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Pentagon will test 5G for virtual reality missions

Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state is participating in a $600 million Pentagon program to test the use of 5G connectivity for high-tech applications.

JBLM’s piece of the program will focus on 5G-enabled applications that make use of augmented reality and virtual reality for mission planning, training and operations, the Department of Defense said today. The other sites involved in the experimentation and testing program are Hill Air Force Base in Utah, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany in Georgia, Naval Base San Diego in California, and Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

“Through these test sites, the department is leveraging its unique authorities to pursue bold innovation at a scale and scope unmatched anywhere else in the world,” Michael Kratsios, acting under secretary of defense for research and engineering, said in a news release.

JBLM’s AR/VR project will also involve the U.S. Army’s Yakima Training Center in central Washington state.

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How farmers use tech to tend the fields of the future

In the old days, farmers kept track of their crops’ vital stats in logbooks and on whiteboards — but in the new days, that’s not going to cut it.

“Shun analog,” said Steve Mantle, the founder and CEO of Innov8 Ag Solutions, a farm management venture that’s headquartered in Walla Walla, Wash. “Digital first. If a grower is still putting things in logbooks, they have to shift to it.”

Mantle and other experts and entrepreneurs surveyed the state of agricultural tech today during Washington State University’s Digital Agriculture Summit — and it’s clear that the field is in a state of flux.

The panelists gave a shout-out to technologies ranging from sensor-equipped drones and 5G connectivity to robotic harvesters and artificial intelligence. But at the same time, some in the virtual audience complained about not being able to get even a 4G signal down on the farm.

Much more needs to be done to bring the agricultural data revolution to full fruition, said Kurt Steck, managing general partner of the 5G Open Innovation Lab, based in Bellevue, Wash.

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Verizon teams up with PNNL on 5G applications

Cybersecurity is one of the issues that will be the subject of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s research into 5G applications. (Verizon / PNNL via YouTube)

Verizon says it’s bringing its 5G ultra wideband wireless network to Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., and will collaborate with the lab on 5G applications that can benefit everything from chemistry research to electrical grid protection to the needs of first responders.

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Pivotal Commware raises $10M as it gets set for 5G

Echo 5G in home office
In this scenario for a wireless application, Pivotal Commware’s Echo 5G device consists of a paddle-like antenna placed on the exterior of a window, and a power puck installed on the inside. (Pivotal Commware Photo)

Pivotal Commware, one of several metamaterials startups backed by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, says it has secured $10 million in convertible-debt financing to help it roll out signal repeater systems for 5G wireless data services.

The company, based in Kirkland, Wash., takes advantage of the electronic properties of metamaterials to produce flat-panel antennas with no moving parts.

One product line, the Echo 5G, can be used by wireless customers to boost the millimeter-wave broadband signals transmitted by 5G operators. Another product line, the Pivot 5G, can be used by operators to extend the range of 5G signals and wrap them around corners, to places that might otherwise be dead spots.

Chris Brandon, Pivotal Commware’s chief operating officer, told GeekWire that the company is due to start shipping the Echo 5G to wireless network operators sometime in December. He said it was premature to disclose which operators will be using them, but they should start showing up next year.

“2020 is a big year for us,” Brandon said.

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Seattle will challenge FCC ‘overreach’ on 5G

Small cell antenna
Deploying 5G cellular service will require the installation of many more small-cell antennas in neighborhoods. (Verizon Photo)

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and City Attorney Pete Holmes say they intend to appeal an order from the Federal Communications Commission that mandates how much municipalities can charge for letting telecom carriers mount 5G cellular equipment on city-owned infrastructure.

The FCC’s commissioners voted to issue the order on Sept. 26, but it hasn’t gone into effect yet. When it does, it could slash Seattle’s utility-pole fees to a fraction of what they are now. The order also sets up “shot clocks” for city governments to rule on applications for 5G equipment installations.

The move is expected to reduce the costs of cellular service companies such as Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile by as much as $2 billion a year. But in a statement issued today, Durkan and Holmes characterized the order as a power grab.

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Pivotal Commware demonstrates 5G wireless link

Echo 5G unit
Pivotal Commware’s glass-attached Echo 5G unit picks up a millimeter-wave signal and boosts the signal for wireless customers. (Pivotal Commware Photo)

Pivotal Commware, the Kirkland, Wash.-based startup backed by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, says it’s demonstrated its solution to a wireless annoyance: getting 5G reception inside a building.

Millimeter-wave 5G signaling is the next wave in cellular technology, revving up data transfer speeds by an order of magnitude over 4G. The new wireless standard also promises to bring less lag time and wider bandwidth.

But deploying 5G also brings technical challenges: Because of the physics of high-frequency radio waves, the signal typically needs a boost on the subscriber side to provide connectivity inside the home.

Pivotal Commware’s strategy is to use a metamaterials-based technology called holographic beam forming to intercept and amplify the signal. Its Echo 5G repeater is designed to be attached to a window, without the need for external wiring or drilling through walls.

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