Technology was evident everywhere during the inauguration of President Barack Obama on Jan. 21.
In his Inaugural Address, President Obama stated: “We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise.” Encouraging words indeed for the high tech world.
Technology had its own highs and lows during the inauguration ceremonies in Washington, D.C. Among the highs: It could arguably be called the first Smartphone Inauguration. Sure, the gadgets have been around for years, but were not nearly as ubiquitous as they are this year. And, developers were ready with all sorts of apps that took advantage of a user’s GPS location to help them find a bathroom or a desired route.
Anticipating the surge in wireless traffic, service providers ramped up their coverage on the Mall, bringing in Cells on Wheels (COWs), satellite trucks and signal repeaters to avoid the wireless traffic congestion that jammed cellphones across D.C. during the 2009 swearing-in.
As NPR noted, this was also the first Twitter Inauguration. The social media site was certainly around in 2009, but its use was not nearly as widespread and the wireless service outages at that event rendered Twitter inaccessible. Unfortunately, things did not turn out so well for Twitter in 2013 either. According to Gigaom, Twitter experienced outages throughout the day as it got slammed with 1.1 million Inauguration-related Tweets during the ceremony (compared with 82,000 back in 2009). The problems were not fully resolved until 10 p.m. ET on the evening of January 21.
Technology snafus also slowed down human traffic pouring through D.C.’s Metro, the city’s subway system, as signal problems and troubles with SmarTrip card readers caused delays around the city. According to The Washington Post, DC Metro recorded 779,787 passenger entries on Inauguration Day.
Of course, what would any event in Washington, D.C., be without a political dustup? The website Politico raised privacy concerns about a smartphone app released by the nonpartisan Presidential Inauguration Committee. The app – which was designed to offer attendees information updates via text messaging, among other services — asked users to submit their mobile phone numbers and allow the app to access their GPS-based location information. Whether that information would subsequently be used to build promotional lists for the Democratic Party became a bone of contention. The Presidential Inauguration Committee tried to clear things up with this statement in The Washington Post:
“Contrary to some concerns, the app only collects one sort of user data: cellphone numbers that users voluntarily share and can opt out of sharing, for use in sending texts to users – such as late-breaking changes and emergency updates,” said PIC national spokeswoman Addie Whisenant in a statement to The Post. “The app has no way to collect e-mails, names or other personal information from users.”
For the most part, though, events went off without a hitch in D.C., and coverage of the ceremonies was also readily available to TV viewers and web surfers worldwide. With one exception: the unfortunate group gathered around a Jumbotron at the Washington Monument. The video and audio feeds faltered throughout the swearing-in ceremony there. Luckily, The President’s Inaugural Address is widely available for repeated viewings online.
About the Author
Susan Nunziata is Director of Editorial, Enterprise Efficiency, a UBM Tech website. Follow her on Twitter @SusanNunziata and @EnterpriseEff.