Technology

This encore interview originally aired in July, 2018.

Chances are that today, like every day, you’ll interact with one or more of four gigantic companies that have become embedded in daily life. Need to buy a book? It’s just a quick click away on Amazon. Curious about the person who wrote it? “Google” the author on your iPhone. You can follow her on Facebook, too. And that’s just the veritable tip of the iceberg when it comes to the services these companies provide. They can make our lives easier – but at what cost?

  

Norm Gunning / Boise State Public Radio

Boise Police have a new tool in their crime fighting arsenal: drones. However, the Boise Police Department calls them unmanned aerial vehicles.   The department now has four drones, and four officers have FAA Remote Pilot Certification.

  • Allegations of sexual abuse and a cover-up in a Boise church.
  • Big plans for economic growth in McCall.
  • Using drones to map Idaho's landscape.

Plymouth District Library / Flickr

Idahoans can now register to vote online for the first time.

Consumer Technology Association

The Consumer Technology Association has put out an Innovation Scorecard for the last three years. The rankings are based on a mix of qualitative and quantitative factors.

Director of Policy Communications Izzy Santa says the point is to encourage some friendly competition among states, and give policy makers some ideas to improve their standing.

Imagine a world where you are driven to work by a driverless car, your morning news is written by a computer, and your lunch is prepared by a robot. In such a world, it would not be a stretch to wonder if humans were about to become obsolete. We’ve already seen this scenario play out in movies and popular novels.  But according to today’s guest, there are reasons to worry about how new technologies are reshaping the real world right now.

Every new technology has its critics. Whether it’s a fancy new digital gadget with a seemingly endless number of functions, or an addictive new app for your Smart Phone, the latest and greatest inventions can sometimes give us reason to pause.

Years ago, Clive Thompson was pessimistic about the impact of new technologies like the Internet on modern life, too. But over time, his opinion changed as he observed how new digital tools enabled people to be more creative and effective.

Craig Bennett / Flickr

The U.S. Postal Service is using new technology to try to keep the number of dog bites down on postal routes.

Two new safety measures will help alert postal carriers about dogs. Dan Corral is the Postmaster of Boise. He says when customers sign up to use USPS.com’s package pickup application, they’ll be asked if they have a dog. And starting later this month, the Post Office will use special package scanners to warn of problem dogs at specific residences.

Until now, human intelligence has had no rival. But as Artificial Intelligence continues to advance, we should ask ourselves: Can we coexist with computers whose intelligence dwarfs our own?

In his book, “Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era,” James Barrat peers into the future to explore the perils of developing super intelligent machines. And he extends a heartfelt invitation to join what he calls “the most important conversation humanity can have.”

It’s a scenario familiar to many of us: We go online and search for a product we’re interested in purchasing. Moments later, we click on our favorite news site, only to be bombarded with ads, including some for the product we were just viewing. So how did this happen? And what else might we unwittingly be sharing about our behavior, activities and tastes?

Ryan Zehm / NurFace Games

It’s a rags to riches story, starring a Boise man who lost it all, then found his way back through video games. Now Ryan Zehm owns and operates a thriving gaming company called NurFace Games.

A few years ago, Zehm went from working at a top tech company to living at a Boise homeless shelter. Now, he’s telling his story of how his perseverance and a little help from the Boise Public Library brought him back from the brink.

Micron Technologies

Boise-based Micron is the rumored focus of a takeover offer from a Chinese company.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the possible interest from Tsinghua Unigroup, a Shangai company with ties to the Chinese government.

Dan Gallagher is a writer with the Journal, and has been following the story. He says Micron’s median share price is $29 a share, but the Chinese company is interested in buying it for $21 a share.

USDA/NRCS / Flickr Creative Commons

Last week, the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a 21st century upgrade to a system that’s been stuck in the analog world. The Conservation Client Gateway is a new website that lets farmers and ranchers apply for programs under things like the Farm Bill. Before, a farmer would have to drive to their nearest USDA office – which, in rural Idaho – could be a time and fuel-consuming task.

MaurizioPesce / Flickr Creative Commons

People standing above the epicenter of a large earthquake will feel the ground shaking before people on the periphery of the quake. The same can be said of their smartphones.

Researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey are trying to figure out whether smartphones might be used to give earthquake warnings.

Ben Brooks, with the USGS, says if a computer was checking for simultaneous movement of a large number of smartphones, it could give people on the periphery of a quake a 10-or-20-second warning.
He says that's enough time to stop a surgeon from starting an operation.

Eurupean Parliament / Flickr Creative Commons

This weekend, a group of hackers and computer programmers will meet in Boise for the annual Code Camp. For the first time, the event will feature a discussion about women in technology. Panelists will include Marianna Budnikova of MetaGeek, Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, and Boise State professor Carrie Semmelroth.

Melody Joy Kramer / Flickr Creative Commons

Driverless cars are one step closer to joining Idaho citizens on the roads.

By a one vote margin, the Idaho Senate passed a bill allowing companies to test self-driving cars in Idaho. The bill also sets some regulations and guidelines aiming to improve safety.

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Sen. Bert Brackett told lawmakers Thursday he hopes the bill will attract innovative businesses to Idaho.

But the plan's insurance and liability requirements faced bipartisan opposition on the floor.

Devin Ferrell / Hackfort, Treefort Music Fest

The technology-centered offshoot of Treefort Music Fest, Hackfort, got about as high-profile an endorsement an event can ask for.

During his address at Boise State University in January, President Barack Obama gave a shout-out to the event about halfway through his speech.

internet, computer, broadband,
Sean MacEntee / Flickr Creative Commons

In a ruling that could have major implications for broadband service in schools — and a multimillion-dollar price tag for  Idaho taxpayers — a District Court judge has tossed out Idaho’s $60 million school broadband contract.

The disputed Idaho Education Network contract was declared void late Monday afternoon by 4th District Court judge Patrick Owen.

Owen sharply criticized the state Department of Administration for continuing to try to salvage the 2009 contract, after carving Syringa Networks out of the deal to provide broadband to 219 high schools across the state.

See What Your Idaho Zip Code Tells Marketers About You

Oct 20, 2014
screen grab from esri.com

Your zip code tells postal workers how to get you your daily pile of junk mail advertisements. Your zip can also tell advertisers what junk mail to send you. That’s the idea behind software company Ersi’s Tapestry Segmentation program.

The tool allows users (marketers) to type in a zip code and get an analysis of the people who live there based on U.S. Census Bureau and market research data.

Boise's North End

Grizdave / Flickr Creative Commons

A company that makes radar technology used to protect military convoys says it can be adapted to help central Idaho drivers avoid collisions with deer and elk on State Highway 75.

The Idaho Mountain Express reports that Sloan Security Technologies last week presented its idea to Blaine County officials and the Idaho Transportation Department.

Company co-founder Brian Sloan says the mobile radar animal detection system alerts drivers with flashing lights when animals are present.

Diego Andres / Flickr Creative Commons

The Mormon church is expanding a program that gives missionaries iPad minis and broadens their proselytizing to social media.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said in a news release this week that a test program that began last fall with 6,500 missionaries serving in the United States and Japan went well. That has prompted the church to expand the initiative.

Church leaders expect to have the specially configured mobile devices in the hands of more than 32,000 missionaries by early 2015. Most missionaries will cover the cost of the $400 device.

Software Company Declara To Expand Its Boise Office

Apr 23, 2014
facebook.com/declara.inc

A software company with an Idaho presence is expanding its operations thanks to an influx of cash. Palo Alto-based Declara announced a new $16 million investment Wednesday.

The company’s Boise office of 10 developers will double because of that, a spokesman says. It also plans to expand its offices in California and Mexico.

Northwest banks say 2014 may be the year consumers start to see a new generation of credit cards that are less prone to fraud.

id.water.usgs.gov

I spent 15 minutes entranced watching the Boise River sparkle and the fall leaves rustle on the computer screen in my windowless studio.  U.S. Geological Survey hydraulic engineer Molly Wood talked about the features of the USGS Boise River web camera while I played with the controls. I zoomed in on trees upstream and flipped it around to see the cars on the Glenwood Bridge.

ipad, tablet, technology
Sean MacEntee / Flickr Creative Commons

This fall, Boise State University students taking Casey Cline's class on construction management for the first time will need to bring an iPad or some other tablet-style computer.

Cline says he is imposing this new rule because the devices are becoming ever-more present on job sites for uploading data reports, photos and job specs.

Cline told the Idaho Business Review he simply wants his students better prepared for the real world.

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