The more than year-long dance between cities and Amazon for its second headquarters is finally over, with New York City and Washington, DC, capturing the big prize. With one of the largest economic development windfalls in a generation on the line, 238 cities used every tactic in the book to court the company – including offering to rename a city “Amazon” and appointing Jeff Bezos “mayor for life.”
Now that the process, and hysteria, are over, and cities have stopped asking “how can we get Amazon,” we’d like to ask a different question: How can cities build stronger start-up ecosystems for the Amazon yet to be built?
In September 2017, Amazon announced that it would seek a second headquarters. But rather than being the typical site selection process, this would become a highly publicized Hunger Games-esque scenario.
An RFP was proffered on what the company sought, and it included everything any good urbanist would want, with walkability, transportation and cultural characteristics on the docket. But of course, incentives were also high on the list.
Amazon could have been a transformational catalyst for a plethora of cities throughout the US, but instead, it chose two superstar cities: the number one and five metro areas by GDP which, combined, amounts to a nearly $2 trillion GDP. These two metro areas also have some of the highest real estate prices in the country, a swath of high paying jobs and of course power — financial and political — close at hand.
Perhaps the take-away for cities isn’t that we should all be so focused on hooking that big fish from afar, but instead that we should be growing it in our own waters. Amazon itself is a great example of this. It’s worth remembering that over the course of a quarter century, Amazon went from a garage in Seattle’s suburbs to consuming 16 percent — or 81 million square feet — of the city’s downtown. On the other end of the spectrum, the largest global technology company in 1994 (the year of Amazon’s birth) was Netscape, which no longer exists.
The upshot is that cities that rely only on attracting massive technology companies are usually too late.
At the National League of Cities, we think there are ways to expand the pie that don’t reinforce existing spatial inequalities. This is exactly the idea behind the launch of our city innovation ecosystems commitments process. With support from the Schmidt Futures Foundation, fifty cities, ranging from rural townships, college towns, and major metros, have joined with over 200 local partners and leveraged over $100 million in regional and national resources to support young businesses, leverage technology and expand STEM education and workforce training for all.
The investments these cities are making today may in fact be the precursor to some of the largest tech companies of the future.
With that idea in mind, here are eight cities that didn’t win HQ2 bids but are ensuring their cities will be prepared to create the next tranche of high-growth startups.
Austin just built a medical school adjacent to a tier one research university, the University of Texas. It’s the first such project to be completed in America in over fifty years. To ensure the addition translates into economic opportunity for the city, Austin’s public, private and civic leaders have come together to create Capital City Innovation to launch the city’s first Innovation District at the new medical school. This will help expand the city’s already world class startup ecosystem into the health and wellness markets.
Baltimore is home to over $2 billion in academic research, ranking it third in the nation behind Boston and Philadelphia. In order to ensure everyone participates in the expanding research-based startup ecosystem, the city is transforming community recreation centers into maker and technology training centers to connect disadvantaged youth and families to new skills and careers in technology. The Rec-to-Tech Initiative will begin with community design sessions at four recreation centers, in partnership with the Digital Harbor Foundation, to create a feasibility study and implementation plan to review for further expansion.
The 120-acre Buffalo Niagara Medical Center (BNMC) is home to eight academic institutions and hospitals and over 150 private technology and health companies. To ensure Buffalo’s startups reflect the diversity of its population, the Innovation Center at BNMC has just announced a new program to provide free space and mentorship to 10 high potential minority- and/or women-owned start-ups.
Like Seattle, real estate development in Denver is growing at a feverish rate. And while the growth is bringing new opportunity, the city is expanding faster than the workforce can keep pace. To ensure a sustainable growth trajectory, Denver has recruited the Next Generation City Builders to train students and retrain existing workers to fill high-demand jobs in architecture, design, construction and transportation.
With a population of 180,000, Providence is home to eight higher education institutions – including Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design – making it a hub for both technical and creative talent. The city of Providence, in collaboration with its higher education institutions and two hospital systems, has created a new public-private-university partnership, the Urban Innovation Partnership, to collectively contribute and support the city’s growing innovation economy.
Pittsburgh may have once been known as a steel town, but today it is a global mecca for robotics research, with over 4.5 times the national average robotics R&D within its borders. Like Baltimore, Pittsburgh is creating a more inclusive innovation economy through a Rec-to-Tech program that will re-invest in the city’s 10 recreational centers, connecting students and parents to the skills needed to participate in the economy of the future.
Tampa is already home to 30,000 technical and scientific consultant and computer design jobs — and that number is growing. To meet future demand and ensure the region has an inclusive growth strategy, the city of Tampa, with 13 university, civic and private sector partners, has announced “Future Innovators of Tampa Bay.” The new six-year initiative seeks to provide the opportunity for every one of the Tampa Bay Region’s 600,000 K-12 students to be trained in digital creativity, invention and entrepreneurship.
These eight cities help demonstrate the innovation we are seeing on the ground now, all throughout the country. The seeds of success have been planted with people, partnerships and public leadership at the fore. Perhaps they didn’t land HQ2 this time, but when we fast forward to 2038 — and the search for Argo AI, SparkCognition or Welltok’s new headquarters is well underway — the groundwork will have been laid for cities with strong ecosystems already in place to compete on an even playing field.
Orbital Marine Power O2 begins grid-connected power generation
Orbital Marine Power has announced that the world’s most powerful tidal turbine has begun grid-connected power generation at the European Marine Energy Center. O2 is a floating turbine anchored off the Fall of Warness and connected via a subsea cable to the local onshore electricity network. O2 is a 2MW offshore power generation unit.
The power generation device was manufactured and launched in Dundee earlier in 2021 before being towed to Orkney. The device being deployed is the culmination of more than 15 years of development in the UK. The turbine is 74 meters long and is expected to operate in offshore waters for the next 15 years.
Its 2MW of energy production can meet the annual electricity demand for around 2000 UK homes. The power it generates is clean and predictable, thanks to the fast-flowing waters where it is anchored. Public lenders enabled O2’s construction via an ethical investment platform called Abundance Investment. The Scottish government also supported it via the Saltire Tidal Energy Challenge Fund.
With its first power generating unit in place, Orbital is now looking to commercialize this technology via the deployment of multi-MW arrays. The company says UK suppliers delivered about 80 percent of the turbine, and its operation will bring long-term employment to coastal communities. Orbital also says that commercialization costs are expected to decrease significantly compared to the roll-out of the technology, which it says was previously demonstrated with both wind and solar energy.
O2 is designed with twin 1MW power generating nacelles at the end of a retractable leg structure that is designed for low-cost access to all major components for servicing throughout its lifetime. The turbine uses 10-meter blades to give more than 600 square meters of swept area to capture flowing tidal energy. Not only does the device produce enough electricity for about 2000 UK homes, it will offset about 2200 tonnes of carbon dioxide production yearly.
B&O Beoplay EQ wireless earphones feature Adaptive Active Noise Cancellation
Bang & Olufsen has unveiled a new set of wireless earphones that feature something it calls Adaptive Active Noise Cancellation. The noise cancellation feature eliminates surrounding noise and improves immersion with the music the wearer is listening to. The true wireless earphones are called the Beoplay EQ and also support wireless phone calls.
Bang & Olufsen‘s Adaptive Active Noise cancellation combines active noise cancellation with passive cancellation to block external noise. The earphones have a dedicated ANC DSP chip and six microphones to automatically adjust noise cancellation levels to create a more seamless listening experience. The six integrated microphones are also used for directional beamforming technology, providing clearer calls and speech quality.
While the earphones are smaller in-ear style compared to other offerings that Bang & Olufsen sells, they still offer long listening times. Beoplay EQ promises a powerful and authentic listening experience with up to 20 hours of total playtime per charge. The total playtime is expanded to 20 hours thanks to the aluminum charging case that provides an additional 6.5 hours of playtime with active noise cancellation turn on.
Integrated fast charging allows the Beoplay EQ to be charged for 20 minutes to provide two hours of playtime. Two colors are available, including Black Anthracite and Sand Gold Tone. Beoplay EQ was designed to be small, comfortable to wear, and offer a secure fit thanks to an ergonomic shape. They are sweat and water-resistant and ship with interchangeable air tips in different sizes for a custom fit.
Beoplay EQ earphones utilize aptX adaptive, Bluetooth 5.0, and are IP54 rated. In addition, the earphones support any Bluetooth device, have Microsoft Swift Pair technology, and are Made for iPhone. Beoplay EQ will be available to purchase on August 19 for $399.
OnePlus 7 and 7T Widevine DRM fix comes with a caveat
There has been a lot of griping about the quality and pace of OnePlus’ recent software updates, especially when OxygenOS 11 brought about major UI changes and, with it, some nasty bugs. OnePlus 7 and 7T owners, however, seem to have had it worse and have experienced the worst that the release has to offer. After two months since the issue appeared, OnePlus is finally rolling out the fix to a bug that locked users into watching SD quality streaming videos, but many users still aren’t satisfied with how the update is being handled.
Last May, owners of OnePlus 7/7 Pro and 7T/7T Pro phones reported losing access to the ability to watch HD videos on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and other streaming services. It was traced down to a still-unexplained bug from an OxygenOS 11 update that dropped the phone from Widevine DRM L1, which is required for HD or higher-res streaming, to L3, which only allows for SD content. Unsurprisingly, affected owners were none too happy, especially without an immediate solution.
Two months later, that solution finally comes with the OxygenOS 18.104.22.168 update for the OnePlus 7 and the OnePlus 7T. Unfortunately, it seems that not everyone who has installed the update is actually seeing any change on that front. Some have reported the need to clear the cache of affected apps like Netflix, which potentially means messing up some of the stored data in those apps.
Owners of these phones aren’t just complaining about the questionable quality of the fix. Some have pointed out how the latest update brings Android’s June security patches near the end of July, a week before Google releases the next round of security fixes for August.
It’s all too easy to see these complaints as just whining, but OnePlus 7 and 7T users have really had it bad. In addition to what is considered to be a very buggy OxygenOS 11 rollout, those owners feel let down by the unexplained removal of an always-on display feature that was present in previous betas. OnePlus has remained silent on that matter, but that didn’t stop the company from asking those users about how much they enjoy that non-existent AOD feature.
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