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30. Bob Mathews and Gary Chow

Senior radio frequency engineers, AT&T

30. Bob Mathews and Gary Chow

The Connectivity Wizards

Large groups mean lots of cell phones, which can overwhelm cellular data networks. These two AT&T engineers came up with a fix that’s thrilled festival- and sports-goers. “We thought, What if we subdivide the area into smaller pieces so we are processing in parallel?” says Gary Chow. What that meant here was installing a five-beam antenna where there was once a single antenna, splitting the area into five manageable zones. This method can also be especially useful during times of emergency, like the Boston attack, where most networks fail due to high capacity. The array debuted at the Coachella festival in 2011 and increased peak capacity from 1 gigabyte per hour to 22. This year, they debuted an 18-beam antenna. Now everyone at Coachella can tweet instead of watching the bands.

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[Image courtesy of AT&T]

About the author

Ben Paynter is a senior writer at Fast Company covering social impact, the future of philanthropy, and innovative food companies. His work has appeared in Wired, Bloomberg Businessweek, and the New York Times, among other places.

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