Category Archives: Technology

It’s time to chart a course for 5G success

Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel returned as a Commissioner to the Federal Communications Commission on August 11, 2017. Commissioner Rosenworcel previously served as Senior Communications Counsel for the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, under the leadership of Senator John D. Rockefeller IV and previously served in the same role on the Committee under the leadership of Senator Daniel K. Inouye.

This is shaping up to be a pivotal year for the wireless leadership ambitions of the United States.  Fifth generation wireless technologies are finally moving to market.  Countries around the world are racing to reap the economic and civic rewards of being the first to deploy their service.  While the United States can claim that it has been at the front of the pack in the past, its success in the future — especially when no spectrum auctions are scheduled — is far from secure.

If our experience with wireless technology cycles has shown us anything, it is that being first matters.  After trailing our European counterparts in the roll-out of third generation mobile services, we were the first to deploy the next generation — known as 4G.

That leadership paid dividends.  Today, with only five percent of the world’s population, we make up 15 percent of global 4G connections.  Our companies run the operating systems on 9 out of 10 smartphones worldwide and our wireless services generate $400 billion in annual economic activity.  In short, we led and our economy — and our citizens — benefited immensely.

We shouldn’t rest on our laurels.  We are now on the cusp of a 5G revolution.  This next generation of wireless service will be strikingly different from those that came before.  While earlier evolutions improved the speeds of connections, the move to 5G will mean much more.

 

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Danfoss preparing for startup of power modules in NY

Utica, NY – Danfoss Silicon Power today welcomed the first employees to its Utica, New York facility — marking progress toward full operation of its silicon-carbide (SiC) power module production.

In March 2017, the company announced that it would establish production of SiC power modules in Utica.

Danfoss Power Electronics packaging facility at QUAD-C will advance New York’s leadership in next-generation semiconductor research, development, and commercial fabrication to meet the global demand for smaller, faster, and more efficient devices. This will expand the scope of the Nano Utica initiative from computer chip commercialization into power electronics applications for industrial products such as wind turbines, utility-scale solar inverters, data centers and electric cars. GE’s advancements in silicon carbide (SiC) technology play an important enabling role.

The company recently took over the Quad-C facility at the State University of New York (SUNY)’s Utica campus as part of a transatlantic collaboration with General Electric through New York Power Electronics Manufacturing Consortium (NY-PEMC). The private-public consortium and other similar programs were established in 2014 by the state of New York with a total investment of more than $20 billion USD for the creation of high-tech jobs.

I got locked out of my Google account for a month

How much of your digital life would you lose if you lost a single password? Without it, you are locked out and the cold reality of using free cloud services like Google is that you don’t have a human arbiter to help you. If you think back to earlier times where, say you lost your bank book, your local banker probably knew who you were and could help you navigate the process of getting it replaced. When you lose your password, it’s not that simple — as I found out.

Imagine you have spent much of your digital life for the last 12 years on Google. You rely on their, mail and calendar, Google Drive for storage and Google Photos for your photo archive. Then imagine that one day, you get locked out after forgetting your password.

That’s what happened to me.

Who are you?

About a month ago, I went to sign into Google. I use different passwords all the time and I forgot which one I had used most recently for Google. I clicked ‘Forgot Password’ as I always had. I was asked to send a confirmation to my phone they had on file. I did that. I responded and was asked to send a confirmation code to my email. I did that and entered the code. I was asked to answer a security question. I answered it.

At that point, you would think I had done more than enough to prove that I was who I said I was. I had supplied, not one, not two, but three factors of identification, but this was not enough for Google for some reason.

I was asked to enter the most recent password I remembered. I did that. I was asked when I first opened my account. I have no idea to be honest and it’s kind of a weird security requirement because seriously, who is going to remember when they opened their Google account to the month if it was over a decade ago? It’s not information people typically keep.

I got to the end of the process expecting to be asked for a new password. I was told I was locked out and I would have to make a request to Google to get in. I followed the procedure, waited for several days (a lifetime without access to my email, calendar, documents) and I was told I was rejected.

I’m not sure how many ways you have to identify yourself to satisfy Google, but apparently all the ways I had supplied weren’t enough. There was nothing in the email about any recourse. I was simply locked out.

No where to run to, baby

I was at an impasse and not sure what to do, but use my contacts as a journalist. If I hadn’t been a journalist with such contacts, I’m not sure what I would have done, but I had them and I used them hoping to resolve this quickly. As it turned out, it would not be quick at all.

On December 5th, I sent a note to a PR contact who I work with on Google-related news and I told him about my problem. He said he had gotten my case escalated and I should hear within 24 hours.

  • Visit https://accounts.google.com/signin/recovery
  • Enter Username
  • Click on “Try a different question” at every step until they reach the question “When did you create this Google Account?”
  • Select approximate date when the account was created and click “Next”
  • Enter any contact email address that they have access to and finish the whole verification process.
  • Please ensure that regardless of whether the user knows the answer to the questions or not, they complete answering all the questions till the end. Completing the account recovery process, will create a case for us to work with.

I dutifully did this and once again got a message that Google couldn’t verify the account.

Five days later I still hadn’t heard anything, so on December 12th I contacted my PR friend again, who at this point had to be getting pretty tired of being my go-between. He did his thing and told me that the reset link was being sent to an alternative address of mine.

I got an email from Google later in the day, which I shared with my PR contact:

Hi there,

Here at Google, we’re constantly trying to provide you the best customer support experience.

You recently contacted our support team to regain access to your Google account. Since then, have you been able to successfully sign back into your account?

The choices were Yes/No. I chose No and asked for a new reset command.

France aims to have ‘driverless’ high-speed TGV trains by 2023

SNCF will begin testing ‘drone train’ in 2019, though conductors will still be onboard to handle emergencies

from “TheVerge

France’s national railway operator aims to have autonomous high-speed TGV trains running by 2023, according to a report from FranceInfo. The train operator, known by the French acronym SNCF, will begin testing a prototype of its so-called “drone train” in 2019, FranceInfo reports.

 The new TGV train would be equipped with sensors that would allow it to detect obstacles and automatically brake, if necessary. The TGV, which reaches speeds of nearly 200mph, could be remotely piloted, though conductors will remain onboard in the short term to handle emergencies or unexpected events. SNCF President Guillaume Pepy tells Le Figaro that if the project is successful, SNCF would be the first operator in the world to run automated high-speed trains.

In an interview with FranceInfo, Matthieu Chabanel, the adjoint director of SNCF, compared the autonomous train to autopilot systems used in commercial flight. “In airplanes, you always have a driver, fortunately, but you have an automatic steering system,” Chabanel said.

The aim, according to the SNCF, is to increase the speed and frequency of TGV journeys, particularly around Paris, where TGV lines intersect with various local and regional rail lines. The operator believes that the automated system would increase the number of trips between Paris and Lyon by 25 percent.

The SNCF recently announced plans to rebrand its iconic TGV line as “inOui,” in a move that drew widespread criticism and mockery online.

Logistics News After New President Takes Over

Panama Canal overtakes Suez on Asia-US East Coast route. This makes sense….. those new locks makes it easier on shippers.

Top US trucking lobby outlines wishes for Trump administration

City officials have dropped the idea of selling the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad, but are continuing to explore the possibility of a public-private partnership for the short line that handles switching for the port’s six Class I railroads.

RailAmerica for Sale, Report Says

Transport providers hold firm against attacks on NAFTA, trade pacts.

Democrats and Republicans alike are encouraged that a Trump Administration could inject freight infrastructure with a much-needed funding boost.

Steady growth in e-commerce activity is driving a surge in the parcel delivery business, and strengthening the role of EDI in processing and auditing freight payments.

The Trump administration’s plan for a broad-based regulatory rollback could shorten the duration of any future truck capacity shortfall.

Shippers, trucking companies, container lines and others are starting to get a better idea of what Trump can and can’t deliver. Ignore the armchair analysis of Trump’s campaign rhetoric.

Are Amtrak’s New High-Speed Trains Too Good for Amtrak?

Last month, Amtrak announced the purchase of 28 new high-speed trains from the French manufacturer Alstom. The model is called the Avelia Liberty, and it will run the Acela routes (from Washington, D.C., to New York to Boston) starting in 2021, with room for 35 percent more passengers than today’s trains.

It’s the train of a future Amtrak, and not just because the glassy Penn Station it arrives to is a distant dream. The train is also built to run at speeds that Amtrak’s current Northeast Corridor infrastructure can’t yet accommodate at any point. It’s an ambitious purchase, and one that will only pay off if Amtrak can commit to serious track improvements during the trains’ 30-year lifespan.

The Avelia Liberty has a top speed greater than 185 miles per hour, though Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor has a max speed of 160 mph, and trains only reach that speed for very short periods. The train can be upgraded to reach 220 mph, which is faster than the French TGV trains—and totally incompatible with the Northeast Corridor’s current track. It’s like buying a pair of fancy French pants you’d like to fit into at some point in the next two decades.

It’s the train of a future Amtrak, and not just because the glassy Penn Station it arrives to is a distant dream. The train is also built to run at speeds that Amtrak’s current Northeast Corridor infrastructure can’t yet accommodate at any point. It’s an ambitious purchase, and one that will only pay off if Amtrak can commit to serious track improvements during the trains’ 30-year lifespan.

The Avelia Liberty has a top speed greater than 185 miles per hour, though Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor has a max speed of 160 mph, and trains only reach that speed for very short periods. The train can be upgraded to reach 220 mph, which is faster than the French TGV trains—and totally incompatible with the Northeast Corridor’s current track. It’s like buying a pair of fancy French pants you’d like to fit into at some point in the next two decades.

The Avelia has other cool features, though, that will benefit Amtrak right away: It can tilt up to seven degrees on curves, compared with four degrees for the current Acelas. According to Alstom, this permits the train to take curves 30 percent faster, and Amtrak says that will shorten trip times as soon as the trains hit revenue service in five years. It will have reclining leather seats, outlets, USB ports, and reading lamps. Even without track improvements, the new trains will enable Amtrak to run high-speed trains between New York and Washington every half-hour, and every hour between New York and Boston.

Still: At $2 billion for 28 trains, the Avelia is among the most expensive train set purchases in history. The transportation blogger Alon Levy observes that the trains will cost almost twice as much, per car, as some comparable models in Europe and Asia. The new Eurostar trains, for example, made by Siemens in 2011, cost about $5 million a car. Amtrak’s Avelia will be closer to $9 million per car.

Why so much? Part of the answer is that the trains will combine high speed and high tilt in a way that few other trains do. As Levy writes, those two features might not work together very often: If Amtrak straightens the track to allow for high speeds—and long sections of straight track are the only way to take advantage of a train that pushes 200 mph—it will have fewer situations to deploy seven-degree tilt. As Levy succinctly puts it, with low infrastructure investment, high-speed is useless. With high investment, tilt is obsolete. Over the course of 30 years, though, both may come in handy.

Another reason Amtrak might pay more for trains, of course, is the American regulatory environment. Buy America provisions require that transportation projects use domestically made products. But that means giving up economy of scale: America doesn’t make a lot of high-speed trains. Relatedly, because Amtrak shares track with commuter rail and freight trains, the Federal Railroad Administration imposes special safety restrictions on its trains. FRA safety standards led to the Acela being twice as heavy as the French TGV trains. A former Amtrak chairman called it a “high-velocity bank vault.”

The FRA is revising those requirements now—after all, European high-speed trains also run with commuter rail around terminals—and the Avelia Liberty will weigh about 30 percent less than the Acela. Still, the train won’t be as sleekly designed as its sisters in Europe, China, and Japan. That, along with compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act, may be one reason that a 200-meter Avelia Liberty will carry fewer passengers than other Alstom models, like the Pendolino or the AGV.

Another factor: The trains come with a maintenance agreement that trades a higher purchase price for lower maintenance costs down the road. (The Acela has been plagued by maintenance issues.) As the rail blogger Paul Druce points out, the Avelia Liberty trains are only about 10 percent more expensive than the Pendolino trains thatItaly bought from Alstom last fall. America’s trains will also go faster than the Pendolinos, though they hold fewer people. Our trains have a 15-year service agreement; theirs have a 20-year agreement.

Amtrak, spokesman Craig Schulz said, when I asked about the trains’ cost, that it had hired two engineering firms to review the deal with Alstom. “Amtrak is paying well within the range of recent high-speed equipment sales,” he said.

One clear winner here is Alstom, for whom,Le Monde reports, the train could serve as a launching pad for selling its services to other American states, including California, whose own high-speed rail project is underway. Some railfans havespeculated that the Avelia Liberty might be designed to meet the specifications for both the NEC and California high-speed rail, whose tracks will be straighter than their Northeast equivalents.

Beware The Shopper

Omni-channel has become a dated term. In this age of digital information available anytime and anywhere there are precious few shopping decisions being made without fact based information. A MasterCard report from 2015 shows that 8 out of 10 purchases made by retail shoppers are informed by some kind of digital information. With 80 percent of purchase decisions influenced by shopper research, their decisions about just where to buy is likely to come down to convenience and timing rather than loyalty. Omni-channel shopping is now just plain shopping.

Retailers need to be sure they are focusing on the most important factors driving their customers – information. In fact the source of information needs to begin at the source, and that source should be the manufacturer or supplier. It may be a strange environment for manufacturers but the production and dissemination of product information can’t come from a better place. But capabilities vary widely in terms of the ability of product suppliers to create, produce, and market their products.