular heights. The winds travel in different directions and at varying speeds; this posed a problem of controlling where and how these balloons would navigate. An algorithm was therefore created, controlled by a computer at project headquarters, which determines where each balloon is in relation to the earth, and where it is in relation to its member balloons. For example, as one balloon is slowly whisked away from providing coverage to Indonesia, another balloon takes its place and assures that there will be consistent LTE network availability. Each balloon provides networking within a 25-mile diameter circle, relaying communications from LTE-capable cell phones to the global internet. Every 100 days, the balloons have to be switched out (a vast improvement on their original 2-day life). This ensures that each balloon is always working at optimal capacity and safety.

The Balloon

A fully inflated balloon measures approximately 15 meters by 12 meters, and is made of polyethylene plastic which can resist the temperatures and wind currents of the stratosphere. They last for about 100 days and then descend to earth in a controlled fashion. If a balloon begins descending too rapidly, it deploys a parachute to prevent a devastating crash. Hanging below the balloon is a box containing the electronics, radio communications system, plus two angled solar panels which run the electronics and charge up the lithium ion batteries so that usage can continue during the night. A big selling point for Loon is its ability to operate on a completely renewable energy source.

Goals Of Loon

It’s clear that the primary goal of Loon is to provide internet access for people everywhere in the world. While Netflix, YouTube and other entertainment media consume a large portion of internet activity, Loon has loftier goals, aiming to bring people closer into the global community and also provide services that improve quality of life. It’s estimated that one in three global citizens have no access to secondary education. With Loon, secondary education can come to them. Farmers can check weather patterns to ensure a healthy crop and to make sure their animals are staying dry and warm. Medical access is limited in a large portion of the world, so with the LTE internet that Loon provides, people can interact with doctors from around the globe. Google hopes that one day soon we can say that everyone is ‘on the internet’.

Wrapping It Up

All in all, Loon is an amazing project, and so far it has brought internet to a small portion of New Zealand. Conceptually, Loon does work, and it will eventually provide internet to all ends of the earth. However, there is still the challenge of getting the LTE-capable devices into the hands of people in the remotest (poorest) parts of the globe. Not only would they need the devices, but they would have to have some viable option for paying Google for the internet service. Thankfully, this is the only significant issue I see with Loon. Let’s give credit where it’s due and applaud Google for yet another brilliant contribution…. in the hope that, our global community will be a reality one day soon.

Could ‘Dig Once’ Bury Free Internet?

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Internet regulation has become one of the hottest political topics of late, taking it’s place alongside such old chestnuts as foreign policy and social agendas. So far, net neutrality has been the most widely discussed and publicized internet regulation, inciting bloggers and pundits across the web to opine. Early this year,
the FCC ruled in favor of net neutrality. Many people supported the decision and were pleased with this outcome. On the surface, it seems to have certain benefits, but it also sets a precedent for related issues in the future.

 

According to a recent Washington Post article, Obama has begun to make broadband issues a key part of his remaining agenda. Part of his proposed plan is to implement

A Hard-Hitting Soft Paywall

Snapchat announced in a blog post Tuesday morning that they will be offering replays to users who are willing to pay out a little cash. The popular smartphone app can be downloaded for free, and it allows users to send temporary photos and videos to each other. Once a snapchatter has viewed an image and it has disappeared, the picture can no longer be accessed. At least that was until a couple of years ago when a feature allowing users one replay each day was added to the app. The new update will allow users to purchase additional replays at a rate of 3 replays for $0.99.

 This move could turn out to be controversial because the temporal nature of the app content is probably one of its most attractive features. Snapchat appeared on the scene as a last vestige of

Unconventional Wisdom From A True Rebel: Rebel Saffold III

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Rebel Saffold III

True to his first name, Denver-based entrepreneur Rebel Saffold III lives each day with purposeful abandon. As President of Lebertech Technology Services – a  firm that provides consulting support to non-profit organizations in the areas of technology, leadership, operations, database management and donor relations – Rebel brings a ‘full tilt’ approach to his game while modeling the essence of free enterprise and abundance. In my exclusive interview with him over wine and pizza at Second Home in Denver’s toney Cherry Creek North District, Rebel uncorked a steady flow of uncommon wisdom about entrepreneurship, technology, money and the vicissitudes of life. Here are a few nuggets of wisdom he shared from our conversation:

On Education

I was an undergraduate major in political science and humanities at the University of Northern Iowa before working at the State Senate for about a year. During that time, I reconnected with some friends that I grew up with in high school and from whom I received my first computer: an old Compaq Presario. Because it only had a 166 MHz processor along with 64 MB of RAM, the high-speed internet connection I used proved too much for the computer to handle. In any event, a friend of mine started a business installing network cards for people in our neighborhood. After the two of us hung out for a few months, we started to get into file-sharing and other tech functions. This early orientation to technology still informs my work today.

On The Unexpected

I’ve had plenty of these but there is one life experience that stands out in my mind. My wife (at the time) and I had moved to St. Louis so that she could attend school in the field of social work. I was temping at a call center, collecting on consumer phone bills, and would often spend time after a busy day with some of my work buddies. One evening, we went to East St. Louis and hung out in the basement of someone’s home. Two of the guys I knew fairly well, but I didn’t know the rest. While sitting there engaged in conversation, a bunch of guys I’d never seen before walked in with these brown bags which they proceeded to open up, pouring the contents out onto the table. Eight handguns. And then another guy opens up his bag and pulls out three bricks of cocaine.

So here I am – this guy from Iowa – screaming on the inside from panic because I had never been around guns or drugs before. But I recognized that I mustn’t show fear around these guys because if I do, they’re going to think something is wrong and that I’m a snitch, which could end up getting me hurt. So I sat there and gave off the impression that everything was normal. As I look back at this incident years later, I recognize that this was one of many experiences that gave me the strength and backbone that I now have.  I was pretty naive back then for sure.

On My Dad

My Dad went to prison for five years when I was a kid. He was caught selling drugs on the street and he got shot four times. The next day at school, every kid was talking about it. I was in the 9th grade.