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, 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  I hope 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.



US Mayors discuss social media

The last plenary session of the US Conference of Mayors ( mid-winter meeting consisted of a panel of mayors discussing their use and reaction to social media.  

But, first, one side observation about the audience.  Last year and certainly two years ago, it was rare to see much technology in the audience at a mayors’ meeting, aside from traditional cell phones.  At this session, more than half the audience of mayors seemed to have iPads and almost all of the rest smartphones.  This, in itself, is a sea change in attitudes and understanding of technology among elected officials.
Perhaps the biggest news about this session is that it was held and that the mayors were leading it.  Here are some of the, perhaps not surprising,  highlights that give a flavor of the discussion:
  • Some of the mayors, a minority, tied the rise of social media to the increase in petitions to recall mayors from office – even a short time after the election when the mayor won.
  • Social media cannot be treated in the same way that mayors used to handle a response to a letter from a constituent, in part because of the expectation of a rapid response and in part because the request and response are both visible to a wider audience.  At the same time, there is still a large constituency which is not using social media, so the traditional forms of public communications must also be accommodated.
  • The 24 hour a day nature of the Internet and social media also means that there are no private moments for mayors.  Everything they do can be recorded on video and posted shortly after the event.  
  • This also leads to a situation where the professional and personal lives of mayors get intertwined on the Internet.  Some have tried to separate these using various approaches, but the difference is often too subtle for the average resident.
  • Mayors with Facebook pages, which are completely open, find constituents using those pages to make requests for various city services.  More popular mayors in larger cities can end up maxing out at the 5,000 friend limit imposed by Facebook.  Thus, the experienced Facebook mayors recommended adopting a politician’s Facebook page.  Of course, one of the nice things about this style of page is that it is limited to “Likes”.
  • The whole experience of governing with Facebook can be overwhelming to a mayor, if the mayor doesn’t properly think it through.  The mayors who have been successful on Facebook and other social media have established a formal protocol (and staffing) within their office for managing and responding to the social media.
  • Nevertheless, none of the mayors is turning off the spigot.  They find the greater communication with residents helpful.  They noted that, especially in emergencies, social media gets the message out better than anything else.  Some have experimented with actively using social media in governing.  One example is created by the mayor of Omaha, Nebraska.

© 2012 Norman Jacknis


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