In a bold move, Iowa will pilot a smartphone driver’s license program in 2015. The Iowa Department of Transportation will give users the option to download a free app to obtain the digital license — essentially "an identity vault" — and it will be accepted by Iowa law enforcement officers during traffic stops and by security officers screening travelers at Iowa's airports. The app will require a pin number for verification. Officials believe that Iowa will be the first state in the nation to implement such a device. Iowa is also already one of 30 states that let drivers display electronic proofs of insurance during a traffic stop.
Massachusetts has launched a music education initiative for underserved students, the first statewide program of its kind in the US. The program is on the famous “El Sistema” program from Venezuela, whose alumni include Gustavo Dudamel, music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Aside from promoting the arts, supporters of the program tout that music education has a strong correlation with higher graduation rates. The program will provide grants to El Sistema-inspired programs, will include a free instrument-lending library, and will collaborate on research into the long-term cognitive benefits of music.
As winter falls upon the US, several cities are turning to GPS data and the “Internet of Things” to ensure their roads remain safe. In Buffalo, New York, GPS sensors attached to the city’s snowplow fleet will communicate remotely with the city’s computer system to electronically alert concerned residents that their street has been cleared of snow. Minneapolis uses a mobile app that enables citizens to report snow and ice issues. And other municipalities are using machine-to-machine tools to modernize the snow removal process and keep residents informed.
Branches of the New York Public Library, the Queens Public Library, and the Brooklyn Public Library will make 10,000 portable Wi-Fi units available for borrowing by their patrons for loan periods of up to one year. The free program, intended largely for the estimated 2.5 million New York City residents who do not have the Internet at home, is funded in part by Google and five foundations. Eligible borrowers include enrollees in adult education programs and students in English as a second language classes.
Illinois’ stretch of Route 66 will be “energized” with the installation of a network of electric vehicle charging stations. The Illinois Route 66 Electric Corridor will be built with technical help from the University of California, Davis and financial and other assistance from automakers. The state will begin building the charging stations in eight cities along the 300-mile length of the road. Officials hope that the move will spur the growth of the electric vehicle sector.
To deter jaywalkers and the safety risks they pose, the German city of Hildesheim has installed the game of "Street Pong” in kiosks at an intersection. Attached to lampposts at either side of the crossing, the device allows two pedestrians to play the game, which is based on the classic arcade game, while they wait for their crossing signal. The device is undergoing testing for several weeks and if the tests are successful, the project may expand. Lyon, France, and Oslo, Norway, have already expressed interest.