New Tech

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad Monday went to a John Deere dealership in Perry to sign a bill to facilitate more broadband in Iowa.     

It’s dubbed the Connect Acre Bill, and Branstad says agriculture is just one business that will benefit from more high-speed internet access.   

The bill includes property tax breaks for communications companies to build out broadband to underserved areas, but not the five million dollars in grants the governor asked for. 

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Alec Whitters was in his last year of dental school when he dropped out and decided to make a change.  

“Both my parents are doctors. I was in my seventh year of college, and I decided to drop out and go after this idea,” he says. “Everybody thought I was nuts.”

His decision turned out to be a worthwhile gamble. Whitters is a co-founder and CEO of Higher Learning Technologies, a test preparation company that’s trying to make it easier for students to study for big exams.

Durrie Bouscaren / Iowa Public Radio

Google, Facebook and Microsoft have all made large investments to build large data center facilities in the state of Iowa. All three have also received multi-million dollar tax exemptions, rebates, and grants to entice them to come. In Part One of Iowa Public Radio’s data center series, we talked about why our state appeals to these Silicon Valley titans. Today, reporter Durrie Bouscaren visits Council Bluffs to ask, what’s in it for our state? 

Data centers store digital information off site from a company’s headquarters.  In the past couple years tech giants Google, Facebook and Microsoft have all announced plans for new facilities in Iowa.  

John Rath blogs for Data Center Knowledge and works as a facilities manager for OneNeck IT Solutions in Cedar Falls. He cites one advantage to building in Iowa is a low incidence natural disasters.

epSos .de / flickr

Decades ago, researchers dreamed about cars that could park themselves and avoid accidents. And now, it’s no longer science fiction.

Today on River to River, a look at the latest transportation-related news. We look at modern advances to our transportation systems, including self-driving cars, an update on the controversy surrounding traffic cameras in Iowa, the effects of cannabis on a driver, the hazards of all-terrain vehicles, and efforts by the Iowa DNR to crack down on drinking while driving on the water.

Ben Kieffer

The spring planting season is upon us and farmers are racing to get crops in the ground.

So yesterday morning, host Ben Kieffer hopped aboard a tractor with Jim Sladek, of JCS Family Farms in Johnson County, to get his perspective on the start of a new season and the challenges he faces, including soil erosion. Jim also demonstrated the amazing amount of technology that can be used in farming today.

Courtesy of Brian and Lesley Triplett

Our area is home to a host of unique and innovative entrepreneurs.

City of West Des Moines

It's official: Microsoft is behind the 1.2-million square-foot data center coming to West Des Moines. 

Officials announced Friday that Microsoft will build a four-phase, regional data center costing a total of $1,126,218,400. Formerly known as Project Alluvion, the 154-acre site will house servers and computer equipment to operate web portal services like the Cloud and XBox Live. Completion is expected in early 2021.

Ben Stanton/Iowa Public Radio

The brain on this helmet is designed with the idea of protecting your brain from a concussion. Built into it is what amounts to a small computer.  It was designed and programmed by an Iowa student.  

Different LEDs light up depending on how hard the helmet is getting jostled. This project is one of many that students might get involved in through The Big Ideas Group, which is an optional education program through the Cedar Rapids School District.

Peter Merholz

Today, kids average six hours of screen time a day.  According to a new study published in JAMA Pediatrics, children whose parents limit screen time get more sleep, do better in school, have fewer behavior problems and lower their risk of obesity.  Doug Gentile, associate professor of psychology at Iowa State University, discusses the reverse results on the studies. 

Kirk Cheyney

Fab Labs, started in 2007 by MIT, aim to democratize access to tools and technology. In May, The S.T.E.A.M. Room Fab Lab, will open on the eastside of Iowa City.  S.T.E.A.M Room Director of Operations Kirk Cheyeny says visitors will have access, "To any tool you need to build anything that you want."

Bill Read

The internet has changed how we find information, get news, connect with friends, and for many people it also has changed the experience with faith and religion.  Guests include Elizabeth Drescher from Santa Clara University, L. Edward Philips from Emory University, and author, editor, and lecturer Phyllis Tickle.

Iowa’s rural electric cooperatives are aggressively pursuing a new technology for measuring  electricity consumption  at homes and farms.    With so-called  smart meters , the REC’s  can tell how much power you’ve used without going anywhere near your house.   Health and privacy concerns have led some rural residents to look to the legislature for help.  

Fredler Brave

Technology, culture and economics writer Nicholas Carr’s most recent book "The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains" was a 2011 Pulitzer Prize nominee. He speaks with host Ben Kieffer about why he doesn't have a smartphone and how the internet is changing our society.

U.S. State Department

Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell has made a career out of crafting compromise. First in the U.S. Senate, then later brokering peace in Northern Ireland, and finally tackling peace in the Middle East.  Host Ben Kieffer talks with Mitchell about Syria and Iran. He’ll also share his views on what is driving the hyper-partisan atmosphere in Washington.

Jaroslav A. Polák

For our weekly news buzz program, we get a review of the pending U.S. farm bill that is moving through Congress, how businesses are dealing with the Affordable Care Act, modern humans have a surprising amount of genes that come from Neanderthals, an important piece of art is returning to Iowa, a new  smartphone app designed in Iowa with which users can hear and see how to pronounce certain foreign language sounds, and we hear from a couple mayors of towns on this year’s RAGBRAI route. 

Mike Hiatt

Story County's county attorney decided that the use of deadly force in this week's shooting of a chase suspect was justified.  Nevertheless, the chase resulted in the death of a young man and raises many questions.

Host Ben Kieffer discusses the facts of the deadly high-speed chase in Ames with IPR's Joyce Russell.  Also, ISU and Ames Laboratory engineers have recently developed real-time, 3-D conferencing technology.

David Plowden

For more than 50 years photographer David Plowden has been capturing images of American and the land he loves most is here in the Midwest. Host Charity Nebbe talks with Plowden about his latest book "Heartland: The Plains and the Prairie." 

Also, Dennis Chamberlin of Iowa State University's Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication discusses how the field of photojournalism is changing.  

infocux Technologies

We are living at a time when a simple Tweet or online posting can make you a celebrity overnight. Or, change your life for the worse, as when a University of Iowa teaching assistant accidentally emailed her students her own nude photos, instead of a classroom assignment.

This is also a time when private companies like Google and Facebook know more about a U.S. citizen than their own government. Today on River To River - a discussion of privacy-related news. We touch on everything from Google Glass to the international response to NSA surveillance methods.

Ben Stanton/Iowa Public Radio

Join host Ben Kieffer to examine the technical issues surrounding the rollout of the Affordable Care Act and answer questions about the law itself, including its requirements and the process of enrolling in the health insurance exchanges online.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Iowa's cultural and economic shift away from the family farm created serious problems for the state.  It has also created opportunities for reinvention and creativity.

Bob Elbert

This River to River includes discussion about gun laws in Iowa, high pollen counts and allergies, an Iowan who was appointed to the National Council on the Humanities, ISU has a new very fast computer, hot weather, a holiday weekend State Park preview, and Des Moines and Cedar Rapids are supposedly good places for frugal living.

Phil Roeder / Flickr

Does drinking coffee prevent dementia? Will diet soda give you cancer?  Science and health reporting is often misleading and confusing.

Jon S / NS Newsflash

Join host Ben Kieffer for this edition of River to River that quickly moves through a variety of news stories of note: implications of an Iowa Supreme Court decision, a possible new Department of Transportation app to prevent texting-and-driving, a tapeworm diet, Iowa college football, and more.

Twaalfdozijn / flickr

Technology has made it possible for many of us to work from anywhere, but technology has also made it seem necessary for some of us to work all the time and everywhere. The proliferation of laptops over the last twenty years sparked the telecommuting revolution and gave us the catchphrase flex time.

Durrie Bouscaren / Iowa Public Radio

It has been five years since the floods of 2008. Now, a week after another round of flooding in Eastern Iowa, IPR’s Durrie Bouscaren looks at how many Iowans are adapting to changing times.

More than a thousand runners participated in “Run the Flood,” an annual race through Cedar Rapids to commemorate the anniversary of a flood that would change the landscape of many Iowa cities and towns. Carmen Covington says she participates every year.

“It was shocking,” Covington said. “It was sad to see everything I had known my entire life to be destroyed under so much water,”

Flickr / Muhammad Ghouri

Nothing beats good old fashioned hard work when it comes to your yard and garden, but new technology can lend a hand.

Brian Mennecke, associate professor of information systems at Iowa State

Facial recognition technology is increasing becoming a part of life, but how is this technology being used and how much is too much?  Brian Mennecke will explain the ways digital advertisements can "read" your face and discuss other commercial uses for facial recognition technology.  Later Gary Wells joins the program to discuss his recently developed proc


This week, the social networking site Facebook announced plans to build a $1.5 billion data center in Altoona, IA.  On the same day, Google announced a $400 million expansion to its data facility in Council Bluffs. Iowa has a growing tech industry.  What makes Iowa an attractive place for companies like Google and Facebook?  Also, hear about our homegrown technology companies like INVOLTA.

Taptu / flickr

When smartphones were introduced, not many people knew how to navigate a mobile app…but several years later, we go through each day using multiple apps, often several at once. Today on River to River, Ben Kieffer checks in with app developers across the state, to find out how Iowans are using applications on their devices, and what apps we can expect in the near future.