Crazy Things Cities Do to Woo Amazon… And Other News You May Have Missed

Rounding up IT and advanced tech-related news impacting government and industry

Connecting Public Health with Blockchain

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are exploring proofs of concept based on blockchain technology to better manage health data during a crisis, or to track opioid abuse. Most of these proofs focus on better public health surveillance.

The initiative, led by Jim Nasr, chief software architect at CDC’s Center for Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Laboratory Services, intends to turn these proofs into real applications next year.

The connection? Well, if a dangerous disease spreads around your home state, CDC, surrounding health departments and other organizations need to know about it — which means they need to share public health data. It’s a tough data management challenge, with various data usage agreements, government privacy rules, and manual processes to make sure the right organization is sent the right data (and uses it the right way). Blockchain can help automate this process. MIT Technology Review

Artificial Intelligence

CXO Tech Forum

Is All Tech Worth the Social Cost?

As technology becomes more and more complex, the demand for people to understand an “ever widening taxonomy of interconnected component parts and processes” increases, as does the need to adapt to and live with these systems, TechCrunch writes. 

When things break or go wrong, it’s hard to fix or deconstruct technology you don’t fully understand. This uncertainty leads to more user confusion stemming from the technologists’ desire to reach that “next reality” and CEOs’ desires to continue bringing in the dough.

There’s a looming sense of loss for those who can’t keep up with the complexity, considering technology’s growing role in our day-to-day lives and how it continues to shape society and the things we do. Artificial intelligence is starting to make decisions for us, social media algorithms can unknowingly shift our opinions and there are negatives to society’s growing reliance on these technologies. TechCrunch

Winning Amazon’s Heart

Amazon is looking for a home for its second headquarters, and every city wants in. Business leaders in Tucson tried to mail Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos a 21-foot cactus, and the mayor of Frisco, Texas, a town just outside Dallas, wants to build the rest of the unfinished city around Amazon. The company plans to invest $5 billion and create 50,000 jobs with its new HQ, and has started a competition for cities nationwide. Needless to say, officials and mayors are beginning to sell their towns for this major economic development boost.

Even Canada is getting involved, enticing Amazon with its liberal immigration policy, and the founder of Quicken Loans built an Amazon war room to analyze what the online retailer does and doesn’t like.

The campaigns have begun, and YouTube videos have been made. City applications are due Oct. 19. May the odds be ever in your city’s favor.  The New York Times

Solving City Challenges with Startups

The Startup in Residence program, which connects government agencies with startups to create technology focused on city challenges, is expanding to Washington, D.C. The program started as a pilot in 2014 in San Francisco, and has spread throughout the Bay Area.

The 16-week program pairs startups with government agencies so they can co-develop solutions that ultimately reach residents and bolster civic innovation. So far, 30 startups have joined government departments in participating cities in California, working on issues like foster care application processes, mobile solutions to educational outreach, and emergency damage assessment tools.

Soon, the East Coast can reap the benefits and successes of STIR, thanks to the District’s Mayor Muriel Bowser and San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee. D.C. plans to start recruiting agencies and startups in the next few months. DC.Gov

Imagine: Alexa In Your Ears At All Times

Artificial intelligence assistants are not a new concept; we’ve all had an Apple iOS Siri, Microsoft Cortana, Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. These typically reside on our smartphones or smart home devices — for now. Wireless headphones are launching with the possibility of having an AI assistant in your ears. Google plans to release earbuds with Google Assistant, and Amazon is working on an inner ear tech for Alexa without headphones.

Why is this important?

Well, similar to how hands-free smart speakers like Amazon’s Echo changed the digital assistant landscape, wireless headphones could do the same, making interacting with your AI assistant even more personal. And as these AI assistants live in your ears, VentureBeat suggests developers make personalities for AI assistants, and tech giants allow users to pick their assistant’s personality (remember the movie “Her”?). This move definitely opens the door to innovation. VentureBeat

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