Grit, The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success – Skyler Ditchfield

Grit, The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success: “Lead by example” With Skyler Ditchfield CEO of GeoLinks and Phil Laboon

It’s imperative to never forget that you’re only as great as the team you’re surrounded by. Thus, lead by example. Meet with your team as much as you can and tailor how you communicate to each person individually. Become a leader they can believe in, and always make them feel valued.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Skyler Ditchfield. Skyler Ditchfield, Co-Founder and CEO of GeoLinks, the Fastest Growing Internet and Phone Provider in America. Within his company, Ditchfield is passionate about cultivating the best company culture around — one that combines respect, collaboration and a “best idea wins mantra.” His dedication and work ethic have earned him various accolades in including “Top Innovator in Diversity and Inclusion”, “World’s Top 5 Best Businessmen of 2017”, and 2018 “Entrepreneur of the Year”.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what events have drawn you to this specific career path

My“entrepreneurial roots” began at the age of six selling food, video games, lemonade, and basically anything else I thought people might buy, door-to-door and on the side of the road. One of my favorite stories to look back on was when I was about 7 or 8 and my elementary school decided to band candy. While other kids at school complained, I looked at this as an opportunity. I proceeded to buy candy off premise and sell it to my fellow students at a 1000% markup — I ended up bringing in about $30 a day, which in the early 90s was a lot! The school did eventually catch me, and I had to stop.

I first really dove into the world of technology at the age of 13 when I set up a bulletin board system (BBS) with my cousin, and no co-founder and CTO Ryan Hauf, to service 200 members of our local community with dial-up Internet. Throughout my childhood, I became increasingly fascinated with long-distance communications and computer networking. Directly after high school, I accepted a Network Engineer II job at the Private Network Management Center (PNMC) of MCI Worldcom in Silicon Valley servicing high-level clients such as JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Quotron, Reuters, and more. Although I was the youngest technician at the maximum-security PNMC, I was quickly promoted to Network Engineer III after exceeding the entire staff in router reprogramming. When the company relocated to the East Coast, I was one of two employees offered a transfer. Ultimately, I declined the offer and returned to Ojai where I proceeded to build a network business from scratch with $550 in startup capital.

While there were bumps along the road, my path was a natural progression to eventually starting my own ISP.

Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

Hard times have occurred all along the way, both personally and professionally. From a professional standpoint, when you first start a company, money is one of your biggest problems. You have to be able to have enough money to get your company off the ground while simultaneously supporting your family. As you get bigger, so do your challenges. Every time you hit new benchmarks, you have to reinvent yourself. This can be painful at times, such as outgrowing certain team members, completely overhauling a system or process, changing your direction etc. Some people have a hard time keeping up with that.

Luckily life experiences have enabled me to adapt quickly to change. From surviving multiple business failures that left me facing massive debt and ruined credit, to battling severe life-long health issues, each chapter in my life has taught me how to fight back harder and ultimately have the confidence to overcome anything. Being an entrepreneur undoubtedly requires grit — but if you can learn to own that, you will become successful.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

I have always believed in myself and listened to my intuition. For example, we reached a point about two years after starting our company, where we were literally just weeks away from being completely out of money. In my gut, however, I knew that there had to be a game-changing deal coming through any day; mind you, until you have a signed document in your hand, nothing’s real. Thus, I decided to follow my intuition and push the business ahead as usual, so we wouldn’t kill our fast-growing momentum. It turned out my gut was right, and we had a massive business-saving deal come through just days before we would have completely been out of all cash. When I find my back is against the wall, I feel empowered, because I know I have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?

In addition to everything I’ve mentioned thus far, to be successful you have to be willing to do anything and everything to get your company off the ground. For example, when GeoLinks first started, I did everything from sales, to technical support, to helping built the network, to physically deploying installs. I was never afraid of the number of hours or work it took to accomplish something. Nonetheless, there are certain things you have to sacrifice that can be tough to stomach, such as time away from family. There has to be grit and determination in you to overcome that, or you’re not going to make it. There will always be challenges in businesses. Successful people fail many times over– those failures, however, become part of the growth of your business. You have to have grit to stomach those many storms and weather them.

So, how are things going today? 🙂

Busy! But everything I’m working on is very exciting.

Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit? (Please share a story or example for each)

  1. Look at Past Successes — Look back on a time, no matter how small, where you thought things looked bleak and grim, yet you found your way out of it. Then build upon that as you embark on bigger challenges moving forward. For example, if I’m sitting here and looking at a 2 million budget shortfall with only a week to figure it out, I could view it as incredibly daunting. However, if I reflect back to when I was in a similar position but with only $200,000, and I remember how I overcame that challenge, I can use that to give me the confidence I need to solve this new problem.
  2. Do Research — The Internet is an amazing resource; read articles; search for case studies; see how people before you overcame challenges. Knowledge is power.
  3. Get Outside Opinions – This is something I consistently do, even if I don’t ultimately agree, other’s opinions can give you new perspective. I like to gather as much knowledge and feedback as I possibly can to ultimately shape and form my own stance — then, I make a decision, and own it.
  4. Get Physical — Not with others, but with yourself. When I push myself physically in the gym, for example, I mean truly wear myself down, I am forced to clear my mind and find a way to push through. This is a great reminder of the power of the mind, and that with enough concentration and grit, I am capable of pushing through anything.
  5. Own Your Mindset — Take a position that you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Own that mindset, and you will find a path out or way to success.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?

Our first investor that came in, Tom Krause, built a very successful company from scratch. While I believe I could have gotten here on my own eventually, his expertise and guidance have greatly accelerated my success. His innate ability to mentor objectively allowed me to bypass most entrepreneur’s steep learning curves. I am incredibly grateful for that.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Absolutely! GeoLinks has officially partnered with CENIC, AlertWildfire, WIFIRE, and others to deploy wildfire detection, prevention and situational awareness systems across California. Statewide expansion of this proven system would offer strategic advantages for early fire detection, situational awareness for first responders, fire mapping, predictive simulations, and evacuation planning. Rapid investment in this shovel-ready system would soon save lives, property, habitat, and infrastructure across California, and the state would see an almost immediate return on its investment. Additional partners that would benefit from this effort and so might be approached for financial support are the insurance industry, technology accelerators, and local community organizations. While we are deploying this system as we speak, we need further investment to take it state wide as quickly as possible.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Everything GeoLinks sets out to do — from closing the digital divide, to helping deploy wildfire detection, prevention ,and situational awareness systems, to offering pro-bono circuits to Red Cross shelters during times of disaster — is aimed at ultimately bringing goodness to the world. Yes, we are a business, so we must earn capital, but the way I see it, the more we grow, the more resources we have to help and give back.

What advice would you give to other executives or founders to help their employees to thrive?

In today’s modern workplace, culture is paramount in attracting and retaining top talent, thus it’s imperative to never forget that you’re only as great as the team you’re surrounded by. Thus, lead by example. Meet with your team as much as you can and tailor how you communicate to each person individually. Become a leader they can believe in, and always make them feel valued.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I founded GeoLinks with the mission to close the U.S. Digital Divide. I am determined to bring connectivity to every unconnected Anchor Institution in America over the next 7 years. To accomplish this goal, I am aggressively looking to change the landscape of Internet across America by influencing the reform of broadband funding and spectrum policy on both a state and federal level.

Outside of work, I would say help people better understand one another. I find that whenever it comes to politically charged debates, from republicans vs democrats, to gun control, to immigration, many times if you get the rhetoric and anger out of the way, people want the same thing, just want to go about it in different ways. Today’s media and climate has created such a charged environment, that we either shy away from topics or come across in an aggressive manner. Both of these are unproductive, and create a continuing divide among people. We need to come together, open our minds, and get a better understanding of one another.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Appreciate your mistakes for what they are: precious life lessons that can only be learned the hard way. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s lifeLife is inherently risky. There is only one big risk you should avoid at all costs, and that is the risk of doing nothing.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

On twitter at @SkylerJesseD — or follow GeoLinks @GeoLinks_USA.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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The future has arrived; it’s Smart, and we’re not ready for it. Here’s why.

Smart City Technology- Lexie Smith - GeoLinks

Read the original article on Medium.com

From Washington D.C., to the coast of California, “Smart City” is, and was, perhaps 2018’s most prominent buzzword, aside from “5G”, circulating nearly all tech, economic, and broadband related conferences and forums. While the exact definition of what really is a “Smart City” varies by person and party, the concept itself is based on the integration of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and the Internet of things or (IoT), to optimize city-wide operations, services, and ultimately connect to citizens.

While some of the general public still think of this concept as far off, the reality is that “Smart Cities” have already began materializing across the country. Thus, this glorified digital future is here, and guess what America, we’re not ready.

Why Not?

Well, it’s simple really. Cities and its citizens can have all the ICT or IoT devices they want, but in order to make a city smart, these systems and gadgets have to physically work. That’s where connectivity comes into play. To fuel a Smart City, you need to have broadband Internet access with enough bandwidth to support electronic data collection and transfers. According to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) 2018 Broadband Deployment Report, upwards of 24 million Americans still lack access to high speed broadband. Furthermore, the report states that approximately 14 million rural Americans and 1.2 million Americans living on Tribal lands still lack mobile LTE broadband at speeds of 10 Mbps/3 Mbps. Finally, only 88% of American schools were reported to meet the FCC’s short-term connectivity goal of 100 Mbps per 1,000 users, and only 22% of school districts met its long-term connectivity goal of 1 Gbps per 1,000 users.

On December 4th, the New York Times released an article titled, “Digital Divide Is Wider Than We Think, Study Says” that refuted the FCC’s published report. Based on a study conducted by Microsoft, the article summarizes that researchers concluded “162.8 million people do not use the internet at broadband speeds… In Ferry County, for example, Microsoft estimates that only 2 percent of people use broadband service, versus the 100 percent the federal government says have access to the service.”

So, regardless of which multi-million statistic we conclude is more legitimate, while many metro areas may have the bandwidth needed to at least partially move forward into the next digital revolution, there are still millions of Americans who would, as it stands, be left behind. This reality, coined the digital divide, is the ultimate Smart City roadblock.

Why being hyper fiber-minded is our fatal flaw:

States and communities across the country advocate that pervasive fiber network expansion is the solution to closing the divide. And yes, fiber networks can be great. The reality is, however, that building out fiber infrastructure to every location in America is time-consuming, tedious, and prohibitively expensive. Therefore, deploying fiber does not make economic sense in many rural and urban areas of the country. The Google Fiber project serves as a prime example of this.

To summarize, Google officially launched its Google Fiber project in 2010 with more than 1,100 cities applying to be the “First Fiber City.” By 2011, Google announced it selected Kansas City, Kansas as its target pilot. Fast-forward to 2014, and Google missed its projected city-wide connection deadline in Kansas claiming delays. By 2016, Google publicly commented that all-fiber build outs are proving infeasible due to costs and varying restrictive topologies, consequently filing with the FCC to begin testing wireless broadband internet in 24 cities. Within a few months, they officially acquired a wireless broadband provider and formally announced fixed wireless as part of their Google Fiber network moving forward.

All in all, this case study demonstrates first-hand that to actually close the U.S. digital divide our country must adapt a technology-agnostic mind-set and implement a hybrid-network approach that utilizes whatever technology or technologies makes the most sense for a particular region. Technologies like Fixed Wireless, TV Whitespace, 4G, and Fixed 5G, all have their place, alongside Fiber, in closing the divide. Unfortunately, until those in positions of influence are able to open their minds to these alternative methods, America will remain unconnected.

Who are people in positions of influence?

Luckily, our current FCC administration seems at least semi-understanding that fiber isn’t a “one-size fits all solution”; demonstrated in the recent distribution of funding to WISPs in the CAF II Auction. However, many state and local governments remain less progressive. At a recent California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) meeting in Sacramento, for example, a large majority of key broadband stakeholders and municipalities advocated that the California Department of Transportation’s (CALTRANS) future infrastructure plans should be wholly fiber-based to support the future of Smart Cities and Autonomous Cars. Whether it be from a lack of education, poor past experiences, or simply riding the buzzword bandwagon, until government organizations can push past common misconceptions that fiber is the only answer, community businesses and residents will be left in the divide.

So, what’s the “Smart” thing to do now?

For those cities in America already connected with reliable multi-gig Internet, go ahead, smart things up! Just keep in mind, to remain a Smart City, even fiber-rich metros will eventually need to extend current network infrastructure to new end points such as light poles, unconnected buildings, and future city expansions.

Ultimately, if we want to collectively prepare for this new revolution, we need to first focus on closing the digital divide. First comes broadband, then comes innovation, then comes the utopian idea of not only Smart Cities, but a smart country.

Smart City - Lexie Smith - GeoLinks

Related Suggested Articles:

Five Crucial Steps Needed To Close The U.S. Digital Divide

Grow Food, Grow Jobs: How Broadband Can Boost Farming in California’s Central Valley

Digital Divide Is Wider Than We Think, Study Says

How Community Anchor Institutions Can Help Close the Digital Divide

Rural service is key to bridging the digital divide

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Camarillo-based GeoLinks joins universities on wildfire project

Firefighters battle the Woolsey Fire as it burns a home in Malibu in this file photo. (Photo: AP PHOTO)

Original Article: https://www.vcstar.com/story/money/business/2018/12/06/camarillo-based-geolinks-joins-universities-wildfire-project/2212376002/

ALERTWildfire, a consortium of the University of Nevada Reno, UC San Diego and the University of Oregon has officially partnered with Camarillo-based telecom GeoLinks to deploy wildfire detection, prevention and situational awareness systems across California.

Demand for the expansion was inspired by a new wildfire camera pan-tilt-zoom technology developed by Graham Kent, director of the Nevada Seismological Lab at the University of Nevada Reno, that became instrumental in both the response and containment of the 2017 Lilac Fires in San Diego County.

GeoLinks plans to deploy 28 additional such cameras by year’s end.

“ALERTWildfire is excited to work with GeoLinks as their resilient communications network throughout California enables a rapid deployment of fire cameras in critical regions of the state,” said Kent. “No other service provider is able to scale to this urgent task.”

Located on GeoLinks’ vertical assets in Southern California including Ventura County, the cameras will send data over GeoLinks’ network to UC San Diego. There, WIFIRE, an integrated system for wildfire analysis, will analyze the data to create real-time simulations, wildfire path predictions and visualizations of wildfire behavior. The system ultimately will provide strategic advantages for early fire detection, situational awareness for first responders, fire mapping, predictive simulations and evacuation planning, GeoLinks said in a news release.

“The fact remains that California is now faced with wildfires year-round,” said Skyler Ditchfield, co-founder and CEO of GeoLinks. “Wildfire detection, prevention, and situational awareness systems provide a solution that could make an immediate, lasting, and radical impact on the spread of fires and associated costs, damages and casualties. … If we had assets installed prior to the Camp Fire’s ignition, for example, we could have saved countless lives. This is really the future and next step in advanced firefighting and suppression.”

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SHLB Coalition Announces 5 New Board Members

Original Source SHLB.org

Washington, D.C. (December 5, 2018) – Today the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition announced five additions to its board of directors for 2019:

  • Cindy Aden, state librarian, State of Washington;
  • Erik Heinrich, senior manager SLED business development, Ruckus Networks, an ARRIS Company;
  • Tim Koxlien, CEO, Telequality Communications;
  • Ray Timothy, CEO and executive director, Utah Education & Telehealth Network; and
  • Melissa Slawson, general counsel and VP of government affairs and education, GeoLinks.

“These individuals and their organizations are dedicated to achieving digital equity through connecting community anchor institutions (CAIs),” said John Windhausen Jr., executive director of the SHLB Coalition, “Their passion and diverse areas of expertise will make SHLB’s advocacy for CAI broadband connectivity even stronger.”

The current SHLB board of directors appointed Aden, Heinrich, Koxlien, and Timothy, while SHLB’s membership elected Slawson to serve. The incoming members, who begin their three-year terms on the board on January 1, 2019, made the following statements:

“As the State Librarian for Washington State, I am eager to get more involved in the nuts and bolts of broadband and e-rate issues, as my state readies itself for significant broadband legislation that will include the State Library as one of the stakeholders. I am honored to follow the work of my esteemed colleague, the Montana State Librarian Jennie Stapp, and I look forward to working with the SHLB board.” – Cindy Aden, State Librarian, Washington State.

“As a research and education network, we have found SHLB to be a great resource for our organization as we strive to network for education and telehealth in Utah. I am excited to be on the board so that we can share our experiences and strengths with others throughout the country.” – Ray Timothy, Utah Education & Telehealth Network

“SHLB is the only voice representing the common broadband interests of community anchor institutions, local and state government entities and service providers. Under John Windhausen’s leadership, our members receive the benefit of a well respected, hard working and dedicated organization. I am grateful to be a part of the work that SHLB does in helping to solve broadband problems throughout the US.” – Tim Koxlien, Telequality Communications.

“I am honored to join SHLB in raising awareness around the challenges of Digital Equity and advocating for solutions to the disparity in online access among our Nation’s diverse populations of students, teachers and their communities. SHLB’s mission is closely aligned with this very issue and I look forward to fulfilling a role as a member of the SHLB board of directors while working closely with the SHLB member community to help close the digital divide.” – Erik Heinrich, Ruckus Networks, an ARRIS Company.

“I am excited and honored to have been chosen as the newest member of the SHLB Board of Directors. Universal broadband access has always been a personal passion of mine and I look forward to representing GeoLinks as I work with SHLB and my fellow Board members to bring more awareness to the issue and create policies that help bridge the digital divide.” – Melissa Slawson, GeoLinks.

###

About SHLB:

The SHLB Coalition is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) advocacy organization that supports open, affordable, high-quality broadband connections for anchor institutions and their surrounding communities. The SHLB Coalition is based in Washington, DC and has a diverse membership of commercial and non-commercial organizations from across the United States. To learn more, visit www.shlb.org.

For Immediate Release

Contact:
Alicja Johnson
[email protected]
(202) 261-6599

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How Supercomputers Can Help Fix Our Wildfire Problem – WIRED.com

Written by: 

FIRE IS CHAOS. Fire doesn’t care what it destroys or who it kills—it spreads without mercy, leaving total destruction in its wake, as California’s Camp and Woolsey fires proved so dramatically this month.

But fire is to a large degree predictable. It follows certain rules and prefers certain fuels and follows certain wind patterns. That means its moves with a complexity that scientists can pick apart little by little, thanks to lasers, fancy sensors, and some of the most powerful computers on the planet. We can’t end wildfires altogether, but by better understanding their dynamics, ideally we can stop a disaster like the destruction of Paradise from happening again.

You could argue that a wildfire is the most complicated natural disaster, because it’s both a product of atmospheric conditions—themselves extremely complex—and a manipulator of atmospheric conditions. So for instance, California’s recent fires were driven by hot, dry winds coming from the east. These winds dried out vegetation that was already dry due to lack of rainfall, fueling conflagrations that burn more intensely and move faster.

But wildfires also create their own weather patterns. Blazes produce hot air, which rises. “You can imagine that if something moves from the surface up, there must be some kind of horizontal movement of air filling the gap” near ground level, says Adam Kochanski, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Utah. Thus the fire sucks in surface winds.

Researchers are using supercomputers and lookout stations like this to model the dynamics of wildfires in real time. LOS ALAMOS NATIONAL LABORATORY

Wildfires don’t yet have the equivalent of a grand unified model to explain their behavior. The contributing factors are just so different, and work on such different scales—air dynamics for one, the aridity of local vegetation for another.

“That’s what’s really difficult from a modeling standpoint,” says Kochanski. You can’t hope to model a 50-square-mile wildfire with millimeter-scale resolution. So researchers like Kochanski simplify things. “We don’t really go into looking at how every single flame burns every single tree and how it progresses. No, we assume fuel is relatively uniform.”

Still, advances in computing are allowing researchers to crunch ever more data. At Los Alamos National Laboratory, atmospheric scientist Alexandra Jonko is using a supercomputer and a system called FIRETEC to model fires in extreme detail. It models, among other things, air density and temperature, as well as the properties of the grass or leaves in a particular area.

Jonko runs a bunch of simulations with different wind speeds, typically on the scale of 40 acres. “It’ll probably take me about four hours to simulate between 10 and 20 minutes of a fire spreading,” she says.

FIRETEC produces valuable physics-based data on fire dynamics to inform how fire managers do prescribed burns. This is pivotal for controlling vegetation that turns into fuel for fires. Wildfire agencies know generally the ideal conditions—low winds, for instance—but this type of modeling could help give even more granular insight.

FIRETEC’s modeling a portion of the 2011 Las Conchas fire near Los Alamos – LOS ALAMOS NATIONAL LABORATORY

To figure out where to do these burns, researchers are experimenting with lidar, the same kind of laser-spewing technology that helps self-driving cars find their way. This comes in the form of airborne lidar, which lets researchers visualize trees in 3D, supplemented with ground-based lidar, which details the vegetation underneath the trees.

That information is essential. “If we don’t know what the fuels are, then it’s a pretty big guess whether or not you’ve got dangerous fuels at a site,” says the University of Nevada, Reno’s Jonathan Greenberg.

The visualizations that come from lidar blasts are as stunning as they are useful. With this kind of data in hand, managers can more strategically deploy prescribed burns. California in particular has a serious problem with fire resources—in just the last year, the state has seen seven of its 20 most destructive fires ever. Money, then, goes to constantly fighting the infernos, leaving fewer resources for proactive measures like prescribed burns.

Another way to go about modeling fires is with reinforcement learning. You might have heard of researchers using this to get robots to learn—instead of explicitly showing a robot how to do something like putting a square peg in a square hole, you make it figure it out on its own with random movements. Essentially, you give it a digital reward when it gets closer to the correct manipulation, and a demerit when it screws up.

A model showing wind. The faster the wind, the longer and redder the arrows. LOS ALAMOS NATIONAL LABORATORY

Turns out you can do the same thing with virtual fire. “It’s kind of like Pavlov’s dog,” says computer scientist Mark Crowley of the University of Waterloo. “You give it a biscuit and it will do that trick again.”

Crowley begins with satellite thermal images that show how a wildfire has burned over an area. Think of this as the simulated fire’s “goal,” like a robot’s goal is to get the peg in the hole. This approach is still in its early days, and Crowley is busy helping his artificial flames learn the art of being fire. If it accurately mimics how a real fire ended up traveling, the algorithm gets a digital reward—if not, it gets a demerit. “Then over time you update this function so it learns how to travel properly,” Crowley adds. In a sense, he can create a digital fire infused with artificial intelligence.

Out in the field, researchers are using a supercomputer at UC San Diego to confront the immediate threat of wildfires, with a program called ALERTWildfire. On mountaintops across California, lookout stations are loaded with sensors like high-def cameras and wind and moisture detectors. If the camera catches a fire breaking out, the system can pipe that atmospheric data to the supercomputer, which does real-time modeling of the blaze for fire agencies.

A terrestrial laser scanner image of a forest after a fire. UNR/USFS RSL/USFS FBAT/UMD/UE

“They can see where the fire is going, what it’s going to look like in the near term and long term, and then continue to receive live updates,” says Skyler Ditchfield, co-founder and CEO of GeoLinks, a telecom that’s partnered with the project.

Why a supercomputer? “The magic word here is fast,” says Ilkay Altintas, chief data science officer at the San Diego Supercomputer Center. Wind-driven fires move quickly, and the bigger a fire gets, the more data it produces. “The computational complexity can depend on how big the fire is, how complicated the topography is, how the weather is behaving.”

As the detection network grows—85 cameras are deployed right now, but the researchers hope to expand to over 1,000 across California—so too does the torrent of data. Also, at the moment, human eyes have to watch the camera feeds to detect fires, though the idea is to get AI to do that in the future.

Tech won’t solve all our wildfire problems—we need to band together to reinforce our cities, for instance. But with ever more data and computing power, and ever better models, we can get better at confronting the wildfire menace. Fire is chaos, but it’s not impossible to understand.

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ALERTWildfire Partners With GeoLinks to Deploy Fire Detection and Prevention Systems Across California

ALERTWildfire Partners With GeoLinks to Deploy Fire Detection and Prevention Systems Across California

CAMARILLO, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–ALERTWildfire, a consortium of three universities — The University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), University of California, San Diego (UCSD), and the University of Oregon (UO) — announced today it has officially partnered with California-based Telecom, GeoLinks, to deploy Wildfire Detection, Prevention, and Situational Awareness Systems across the state of California. With ample endorsement from the United States Forest Service (USFS), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), California’s new Governor-elect Gavin Newsom, and a multitude of utilities and state counties, the project demonstrates the future and next step in advanced firefighting and suppression.

Demand for the rapid system expansion was inspired by a new wildfire camera pan-tilt-zoom technology (PTZ), developed by Graham Kent, Director of the Nevada Seismological Lab at the University of Nevada, Reno, that became instrumental in both the response and containment of the 2017 Lilac Fires in San Diego County. GeoLinks plans to deploy 28 additional PTZs by year’s end.

“ALERTWildfire is excited to work with GeoLinks as their resilient communications network throughout California enables a rapid deployment of fire cameras in critical regions of the state,” said Kent. “No other service provider is able to scale to this urgent task, and we look forward to dozens of cameras to be installed month-after-month as we ready ourselves for December 2018 and fire season 2019.”

Collocated across GeoLinks’ vertical assets in greater LA-Metro, Orange County, Riverside County, and Ventura County, the data collected from the PTZ cameras will be backhauled over GeoLinks’ ClearFiber™ network to WIFIRE at the San Diego Supercomputer Center in UC San Diego. WIFIRE, an integrated system for wildfire analysis, analyzes data collected from these cameras to create real-time simulations, wildfire path predictions, and visualizations of wildfire behavior. Ultimately, the system will provide strategic advantages for early fire detection, situational awareness for first responders, fire mapping, predictive simulations, and evacuation planning.

UC San Diego has already identified the next wave of key sites for GeoLinks to connect post initial project completion. Skyler Ditchfield, co-founder and CEO of GeoLinks, notes that with the comprehensive coverage of fixed wireless broadband that will accompany the camera network, LTE-based data connectivity and the extension of all first responder handheld radio systems can be efficiently added to close all connectivity gaps.

“The fact remains that California is now faced with wildfires year-round,” stated Ditchfield. “Wildfire detection, prevention, and situational awareness systems provide a solution that could make an immediate, lasting, and radical impact on the spread of fires and associated costs, damages, and casualties. GeoLinks, ALERTWildfire, and a variety of other affiliates across the state, including CENIC, are actively pushing the state-wide expansion of these technologies. If we had assets installed prior to the Camp Fire’s ignition, for example, we could have saved countless lives. This is really the future and next step in advanced firefighting and suppression.”

For media inquiries or interview requests, please contact Lexie Smith at [email protected].

About ALERTWildfire

ALERTWildfire is a consortium of three universities — The University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), University of California, San Diego (UCSD), and the University of Oregon (UO) — providing access to state-of-the-art Pan-Tilt-Zoom (PTZ) fire cameras and associated tools to help firefighters and first responders: (1) discover/locate/confirm fire ignition, (2) quickly scale fire resources up or down appropriately, (3) monitor fire behavior through containment, (4) during firestorms, help evacuations through enhanced situational awareness, and (5) ensure contained fires are monitored appropriately through their demise.

About GeoLinks

Headquartered in Southern California, GeoLinks is a leading telecommunications company and competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC) public utility, nationally recognized for its innovative Internet and Digital Voice solutions. Ranked first in category on Inc. Magazine’s Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Companies in America in both 2017 and 2018, GeoLinks delivers Enterprise-Grade Internet, Digital Voice, SD-WAN, Cloud On-ramping, Layer 2 Transport, and both Public and Private Turnkey Network Construction expertly tailored for businesses and Anchor Institutions nationwide.

GeoLinks’ accelerated success is largely due to its flagship product, ClearFiber™, which offers dedicated business-class Internet with unlimited bandwidth, true network redundancy, and guaranteed speeds reaching up to 10 Gbps. Named “Most Disruptive Technology” in the 2018 Central Coast Innovation Awards, GeoLinks’ ClearFiber™ network is backed by a carrier-grade Service Level Agreement boasting 99.999% uptime and 24/7 in-house customer support. With an average installation period of 4 to 7 days, GeoLinks is proud to offer the most resilient and scalable fixed wireless network on the market.

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Wireless Smart Farming to Keep Frost Away From Citrus

Wireless Smart Farming to Keep Frost Away From Citrus

UCSB SmartFarm sensor approximately 5 feet off the ground surrounded by citrus will help UC researchers know when to turn on windfans to protect plants from frost.

By Susan Rambo.

Computer science researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara, are using the internet of things to prove that smart farming can be a farm implement as basic as the tractor and plough.

The husband and wife team of Chandra Krintz and Rich Wolski, both UCSB computer science professors, think data analytics can help tackle some of the tough challenges of modern agriculture. They want to apply the predictive mathematical leaps used in modern internet commerce to predict what people will buy, to agriculture. The pair created the UCSB SmartFarm program in response to what they see as the main issues of agriculture.

Krintz and Wolski cite U.S. Department of Agriculture and United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization studies that say some scary stuff: increasingly more food is needed to feed the growing global population, and yet farm labor is in short supply or too expensive. Eighty percent of the fresh water and 30% of global energy is used to produce food, half of which we waste in spoilage. Farming also has some particularly tough foes: Pests and disease attack farms’ output and farm land is subsiding (sinking) — especially in California — because of groundwater overdraft. On top of all that, agriculture makes 22% of greenhouse gases.

The only way smart farming can make a dent on those issues is to attack specific problems. For Krintz and Wolski’s first test projects, they talked to the farmer — in this case, farm researchers — first before designing a system. Although almost every ag tech pitch begins with a summary of those issues, the UCSB computer scientists’ approach is to come up with scientifically vetted data about the usefulness of cloud and data analytics in farming.

The design parameters of behind UCSB SmartFarm’s Farm Cloud System is to make a system a farmer could love: it should be easy to use and work reliably, cheaply and privately — farmers don’t want their data accessible. The system needs to provide useful data to help increase yield, automate farm operations or save money (or all three), and the data must be available real time. The whole thing has to work without IT staff.

The self-managing system needs to work like an appliance, like your refrigerator, write Krintz and Wolski in a presentation about the project.

Krintz and Wolski are testing the system on nut trees at Fresno State and on citrus at the University of California’s Lindcove Research and Extension Center (LREC) near Visalia, Calif. The UCSB SmartFarm program has support from Google, Huawei, IBM Research, Microsoft Research, the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health and the California Energy Commission.

RCR Wireless News visited the LREC — a literal test bed for citrus and smart farming — and got the full tour of the UCSB’s Farm Cloud System.

Lindcove’s research mandate

The public is probably not aware that agricultural research centers, such as LREC (Lindcove), do the hard science that protects our food. In the case of Lindcove, hard science is the study of mostly citrus trees, and it means the grueling work of studying each tree.

Dr. Beth Grafton-Cardwell, research entomologist, an integrated pest management (IPM) specialist and Lindcove’s director remembers sorting fruit by hand.

“When I first started in 1990, if we harvested in January, we would stand in the field in our long underwear and they would pick fruit into a bin and we would have ring sizers that told us what size the fruit was. We would count the fruit and size the fruit and write it on a clip board on a piece of paper,” she said. “Now this machine can do this better.”

Standing near a huge packing line machine that dwarfed her, Grafton-Cardwell explained how the cameras and the extra sensors enable the machine to size and weigh the fruit, examine the outside of the fruit using three types of cameras and estimate the sugar levels inside. One piece of fruit goes through the machine at a time, for scientific purposes, which differs from how a normal packing house operates.

“If I am a researcher, each of my trees is a replication and a different situation, so I want to know everything there is to know about the fruit on that tree,” said Grafton-Cardwell. The cameras take about 30 photographs of each piece of fruit, rotating the fruit as they go. Every parameter from each piece of fruit is put into a spreadsheet: “We know the size, the shape, if it has scarring, the precise color,” said Grafton-Cardwell.

The growers paid for Lindcove’s packing line. “We can simulate anything you want to do on a commercial pack line,” said Grafton-Cardwell. Most packing houses have these machines but don’t use them the way researchers do. They use them for sorting fruit, not for collecting the precise data the researchers need.

“You have to train the machine to the colors and the blemishes. It can get overwhelming,” said Kurt Schmidt, Lindcove’s principal superintendent of agriculture. “We can slow everything down and gather an infinite amount of data.”

“The data sets are ginormous,” Grafton-Cardwell pointed out. Data and an interpretation of the data is the really the product that Lindcove produces.

Originally started in 1959 by University of California Riverside and San Joaquin Valley citrus growers, Lindcove helps growers try out treatments and crop varieties without experimenting on their own crops, which protects their orchards — and livelihood. “Researchers from around the state can come here and do experiments,” said Grafton-Cardwell. Lindcove focuses on creating new varietals and demonstrating gardens of hundreds of citrus — a demo garden that is repeated in several other locations, such as the desert, for comparison. The center is working on 30 research projects right now.

“Citrus grows quite easily statewide….there are 300,000 acres [planted] statewide. It’s all fresh market, [California growers] don’t do juice. If the growers produce for juice, they lose money,” said Grafton-Cardwell. Florida and Brazil are the juice producers.

“Their climate produces a better juice fruit,” said Schmidt.

Lindcove is one of nine research centers in the University of California’s Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) department. With soil and climate typical for the commercial citrus growing in the Central Valley of California, the Lindcove’s 175 idyllic acres may be tucked remotely against the Sierra foothills on the road to Sequoia National Park, but it’s on the forefront of fighting some pretty scary citrus pests.

The Huanglongbing (HLB) bacterium has the citrus industry in California in an increasing panic. This bacterium, spread by the Asian citrus psyllids, a small bug imported from Asia, has already made its way up through Mexico and is now in Southern California and spreading northward.

Huanglongbing, also known as citrus greening disease, is killing trees at alarming rates and there is no cure yet. “It has devastated Florida. Huanglongbing has knocked their acreage down by 50 percent,” said Grafton-Cardwell. “We are trying to get some proactive research going to prepare for the arrival of the disease in the commercial citrus. Right now it is just in residential backyards, but it is going to get to the commercial citrus in the near future,” said Grafton-Cardwell.

In California, it is particularly hard to control because of the prevalence of backyard citrus trees.

“Right now it is just in Southern California. We are up to about 650 trees in Southern California that tested positive,” said Grafton-Cardwell. All of those infected trees were in residential yards. Therein lies the problem: An estimated 60% of homeowners have a citrus tree in their yard. “That’s like 15 million citrus trees. How do you manage a disease when you’ve got 30 million commercial trees and 15 million residential trees? It is very difficult,” she said. “Homeowners don’t understand plant disease, they don’t understand how to manage the pest, they don’t understand the risk.”

Unrelated to HLB, but nonetheless an insurance policy for all citrus growers, is Lindcove’s Citrus Clonal Protection Program (CCPP) out of UCR. Lindcove preserves and archives original budwood of citrus varieties as part of CCPP. Large screenhouses — greenhouses with screens instead of glass — hold clean budwood, which nurseries, growers and even citrus enthusiasts can use to propagate citrus plants. The citrus buds are grafted to rootstock and grown into trees in the screenhouses, where they are protected from insects.

The screens on these structures are “rated for thrips” — so fine that thrips or psyllids can’t get through it. Recently when one of the screens had a breach, the CCPP program restarted all the trees in the screenhouse to make sure they were free of insects and disease. This is serious business.

First, the network

Lindcove has a new network capability now. “We are really excited,” said Dr. Grafton-Cardwell. “It has taken us ten years to get to the point where we have a network that can support all this, because we are out in the boonies.”

Lindcove now uses the fiber network from CENIC — the non-profit network operator for the California universities, colleges, schools and libraries — and fixed wireless company GeoLinks for last-mile wireless.

“We were getting our internet from a local provider here in Visalia with limited bandwidth for a lot of money,” said Schmidt. “So now we’ve got this big connection that has the potential to have a large bandwidth. We’re in pretty good shape.”

“ANR pushed really hard in the last couple years to develop the funding to do this for all the research and extension centers, all nine of them, because we were all created back in the 1950s, and most of us in the boonies, and none of us had decent network capability. For scientists in this day and age to do research, it is totally revolutionary,” said Grafton-Cardwell. “When I first came in 1990, we weren’t able to do any of this stuff. Computing was really primitive and now it is going to improve what we do.”

Smart farm at Lindcove

“I didn’t even know what the internet of things was before Rich Wolski explained it,” said Grafton-Cardwell, but now she can’t wait to get it.

The goal of the UCSB’s smart farm test at Lindcove is to improve the decision making for frost protection for citrus growers, which should help reduce costs and carbon footprint.

Schmidt pointed out the culprit: the big wind machines on citrus farms. These wind machines are needed because the typical inversion layer of warmer air holds cold air to the ground, which damages fruit. The wind machines circulate the air when frost is imminent. It costs a lot to run the wind machines, which run on propane. That’s not even counting the cost of having to run around to the fields in a truck, taking temperature readings at all hours to make a decision when to turn on the wind machines.

Krintz and Wolski’s team of students have installed low-cost, sturdy weather stations that can withstand the elements and accurately sense temperature and humidity at 5 feet and 30 feet from the ground. The stations are installed to be able to monitor 3 feet from the boundaries of where the wind machines cover. The poles also have surveillance cameras with infrared capability to allow more temperature measurement, beyond regular thermometers. A network station in the field moves the data to the office on-site. Drones could be used “on the fly” to monitor at different levels.

Measuring and estimating the evaporation and transpiration under the tree canopy and sending that data to the office means that someone like Kurt Schmidt won’t have to manually take the temperature every hour at all hours, to determine when to turn on the fans. Also, tapping into Schmidt’s knowledge of when the fans need to be turned on will help inform the system; Krintz and Wolski can write software to automate the fans operations. Having more detailed information in real time means saving fuel if one windfan on one end of a microclimate doesn’t need to be turned on, even though others may need to run.

This frost experiment is only the beginning.

“We have a laboratory here that has equipment in it that again, we could be connecting,” said Grafton-Cardwell. “One of the things I proposed to Chandra [Krintz] and Rich [Wolski], is we have all these data in separate units. The pack line generates data, we are collecting data from the field. That is going into files. The data aren’t connected in any shape or form.”

Grafton-Cardwell’s ultimate goal is to have a researcher go into a portal and view all the data associated with their research.

This article originally appeared in the RCR Wireless News, July 17, 2018, and is re-posted with permission in the UC IT Blog.

Photo of Susan RamboSusan Rambo covers 5G for RCR Wireless News.

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Fighting Fire with Data: Wildfire Detection, Prevention, & Situational Awareness Systems

Fighting Fire with Data: Wildfire Detection, Prevention, & Situational Awareness Systems

The unprecedented scale and scope of recent catastrophic wildfires show that larger swaths of California are at risk than previously understood. Smart investments in strategic technologies may serve to limit the loss of life and property damage. One promising — and proven — line of defense is connecting remote cameras and weather sensors across the state to a vast mesh of wireless and fiber-optic cable to relay data. The collected data is combined and analyzed to produce information that supports wildfire prevention, detection, and management.

This system — ALERTWildfire (University of Nevada, Reno, University of California, San Diego, and the University of Oregon) — is actively collaborating and partnering with local firefighters, GeoLinks, and CENIC. During the 2016-2017 fire seasons, such a system provided critical information for over 350 fires, and in 2018, has assisted in more than 150 fires so far.

Statewide expansion of this proven system would offer strategic advantages for early fire detection, situational awareness for first responders, fire mapping, predictive simulations, and evacuation planning. Rapid investment in this shovel-ready system would soon save lives, property, habitat, and infrastructure across California, and the state would see an almost immediate return on its investment. Additional partners that would benefit from this effort and so might be approached for financial support are the insurance industry, technology accelerators, and local community organizations.

How It Works

ALERTWildfire uses a network of cameras to continuously capture images of high-risk California landscape, while weather sensors on many of the same towers collect data on wind, humidity, fuel moisture, and other factors. The data is passed along via GeoLinks’s fixed wireless microwave technology and then handed off to CENIC’s high-capacity, optical-fiber network that runs throughout California. WIFIRE then analyses the data to create real-time simulations, wildfire path predictions, and visualizations of wildfire behavior and provides these visuals to firefighters to inform evacuation and containment planning. Data visualization is also supported by the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology’s (Calit2) Qualcomm Institute.

For example, early fire detection by ALERTWildfire provides immediate input to burn models that incorporate weather, fuels, and topography. Such a collaboration exists between ALERTWildfire and WIFIRE (San Diego Supercomputer Center) to provide first responders with burn models almost in real time. WIFIRE was launched in October 2013 with a grant from the National Science Foundation and has been advised by representatives from CAL FIRE, US Forest Services, US Bureau of Land Management, National Institute of Standards and Technology, and Los Angeles Fire Department. WIFIRE’s “Firemap” software rapidly and accurately predicts and visualizes wildfire rates of spread. In late 2017, over 800,000 public users accessed information with the Firemap tool over 8 million times. Since grant funding ended this year, WIFIRE is operating under an annual subscription model for the fire departments of Los Angeles, Orange, and Ventura Counties.

What Is Needed Now

While these efforts have prevented significant loss of life and property during recent California wildfires, this fire monitoring network is geographically limited in its current deployment. Now is the time to expand the use of this proven system across the state while systematically integrating it with local networks. Some possible next steps:

  • Include language allowing for data, communications, and broadband strategies to support wildfire data applications in future legislation;
  • Extend towers, cameras, and fixed wireless capacity throughout the state to provide first responders with powerful, contemporary tools;
  • Where wireless towers exist on state property, work with ALERTWildfire to support the installation of cameras and other equipment to expand coverage;
  • Explore opportunities to coordinate this system with FirstNet to augment the reach of this national first-responder network.

In light of the devastating effects of wildfires on California, scaling this work to create a vast data relay mesh across the state, in partnership with first responders, utility companies, and the State, would significantly protect Californians and lead the way for other states that are also fighting fires of unprecedented scale.

This article is available in PDF format for convenient dissemination.

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GeoLinks CEO Joins FCC Broadband Committee

GeoLinks Chief Executive Skyler Ditchfield has been appointed to a working group of the Federal Communications Commission’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee.

As a member of the Disaster Response and Recovery Working Group, Ditchfield will contribute to recommending measures to improve the broadband infrastructure before disasters happen and to restore them afterwards.

Ditchfield is the only California representative and the only fixed wireless broadband provider in the working group. His Camarillo company is a mid-sized internet service provider.

He was honored and excited to be part of the working group, Ditchfield said, adding that in the past few fire seasons his staff at GeoLinks has gained experience at restoring connectivity during natural disasters.

“I am confident our working group can not only improve the resiliency of broadband infrastructure before disasters occur nationally, but also ensure that connectivity is both maintained and restored as quickly as possible,” Ditchfield said in a statement.

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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Appoints GeoLinks’ CEO Skyler Ditchfield to the BDAC Disaster Response and Recovery Working Group

The panel is tasked with developing best practices to improve broadband outage response caused by local, state, and national disasters

CAMARILLO, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–On Thursday, November 1, 2018, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman, Ajit Pai, announced GeoLinks’ CEO Skyler Ditchfield’s appointment to the FCC’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC) Disaster Response and Recovery Working Group.

As stated in the FCC’s formal news release, The Disaster Response and Recovery Working Group is tasked with recommending measures to improve the resiliency of broadband infrastructure before disasters occur, as well as actions that can be taken to more quickly restore broadband infrastructure following a disaster. The Chairman has also charged the working group with developing best practices for coordination among wireless providers, backhaul providers, and power companies during and after a disaster.

“Broadband communications have become essential to the delivery of life-saving information in a disaster,” Chairman Pai said. “It’s critical to public safety that our broadband networks are as resilient as possible to prevent outages in a disaster and also can be restored as quickly as possible when an outage occurs.”

Led by Chair Red Grasso, FirstNet State Point of Contact for the North Carolina Department of Information Technology, and Vice-Chair Jonathan Adelstein, President & Chief Executive Officer of the Wireless Infrastructure Association, Ditchfield is the only California-based representative, and the only fixed wireless broadband provider in the group.

“I am both honored and excited to be part of this working group,” said GeoLinks’ co-founder and CEO Skyler Ditchfield. “Throughout the past few fire seasons in California, my team and I have gained extensive experience in recovering from and restoring connectivity during natural disasters. During the Thomas Fire, for example, we were able to re-establish services in less than 24 hours, whereas many terrestrial providers remained down for months. From solar and wind powered towers, to backup generators, we also have significant expertise in utilizing alternative power methods, technologies that become critical during catastrophic weather events. Locally, I am actively working on a large-scale, state-wide project that will utilize a multitude of technologies, including mobile relay stations, to create true network resilience, ultimately preserving connectivity during disasters. Every region and every disaster in our country has its own subset of challenges. I am confident our Working Group can not only improve the resiliency of broadband infrastructure before disasters occur nationally, but also ensure that connectivity is both maintained and restored as quickly as possible.”

While the first formal meeting of the group has not been publicly announced, a complete list of members is available at https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DA-18-1121A1.docx.

For media inquiries or interview requests, please contact Lexie Smith at [email protected].

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About GeoLinks

Headquartered in Southern California, GeoLinks is a leading telecommunications company and competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC) public utility, nationally recognized for its innovative Internet and Digital Voice solutions. Ranked first in category on Inc. Magazine’s Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Companies in America in both 2017 and 2018, GeoLinks delivers Enterprise-Grade Internet, Digital Voice, SD-WANCloud On-ramping, Layer 2 Transport, and both Public and Private Turnkey Network Construction expertly tailored for businesses and Anchor Institutions nationwide.

GeoLinks’ accelerated success is largely due to its flagship product, ClearFiber™, which offers dedicated business-class Internet with unlimited bandwidth, true network redundancy, and guaranteed speeds reaching up to 10 Gbps. Named “Most Disruptive Technology”in the 2018 Central Coast Innovation Awards, GeoLinks’ ClearFiber™ network is backed by a carrier-grade Service Level Agreement boasting 99.999% uptime and 24/7 in-house customer support. With an average installation period of 4 to 7 days, GeoLinks is proud to offer the most resilient and scalable fixed wireless network on the market.

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