Building the World

December 7, 2021
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TRANSPORT: Sugar High

“United Boeing 767-300ER taking off from London Healthrow” by photographer and aerospace engineer Adrian Pingstone, 2007. Public Domain wikimedia commons.

Air transport, first achieved in December 1903, reached an important milestone in December  2021. United Airlines flew a commercial jet with a full complement of guest passengers entirely on renewable, non-fossil, fuel derived from sugar and corn. The flight Chicago ORD to Washington DCA flight carried 100 passengers using 100% sustainable fuel (SAF). The achievement followed United’s 2019 Flight for the Planet demonstrating biofuel blend energy, zero cabin waste, and carbon offsetting. The 2021 United success also announced new partners in the Eco-Skies-Alliance, and a pledge to purchase non-petroleum feedstocks to deliver the same performance of petroleum-based jet fuel but with a much smaller environmental effect.

“Sugarcane” by photographer Biswarup Ganguly, 2010. GNU Free/CC3.0 wikimedia.

Sugarcane ethanol is produced by fermenting sugarcane juice and molasses. Brazil and the USA are among the world areas engaged in biofuel production from sugar and corn, with scientific innovations on fermentative processes. There are concerns about land use for biofuel, and deforestation, but SAF remains an important element in new energy options. Brazil is a leader in sugar-based fuel, while U.S. expertise is mainly in corn. (Kang and Lee 2015). The U.S. biofuel industry has created 68,000 jobs, produced 17 billion gallons of sustainable fuel, and saved 544 million metric tons of Co2 from entering the atmosphere. (Minos 2021)

“Refueling a plane in Athens.” by photographer Jebulon. Wikimedia CC1.0 Public Domain.

While biofuels are arguably not as clean and green as electric or solar flight (achieved by small commuter planes such as eGenius), sustainable fuel is a practical step because it works with existing flight infrastructure like aircraft engines, refueling equipment, maintenance, and airport design.”SAF can be 100% compatible with our current aviation fleet and infrastructure,” observed Dave Kettner of Virent, among the partners who flew on the historic occasion, joined by World Energy biofuel producer and distributor, Boeing, CFM International, and U.S. Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office. Electric vehicles may be the answer for automobiles, buses, and trucks: the U.S. Federal Highway System and other major roads of the world will be rebuilt with charging stations and lanes for autonomous vehicles. The Canadian Pacific Railway or Japan’s Shinkansen can be adapted for maglev, electric, or hyperloop trains. But maritime shipping and aviation are not as easily converted from fossil fuels. Air transport has just taken an important step toward a more sustainable future.

Kang, Aram and Taek Sooon Lee. “Converting sugars to biofuels: ethanol and beyond.” 27 October 2015. Bioengineering. doi: 10.3390/bioengineering2040184.

Lewandowski, Jan. “Building the Evidence on Corn Ethanol’s Greenhouse Gas Profile.” 29 July 2021. U.S. Department of Agriculture. https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2019/04/02/building-evidence-corn-ethanols-greenhouse-gas-profile

McCue, Dan “United Airlines makes history flying the most eco-friendly commercial flight of its kind.” 11 June 2019. Renewable Energy Magazine. https://www.renewableenergymagazine.com/biofuels/united-airlines-makes-history-flying-the-most-20190611

Minos, Scott. “United Airlines first passenger flight using 100% sustainable aviation fuel is officially off the ground!” 1 December 2021. U.S. Department of Energy. https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/articles/united-airlines-first-passenger-flight-using-100-sustainable-aviation-fuel

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. “Inventing a flying machine.” https://airandspace.si.edu/exhibitions/wright-brothers-online/fly/1903/

United Airlines. “United to become first in aviation history to fly aircraft full of passengers using 100$ sustainable fuel.” 1 December 2021. United Airlines News Release. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/united-to-become-first-in-aviation-history-to-fly-aircraft-full-of-passengers-using-100-sustainable-fuel-301435009.html

World Energy. https://www.worldenergy.net

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Un

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April 13, 2020
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TRANSPORT: Trains as Mobile Medical System

India is rebuilding trains as rolling hospital wards, refitting coaches into care facilities with 16 beds. Indian Railways is modifying 20,000 carriage coaches, for a total of 320,000 new isolation pods, announcing the program on the same week COVID-19 cases increased by 1,637 infections and 38 deaths. Sports stadiums are also being deployed: Assam’s Sarusajai stadium will hold 1,000 patients, while Chandigarth’s complex will become a temporary jail to impound those who violate lockdown policy. (Singh 2020).

India’s rail system. Image: wikimedia.

Using trains for public health and education is not a new idea. When the Canadian Pacific Railway opened, special purpose carriages were a regular part of the route. Trains brought health care and education to previously unreachable places. Children saw a teacher once-a-week in a classroom car, then homeschooled until the next whistle stop. The Trans-Siberian railway and Russia’s rail system offered options like mobile therapy.

FIVE REASONS FOR USING TRAINS AS MOBILE MEDICAL SYSTEM

Trains, with their flexible number of carriages, can be configured to custom purposes.

Another factor? Speed and access. Amtrak is the only railroad in North America that holds right-of-way service speed: many stretches of track are certified and maintained for speeds up to 100+ miles per hour (160+ kph) on routes with no other traffic.

A third factor? Idle. With the advent of air travel and the building of the United States Federal Highway System, trains were already second class. Add stay-at-home lockdowns and social distancing for those few who must travel, and you’ve got a lot of idle equipment.

A fourth factor? Expensive to maintain idle. Planes, buses, and trains are all idle. Planes can be parked, buses can use roads already serviced for general vehicles. But trains require tracks and that means specialized maintenance.

A fifth factor? Subsidized, anyway.

“Red Cross Train, France” by Harold Septimus Power, 1918. Imperial War Museum, Art.IWM.ART 1031 Wikimedia

Proposal: use Amtrak train network as a mobile medical system. India shows that trains can easily be retrofitted as hospital wards, isolation units. And why not rolling ventilator-ready beds with the respiratory equipment already installed? Governor Andrew Cuomo announced New York will send medical equipment to the next peak place. The virus is a rolling phenomenon: a rolling response is a good option.

Amtrak system map. Image: wikimedia

The United States Transcontinental Railroad once transformed and united a country. Now, can rails help address the virus crisis? Afterwards, American rail needs rebuilding, anyway; repurposing medical cars will offer a chance to rethink Amtrak. Will Japan’s Shinkansen, upgraded with maglev trains reaching 374 mph for the Tokyo Olympics, be an inspiration? One hopeful step is Amtrak’s strategic agreement with Alstom (2016) to produce 28 next-gen equipment to replace the Acela Express now entering 20 years of service. The new transit format is due to roll out in 2022, a timeframe parallel with virus response needed now. Many countries have train systems; this idea is scalable. But at the moment, the United States is experiencing an urgent medical crisis. We need every idea and every option. Let’s use sections of Amtrak as a mobile medical system.

Alstom. “Alstom to provide Amtrak with its new generation of high-speed train.” 26 August 2016. https://www.alstom.com/press-releases-news/2016/8/alstom-to-provide-amtrak-with-its-new-generation-of-high-speed-train/

Amtrak.https://www.amtrak.com/content/dam/projects/dotcom/english/public/documents/corporate/nationalfactsheets/National-Fact-Sheet-FY2016-0717.pdf

Congressional Budget Office. “Federal Subsidies for Rail Passenger Service: An Assessment of Amtrak.” https://www.cbo.gov/system/files/2018-10/41955-Amtrak.pdf

Japan Rail. “New Maglev Trains for Debut at Tokyo Olympics” Tokyo Summer Olympics Guide. https://www.jrailpass.com/blog/tokyo-2020-olympics.

Singh, Charanjit. “India turns trains into isolation wards as COVID-19 cases rise.” Charanjit Singh, quoted in the article, explains that Chandigarh’s temporary jail is a day’s sentence to education on sanitation and public health, before being released that evening to go home and stay there. 2 April 2020. Al Jazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/04/india-turns-trains-isolation-wards-covid-19-cases-rise-200402071515155.html

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unpo

 

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March 1, 2020
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CITIES: Reuse and redesign

1.5 billion chopsticks are discarded every week. Could these elegant materials be repurposed? Japanese chopsticks. Image: wikimedia

Vancouver, Canada is taking reuse and redesign to an artistic new level. The many excellent restaurants serving cuisine with chopsticks cannot re-use these wooden implements. But ChopValue can. Collecting 350,000 chopsticks – every week – from Vancouver restaurants, the company cleans and repurposes the bamboo utensils to make tabletops and wooden kitchenware. It’s an idea that has potential far beyond Vancouver: worldwide 1.5 billion chopsticks are discarded every week. How it works: chopsticks are collected from restaurants and taken to local micro-factories where they are fashioned into home products. ChopValue was conceived over a sushi dinner when friends discussed the problem, and opportunity, of construction waste. Suddenly one said: what about chopsticks? Four years later, there are ChopValue programs in Canada and the United States. Will the land of Shinkansen, hosting the Tokyo Olympics, take up the torch during the 2020 Games?

BBC.com. “Making chopsticks into house furnishings.” 28 February 2020.

ChopValue. https:chopvalue.com

I, Florence. “CHOPVALUE: A Movement to Extend the Life Cycle of Chopsticks.” 13 January 2019. Pendulum Magazine. https://pendulummag.com/business/2019/1/13/chop-value-creating-multiple-cycles-of-value/

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October 25, 2019
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TRANSPORT: frequent flier programs

“Red Arrows at the Royal Air Show” August 2011 Image: wikimedia. Will frequent flier programs change with the climate?

First, it was Greta Thunberg who traveled throughout Europe to speak to, among others, the French National Assembly; the teen climate activist, nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, declared the transport decision as a preference for lower-emissions travel. A new word came into common parlance: Flygskam (Swedish) or “Flight Shame.”

Greta Thunberg who traveled by train in Europe and by sailboat to the United Nations in New York, USA, in 2019. Image: wikimedia

Next, Imperial College London and Richard Carmichael reported to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), an independent advisory agency of the UK government, that the nation’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, to meet the Paris Agreement of COP21, must address air travel: “Flying is a uniquely high-impact activity and is the quickest and cheapest way for a consumer to increase their carbon footprint.”

As a result, frequent flier programs, both of airlines and of credit cards, might have to go. Citing data that just 15% of the UK population takes 70% of the flights, CCC report states: “Given the scope for frequent fliers to have carbon footprints many times that of the average UK household, a lack of policy in this area is likely to be increasingly seen as inconsistent and unjust and risks damaging engagement with climate action.” (Carmichael 2019)

In the United States, 12% of Americans fly more than six round-trips per year; mainly business travelers, these frequent fliers are responsible for two-thirds of air travel, and therefore participating in aviation emissions. That’s 3 tons of carbon dioxide per year, per flier. Some policy specialists differentiate between business and pleasure air travel. But 83% of Americans drive cars, and most heat or cool their homes – activities that also cause considerable carbon emissions.

Concerned about aviation’s future, some airlines are staying ahead of the trend: British Airways, Aer Lingus, and Iberia (art of IAG, International Airlines Group) announced a strategic sustainability plan to 1)replace older aircraft, 2)invest in sustainable jet fuel, and 3) develop new technologies that take carbon out of the atmosphere. (Guy, 2019) Businesses and universities are starting to allow longer travel time for staff who travel for work, so that they may avoid flying; train travel, including the Channel Tunnel, is recommended. Japan is updating Shinkansen (high speed rail originally built for the 1956 Olympics) in anticipation of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Saying “bye” to frequent flier programs? Image: wikimedia

Do you have frequent flier miles? What is your opinion on how incentives in transport may change?

Carmichael, Richard. “Behavior change, public engagement, and Net Zero.” 10 October 2019. Committee on Climate Change, Centre for Energy Policy and Technology and Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College London. https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/behaviour-change-public-engagement-and-net-zero-imperial-college-london/behaviour-change-public-engagement-and-net-zero-richard-carmichael/

Guy, Jack. “Ban air miles to combat climate crisis, recommends UK research.” 15 October 2019. CNN/Travel. https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/air-miles-ban-report-scli-intl/index.html.

International Airlines Group (IAG). “Sustainability.” https://www.iairgroup.com/en/sustainability

Tabuchi, Hiroko and Nadja Popovich. “How Guilty Should You Feel About Flying?” 17 October 2019, The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/10/17/climate/flying-shame-emissions.html.

Thunberg, Greta. “Address to the National Assembly” July 23, 2019. France. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ESDpzwWrmGg

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July 25, 2019
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TRANSPORT: Flygskam (Flight Shame)

“C-141 Starlifter over Antarctica.” Photographer Gralo. Image: wikimedia.

Flight shame, or as coined in Sweden “Flygskam,” is taking off. The movement prompted France to levy a flight tax ranging from 2-18 euros. KLM celebrated its 100th anniversary with a campaign urging passengers to fly less, stating that aviation causes 3% of human-caused carbon emissions. Recommended transport alternative for short distances: trains. Japan is upgrading fast-train system, Shinkansen, in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The Channel Tunnel and EuroStar encouraged travelers to take the train. Will the United States, developer of the market-changing Transcontinental Railroad, redesign tracks for mag-lev or hyper-loop?

Greta Thunberg speaking at French Parliament 2019. Image: wikimedia.

Flygskam began when Olympic gold medalist Bjorn Ferry, and others championed the movement including climate activist Greta Thunberg; the teen nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize completed a climate-change European speaking tour mostly by train, urging travelers to forgo short-haul flying. As linguists note, every neologism might give rise to its opposite: now there is a new term:Tagskryt” or “train bragging.”

BBC. “What is flygskam? Greta speaks up about ‘flight-shaming.'” 19 July 2019. https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/49032117/

Elking, Isaac and Robert Windle. “Examining Differences in Short-Haul and Long-Haul Markets in US Commercial Airline Passenger Demand.” Transportation Journal. Vol. 53, No. 4 (Fall 2014), pp. 424-452. https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5325/transportationj.53.4.0424.

KLM. “Fly Responsibly.” https://flyresponsibly.klm.com/en

Pennetier, Marine and Geert De Clereq. “France to tax flights from its airports, airline shares fall.” 9 July 2019. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/aticle/us-france-airlines-tax/france-plans-new-tax-on-outbound-flights-airline-shares-fall-idUSKCN1U412B.

PRI. Public Radio International. “‘Flight shame’ in Sweden prompts rail-only travel movement.” 30 April 2019. PRI’s The World. https://www.pri.org/stories/2019-04-30/flight-shame-sweden-promts-rail-only-travel-movement.

Thunberg, Greta. “Speech at French Parliament” 23 July 2019. @GretaThunberg. https://mobile.twitter.com/gretathunberg/status/1153940926517194752/ and https://www.facebook.com/gretathunbergsweden/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Licen

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June 8, 2019
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WATER: World Oceans Day

“Large Breaking Wave.” Image: noaa.gov, wikimedia

World Oceans Day, celebrated June 8, reminds us of the beauty, importance, and critical sustainability of our water. By 2050, there may be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Unless we take action.  Should new agreements involving Canada, Mexico, and the United States include the oceans that border our land? Might the Canal des Deux Mers in France champion ways to protect the Atlantic Ocean? Will Shinkansen, Japan’s Shinkansen train system now being upgraded for the 2020 Olympics, engage athletes in preservation of the Pacific Ocean? In 2019, you are invited to take a photo of yourself or your friends at the ocean, pictured with arms in the air; photo cropped so hands touch the upper corners of the frame: post using the hashtag: #TogetherWeCan. This year’s theme: Gender and the Ocean.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Licen

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December 3, 2018
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Sending the Signal

Tom Brady, New England Patriots. Image: wikimedia.

Landmark program of the National Football League (NFL). “My Cause, My Cleats” features football athletes sending a signal. Players declare their cause and customize their shoes to put the cause into action. For the New England Patriots, messages include Tom Brady: Best Buddies; Sony Michel: Haitian Earthquake Disaster Rebuilding; Matthew Slater: International Justice Mission.

Michael Jordan may have started the trend of sending a message through athletic footwear. Image: wikimedia.

Could the idea mobilize the future of climate change? This week, world leaders meet in Katowice, Poland for COP24: three years since COP21, and the Paris Agreement, it’s time to take the climate’s pulse. In light of the IPCC data showing deteriorating climate and nations are not on target, compounded by the recent report on climate and economy in the United States, one of the questions to be debated in Poland may be how to communicate the urgency. Climate scientists have commented that finding the right message and image is challenging. Polar bears didn’t work; plastic in fish led to some awareness but did not solve the problem. What could?

The power of an image and a slogan. Image: Social welfare library, Virginia Commonwealth University.

Some of the greatest successful macro initiatives in history came to life with a coined word, a slogan, an image. The Channel Tunnel had been in some form of planning since Napoleon, but it took a newly coined word, “Chunnel,” (by Frank Davidson) to make the idea of a rail tunnel across the channel linking England and France popular enough to get built. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) “sold” the idea of electricity with a slogan “Electricity for ALL” emblazoned on one of the first logos in history: a fist clutching a lightning bolt, reminiscent of Prometheus.

Poland could recommend sports stars and teams adopt one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) for example. Another image? #1.5, slogan displayed on the Eiffel Tower in Paris in 2015, and the subject of the world’s largest postcard collaged on a glacier in Switzerland.  “My Cause, My Cleats” might help to mobilize change. Making climate action fashionable can be even more exciting when profitable. The NFL invites fans to bid in an online auction to buy the cleats, assured that 100% of the proceeds will go the player’s charitable cause.

Tokyo 2020 – my cause, my cleats goes global? Image: wikimedia

COP24 could, among its recommendations on climate action, send a global message of peace and sustainability through the 2020 Olympics. When Tokyo hosted the games half a century ago, Japan launched a new era in efficient-energy speed-rail transport: Shinkansen. Will the Olympics of 2020 send the message of climate action in sartorial splendor?

Bobin, Jean-Louis. Les Déconvenues De Prométhée: La longue marche vers l’énergie thermonucléaire. Atlantis Sciences/Atlantica 2001. ISBN: 2843943264.

Center for Rebuilding Sustainable Communities After Disasters. “Haiti: After the Cameras Have Gone.” 2010. University of Massachusetts Boston.

Davenport, Coral and Kendra Pierre-Louis. “U.S. Climate Report Warns of Damaged Environment and Shrinking Economy.” 23 November 2018. The New York Times.

NFL . “My Cause My Cleats” NFL Auction.

SDG Knowledge Hub. “Katowice Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP24) 2-14 December 2019. Katowice, Slaskie, Poland. http://sdg.iisd.org/events/unfccc-cop-24/

Sullivan, Tyler. “Patriots players reveal their My Cause, My Cleats.” 30 November 2018. 247sports.com.

UNFCCC. “Katowice Climate Change Conference – December 2018.” United Nations Climate Change. https://unfccc.int/katowice.

United Nations. “Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals Through Climate Action.” https://unfccc.int/achieving-the-sustainable-development-goals-through-climate-action

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November 9, 2018
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Decade of Decision

Biodiversity: the decade of decision. “Mushrooms and diverse fungi of Saskatchewan.” Image: wikimedia.

Decisions made in the next decade may shape the future. In 2020, the United States will hold an important election; Japan will host the Olympics. All eyes on the future. Species, both animal and plant, are disappearing 1,000 times faster than before humans appeared. Earth is threatened by climate change; water is becoming more scarce; and, as Hansjorg Wyss states: “extractive industries chew further into the wild.” Wyss believes there may be an answer: conserve remaining wild lands as public reserves. The world’s first national park (Yellowstone in 1872) opened a new idea of preservation: now, 15% of earth’s land and 7% of the oceans is protected. Wilderness tamed and framed like the National Trails System; greenways like that on Boston’s Central Artery as nature ribboning through cities; rivers granted personhood rights are among the regulatory and legal measures of protection. Edward O Wilson, founder of Half-Earth Day, warns we must preserve half the earth to save the whole. Timing may be urgent: 77% of land on earth has been modified by humans. Wyss pledged $1 billion over the next decade with the goal of protecting 30% of the planet by 2030.When the United Nations Biodiversity Conference convenes in land of the Suez Canal on November 13, 190 countries will seek agreement to preserve the natural systems that support the earth. Here’s a link to include your voice.

Albeck-Ripka, Livia. “Scientists Warn That World’s Wilderness Areas Are Disappearing: ‘Wild areas provide a lot of life support systems for the planet,’ said the author of a study that found 77 percent of earth’s land had been modified by humans.”31 October 2018, The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/31/world/australia-wilderness-environment-gone.html.

Half-Earth Project. https://www.half-earthproject.org

Jackson, Michael, Lionel Richie, Quincy Jones, and USA for Africa Chorus: “We Are the World.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9BNoNFKCBI

Watson, James E.M., Oscar Venter, Jasmine Lee, Kendall R. Jones, John G. Robinson, Hugh P. Possingham, James R. Allen. “Protect the last of the wild.” 31 October 2018, Naturehttps://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-07183-6

Wilson, Edward O. Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life. 2016. ISBN: 9781631490828.

Wyss, Hansjorg. “We Have to Save the Planet. So I’m Donating $1 Billion.” 31 October 2018. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/31/opinion/earth-biodiversity-conservation-billion-dollars.html.

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June 1, 2018
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Hello Kitty: making transport fun

“Hello Kitty” image by Iamzette2493, 2016. Wikimedia commons.

Shinkansen, Japan’s high speed bullet trains, made transport fun as well as profitable, both financially and environmentally. When the transport line opened, Japanese National Railways invited the public to name the new trains. Nominations totaled 700,000, making the so-called bullet (referring only to shape) trains instant celebrities and profitable from Day One, Winning train names included Kodama (Echo), Hikari (Light) opened for the Tokyo 1964 Olympics. A sign of the times, Tokyo-Kanazawa line added in 2015 was named Kagayaki (Glitter). Now, a new Shinkansen line will debut: Hello Kitty. Creator Sanrio, branding airplanes as well as every form of apparel, is partnering with West Japan Railway Company to showcase regional attractions and products, also for sale on the trains. Terminals feature Instagram-ready Photo Booths. Book a ride on the Hello Kitty Shinkansen.

Shinkansen “Eva” livery, celebrating Neon Genesis Evangelion. Image: wikimedia.

Shinkansen presented another special livery for anime series Neo Genesis Evangelion that proved so popular it was extended, leading up to the coming Hello Kitty debut. The Beijing Subway introduced bar codes linked to works of Confucius and other philosophers, offering free downloads to read while riding. Attracting greater public use of environmentally beneficial forms of transit may in part be encouraged by making transport fun again. What are your ideas?

Hello Kitty Shinkansen. http://www.jr-hellokittyshinkansen.jp/train/.

Maggie Hiufu Wong. “World’s cutest bullet train? Hello Kitty Shinkansen unveiled in Japan.” 29 May 2018. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/hello-kitty-shinkansen-train-japan/index.html.

Pinker, Joe. “What 50 Years of Bullet Trains Have Done for Japan.” 6 October 2014. The Atlantichttps://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/10/what-50-years-of-bullet-trains-have-done-for-japan/381143/

Sanrio. Hello Kitty Cafehttps://www.sanrio.com/pages/hellokittycafe

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February 25, 2018
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Olympics: Speed and Innovation

Speed Skating Pictogram: wikimedia.

PyeongChang’s Olympics saw gold, silver, bronze, and a glimpse into the future. Some parts of the Olympic and Paralympic Games received 5G coverage. KT and Intel were among the providers; after the Olympics, AT&T will debut 5G in Atlanta, Dallas, and Waco.

Every era of civilization might be characterized by its predominant mode of transport; perhaps the Internet is the road of our time, it’s new fast lane: 5G. Three decades after COMSAT launched satellites, AT&T began developing an industry standard for interoperability of wireless communication with partner Nortell. As a result, GSM became the standard. Today’s interoperability certification is TETRA. The result? Driverless cars, smarter cities. Should the United States Interstate System open a tetra lane for autonomous vehicles? The Critical Communications Association (TCCA), coordinating public safety and disaster response, might suggest, next to the tetra lane, a sportsway with charging stations, segway and bike lanes, and walking routes. Boston might consider building the first link, in cooperation with the Central Artery, part of the Interstate: nickname, 5Greenway.

Instant takes time. The first idea for 5G dates to April 2008 when NASA and Machine-to-Machine Intelligence (m2mi) partnered, termed by some as the “commercialization of space.” The Memorandum of Understanding was only the third in NASA’s history. Stated goals included: “Under the agreement, NASA and m2mi will cooperate to develop a fifth generation telecommunications and networking system for internet protocol-based and related services. The cooperative effort will combine NASA’s expertise in nano sensors, wireless networks, and nano satellite technologies with m2mi’s unique capabilities in software technology, sensors, global system awareness, adaptive control and commercialization capabilities. Fifth Generation, of 5G, incorporates Voice Over Internet Protocol, video, data, wireless, and an integrated machine-to-machine intelligence layer, or m2mi, for seamless information exchange and use.” In December 2017, 5G was approved by the 3GPP international wireless consortium. The United Nations’ International Telecommunications Union will consider the system in 2019.

Next Olympics: 2020 Tokyo. Japan launched high speed train system Shinkansen for the opening of the 1964 Olympics. Speed has always been a winning characteristic of Olympic gold. What kinds of speed, including 5G, will we see in 2020?

3gpp. “First 5G NR Specs Approved.” 22 December 2017. http://www.3gpp.org/news-events/3gpp-news/1929-nsa_nr_5g.

3gpp. “Drafting and publication of GSM Specs…in the pre-3GPP era.” 3gpp: The Mobile Broadband Standard. http://www.3gpp.org/specifications/gsm-history/.

Goldman, David and Betsy Klein. “What is 5 G?” CNN.com. 29 January 2018. http://money.cnn.com/2018/01/29/technology/what-is-5g/index.html

m2mi. Machine to Machine Intelligence Corporation, “Safe, more livable, and efficient Smart Cities: The Internet of Things.” http://www.m2mi.com/

NASA. “NASA Ames Partners with M2Mi For Small Satellite Development.” 24 April 2008. https://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2008/apr/HQ_08107_Ames_nanosat.html.

“Olympic Visions: PyeongChang 2018.” 10 February 2018. Building the World Blog. https://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2018/02/10/olympic-visions/.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

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