L.A.’s New Street Lamps Will Provide Cell Coverage After an Earthquake

In the aftermath of an earthquake, cell coverage should be the least of someone’s worries. In order to keep people connected in the event of a natural disaster, Los Angeles is erecting smart street lamps capable of providing additional cell service if the worst happens.

Philips teamed up with the communication technology provider Ericsson to design the innovative SmartPoles and equip them with 4G LTE wireless technology. A fiber link connects each lamp to the network to help maintain a steady connection. Because the poles are located closer to the streets and sidewalks than the central cell towers are, they'll be able to provide more coverage to denser parts of the city. 


In addition to the citywide broadband boost, the SmartPoles are also meant to act as an emergency cellular network in the case of a major earthquake or similar disaster. Because traditional cell towers are centralized, the loss of power in just one of them can knock out coverage for a wide area. Even if cell towers do survive such a catastrophe, networks can become easily bogged down by everyone trying to connect with each other at once. The high-tech street lamps provide backup coverage while spreading out the network between hundreds of locations, thus softening the impact if one area is disproportionately affected. 

The city will start by installing 100 of the SmartPoles with plans to bring the total up to 500 in the next five years. The increased coverage is coming just in time: according to an Ericsson Mobility Report cell traffic is expected to be nine times what it is today by 2020.

[h/t: Gizmodo]

Google Adds 'Wheelchair Accessible' Option to Its Transit Maps

Google Maps is more than just a tool for getting from Point A to Point B. The app can highlight the traffic congestion on your route, show you restaurants and attractions nearby, and even estimate how crowded your destination is in real time. But until recently, people who use wheelchairs to get around had to look elsewhere to find routes that fit their needs. Now, Google is changing that: As Mashable reports, the company's Maps app now offers a wheelchair accessible option to users.

Anyone with the latest version of Google Maps can access the new feature. After opening the app, just enter your starting point and destination and select the public transit choices for your trip. Maps will automatically show you the quickest routes, but the stations it suggests aren't necessarily wheelchair accessible.

To narrow down your choices, hit "Options" in the blue bar above the recommended routes then scroll down to the bottom of the page to find "Wheelchair accessible." When that filter is checked, your list of routes will update to only show you bus stops and subways that are also accessible by ramp or elevator where there are stairs.

While it's a step in the right direction, the new accessibility feature isn't a perfect navigation tool for people using wheelchairs. Google Maps may be able to tell you if a station has an elevator, but it won't tell you if that elevator is out of service, an issue that's unfortunately common in major cities.

The wheelchair-accessible option launched in London, New York, Tokyo, Mexico City, Boston, and Sydney on March 15, and Google plans to expand it to more transit systems down the road.

[h/t Mashable]

Gumdrop LTD.
British Designer Recycles Used Chewing Gum Into Everyday Items—Including the Soles of Shoes
Gumdrop LTD.
Gumdrop LTD.

Even if you never chew gum, you may have stepped on a gob of the stuff discarded on a sidewalk or felt it stuck beneath a park bench. Chewing gum is the second most common source of litter, behind cigarettes, and because it isn't biodegradable, cities are struggling to get rid of it. Now, the BBC reports that British designer Anna Bullus has found an ingenious alternative to tossing old gum on the ground: She's repurposing it into new products normally made out of rubber or plastic.

Bullus started her gum recycling project by installing bright pink bins called Gumdrops around sites in the UK. The containers, which are made from recycled gum themselves, come with signs telling passersby that any old gum dropped into the bin will be recycled. In some places, the receptacles led to an 89 percent decrease in gum litter.

After analyzing the chemistry of chewing gum, Bullus found that it contains polyisobutylene, a type of polymer similar to plastic that's often used as a synthetic rubber. This means it can be used to make everyday products like doorstops, coffee cups, and plasticware. It can even been turned into playful pink soles for shoes, which look much more attractive than the gum that normally ends up on the bottom of your shoe.

The collected gum is processed with other plastic polymers at a recycling plant in Worcester, and from there it's sent to a plastic molding specialist in Leicester, where Bullus executes her designs. Combs, lunchboxes, pencils, Frisbees and many other items made from gum are available to order from the Gumdrop website. Anna Bullus is also accepting suggestions of other products to make from the chewed-up gum she collects.

Pink coffee cups.

Pink guitar pick.

Dog catching frisbee.

Pink rubber boot.

[h/t BBC]

All images courtesy of Gumdrop Ltd.


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