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- States and Localities Reap the Benefits of Shared Services
Over the past few years, Public CIO has written frequently about government agencies that have launched shared services offerings. But one thing these pioneering providers have in common is a need for customers — courageous partners from other jurisdictions who are willing to move a significant part of their IT operations into another organization’s data center.
We asked a handful of these IT executives why they decided to take the plunge, the lessons they have learned as shared services customers and whether they would do it all over again. Here is what they told us.
The Key is Communication
Shared Services Provider: Sarasota County, Fla.
Customer: Sarasota County Schools
As IT director of Sarasota County Schools, Joe Binswanger has a close relationship with Glenn Zimmerman, CIO of Sarasota County Government. The county has provided the school district with data center services for the past eight years. Nevertheless, Binswanger regularly evaluates county services to see if he might want to bring them back in-house or provision them some other way.
For instance, the district recently became eligible for the federal e-rate discount for its Internet service. Through an RFP, the district found a telecom provider that could offer more bandwidth at a lower cost. “The county was doing a fine job, but they couldn’t compete on price with this e-rate provider,” Binswanger said.
In such a situation, strong communication between the organizations is key to their ongoing working relationship. “Even before we thought about doing that RFP, I got together with Glenn to tell him what we were thinking about,” Binswanger said.
“In fact,” Zimmerman added, “our staff sat in on the RFP discussions with vendors to ask questions.”
“And even though we were moving away from their service, the county’s network staff and designers helped us with the transition,” Binswanger said. “We could tap their expertise.”
Likewise, the district regularly reviews the cost of data center storage services it gets from the county. “Two years ago we asked our finance department to do an independent analysis comparing our costs with the county versus outside providers,” said Binswanger. “They told us there were significant savings in going with the county versus an outside vendor. And there is no way we could ever recoup the cost of building and managing our own data center.
“But we refresh that analysis on an annual basis,” he added. “Our school board understands the concept of shared services, because we have spent the time educating them over the eight years of this arrangement.”
The need for better communications also extended to Binswanger’s own employees. “When we first tried shared services, there were people on the school board side who were nervous and thought the county was going to take everything over,” he said. “But I put in place a communication plan to explain that we are leaning on a government entity for this niche that they do well and can show value added. For instance, they do an exceptional job on security. I don’t lose a wink of sleep about information security with them handling our data.”
Get It in Writing
Daryl Delabbio has been county administrator/controller of Kent County, Mich., since 1998. In 2013, he co-authored a white paper titled A County Manager’s Guide to Shared Services in Local Government, which identifies three key preconditions of a successful shared service delivery venture: strong leadership, trust and reciprocity; clear goals; and measurable results. Among the first steps the authors recommend are creating a shared services assessment team, identifying strengths in participating governments, and starting with small pilot projects.
”One big thing I’ve learned from 36 years in local government is get it in writing, whether you’re a customer or provider in these shared services settings,” Delabbio said.
He gave an example of a troubled property tax administration software project 10 years ago involving 34 local governments. ”A $5.5 million project went south when the developer couldn’t deliver what it had promised,” he said. The smaller entities in the deal eventually pulled out, and his county was left holding the bag. ”Never enter into intergovernmental cooperative deals without a written agreement, no matter how close the relationships or how well researched the solution,” Delabbio said. ”We did months of study and held forums with all the units of government, did needs assessments and gap analyses. It took $250,000 just to do those steps.” But in the end, it wasn’t enough.
The county is considering participating in a planned shared ERP system with the state and the city of Grand Rapids. Kent County uses PeopleSoft software now but plans to migrate off of it by 2016. The goal is to create a system that could be used by any Michigan government unit. ”We have a decision to make about whether we are in or not,” Delabbio said.
But Binswanger stressed that there are aspects of his department’s responsibilities that he wouldn’t consider outsourcing. “Anything instructional-related must stay in-house,” he said. “We have challenges related to our students taking state achievement tests by computer. We would never ask the county to help with that because it is not their area of expertise.”
To deal with initial resistance to shared services, develop a clear statement of how tasks will be divided between the host and customer organizations, Zimmerman said. “Have a strong agreement of roles and expectations in place and a common plan of why you are going to benefit from it, and then revisit and tweak that agreement as often as needed.”
Binswanger often tells Zimmerman that he needs to get more for his dollar from the county than he would be from a commercial vendor. “And I do feel that way,” he says.
A Second Chance Pays Off
Shared Services Provider: California
Customer: Rohnert Park, Calif.
In 2012, David Rowley saw a demonstration of shared IT services available from California’s Office of Technology Services (OTech) at a meeting of local government IT professionals. He was intrigued by the possibilities — and for privacy and security reasons he was hesitant about moving government data to a commercial cloud solution.
“OTech has an earthquake-proof facility, and I am interested in having it eventually host my data for disaster assurance,” said Rowley, IT operations manager for the Northern California city of Rohnert Park. But there was one problem: The state had a poor reputation with local government IT folks. “People who worked with them in the past had nothing good to say about it,” Rowley said. “Their old model didn’t work. It was too bureaucratic.”
Rowley said he told the OTech team that it had some baggage to overcome. But in the end, he decided to give the state a try. Last year, Rowley made OTech, which is in the process of changing its name to Data Center Services, the city’s Internet service provider. “So far the relationship has been great,” Rowley said.
He likes the fact that OTech is a big player. “If they call [a vendor], they get a response, which is something I have had trouble with,” he said. “Plus, they are at a whole different level of security and filtering, and we get the payoff from that. I sleep well at night because of what they are doing.”
By the end of 2013, Rowley hopes to be working with OTech on data storage.
Leveraging Trusted Relationships
Shared Services Provider: Nebraska
Customer: City of Lincoln and Lancaster County, Neb.
Just over a year ago, Steve Henderson, CIO of Lincoln, Neb., and Lancaster County, had a problem. One of the largest departmental users of his mainframe services chose to stop using that service, forcing him to consider raising prices for other internal customers to make up the fixed cost of running the mainframe. “There was a hue and cry over that,” he said. Henderson, who previously worked in the state IT department and knew it well, remembered that Nebraska offered services to smaller jurisdictions.
“I realized I could be a customer for the state’s mainframe computing,” he said. Although the state was providing some shared services to locals, mainframe computing wasn’t one of them. Discussions between Henderson and the state IT office resulted in a mainframe shared services deal that saves money for the city and county.
“I’d been with the city and county for only three years after being at the state for 30, so I knew lots of people there and had a high level of comfort,” he said.
Henderson said the arrangement is working so well that he’ll likely auction his old mainframe system. He’s also started using an enterprise content management shared service from the state.
“All kinds of vertical silos build up in government organizations, and it can be difficult to reach across them,” he said. “Having worked in state government and knowing the people and processes made a huge difference in terms of comfort level.”
Easing the Staff Burden
Shared Services Provider: University of Cincinnati
Customer: Owens Community College
Owens Community College in Ohio had hosted its Blackboard learning management system in-house since 2004. But with online courses growing 30 percent each year, that task was beginning to overwhelm the school’s internal resources.
In May 2010, Owens turned to the much larger University of Cincinnati (UC), which hosts the Blackboard system for smaller institutions. Owens selected UC as its service provider after discovering the university could provide a hosted Blackboard system for substantially less money than buying the service directly from the software vendor.
The university also could allocate more staff to back-end operations than Owens could, and it agreed to conduct three Blackboard training sessions per year on the Owens campus. In addition, the outsourced environment lets Owens’ Blackboard administrator give his undivided attention to customizing scripts and improving other aspects of the operation.
“We have remained pleased with the hosting arrangement and the services that [the university] offers,” said Mark Karamol, division director for e-learning at Owens. “They have lived up to the promises made in the memorandum of understanding.” The 10 colleges and universities in the shared service arrangement with UC have a conference call every month to discuss issues.
Karamol said his business office looks over every contract and memorandum of understanding with a fine-toothed comb for potential problems with dates or service language. “They always find something I didn’t see,” he said. “But I think that because we are working with another college, they are not out to put one over on us. It is quite different from our relationships with a vendor.”
- 5 Issues to Watch in Data and Technology
Next year, public officials will much more aggressively begin weaving their technology threads into a larger tapestry as the cute and helpful become vital and mainstream. Last year, hackathons and mobile apps proliferated on a growing foundation of open data.
Next year will herald a more widespread substantive use of data and technology to significantly increase the efficiency and effectiveness of local government. But much depends upon how well government integrates data and hardware offerings. As the McKinsey Global Institute reports, the combination of opening data and applying analytics could generate more than $3 trillion annually in new businesses and products as well as increased productivity.
Hot subjects for next year will include:
1. Predictive Analytics
As public-sector databases grow more sophisticated, more policymakers will use predictive analytics to target government services, identify trends and refine operations. Falling costs of data storage, memory and higher-speed computing will make analytics more powerful and available. Chicago will launch its open source predictive analytics platform next year, which will allow other cities to more easily understand the power of prediction.
2. Breaking the Data Silos
Different departments in government build their own data sets, often with conflicting standards and formats. It has been difficult for analysts to navigate these data silos, but that will likely change in 2014 as more cities understand that powerful new tools make these previously hardened silos permeable. In New York City, many agencies providing health and human services have connected their data sets under an initiative called HHS-Connect. The recently announced collaboration between SAS and SAP, two major IT vendors, could also yield new processes that eliminate data duplication and ease reconciliation.
3. A New Class of 311
With New York and Chicago leading the way, 2014 will see the emergence of a new class of 311 offerings that move it from a call center to a community platform. The widespread use of Internet-enabled smartphones means that a telephone hotline is no longer enough; residents want to interact with their local governments through social media, mobile apps and texts. These new 311 platforms will include better apps like Citizens Connect, an approach created by the Boston Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics that allows people to submit geotagged photos of potholes and other problems and also track the city’s response.
4. The Maturing Civic Startup Sector
A new group of civic startups has created successful apps and other services from open government data, supported by programs like the Code for America Accelerator. As the total number of public data sets across the country increases exponentially, the opportunity for third-party use that makes government information more valuable to the public will grow. Data standards and open source development will allow lower-cost adoption and repurposing of other cities’ projects.
5. Demystified Data
In October, Chicago launched its Data Dictionary, a catalog that will house metadata for all of the public data sets maintained by the city. While many cities have begun opening up their data, jargon and peculiar formatting limit the user friendliness of these data sets. Data dictionaries represent one element of a public education initiative that can help push the value of open data past token transparency and toward real public value.
- 2013 Year in Review -- CIOs' Views
1. James Sills, CIO, Delaware
For me, this year was about collaboration. We put in place a lot of governance when I first came on board. A lot of people didn’t like that oversight, but it helped the state tremendously. Now I need to take it to the next level in terms of being collaborative with the agencies. So we’re doing a lot of outreach. We’ve restructured two of our teams to focus on the agency customer.
2. Carolyn Parnell, CIO, Minnesota
One of our biggest issues is building an IT organization that’s prepared to respond to whatever is coming down the pike. That has not been the case for Minnesota in the past. We recently got quite a bit of money from the legislature to upgrade our legacy systems, and we can’t do that the way it’s always been done. We have to look at new ways.
3. Darryl Ackley, CIO, New Mexico
A big issue for us is public safety broadband. We’re using that as a driver for modernizing public safety communications writ large — so land mobile radio, next-generation e-911 and the way we communicate in general. We’re also modernizing legacy ERP systems, which isn’t fancy but it’s critical. A lot of the work we’re doing is to shore up enterprise services that we provide so that we have a better platform for innovation.
4. Adel Ebeid, CIO, Philadelphia
This year has really been about open data, open government and civic technology – and all three are related. Open data allows government to expose all of its data-rich assets. It allows us to engage the local startup community to help us solve our problems. But at the same time, it breaks down the walls of mistrust between governments and citizens, so open government becomes more of a reality.
5. Bill Oates, CIO, Boston
One area we’re focused on is what we’ve always called ‘constituent engagement’ — but it’s really the customer experience. Getting better at core constituent relationship management and getting good at social media helps us day to day. It’s also important when incidents happen. We’ve had a challenging year in Boston — between storms and the events around the Boston Marathon — and we’ve had the ability to talk to citizens and listen to them when things are happening around the city.
6. Tony Encinias, CIO, Pennsylvania
Consuming IT services as a utility rather than making capital investments — that’s where we’re going. We’re looking at IT as a commodity. We’ll no longer be in the business of infrastructure or storage. We’re going to consume and pay for what we use. I think that’s going to be the trend.
7. Aaron Sandeen, CIO, Arizona
This year the legislature and the governor supported many IT initiatives. We have $67 million of additional funding appropriated for IT projects — everything from replacing our state accounting system with a new ERP, to upgrading our aging offender management system. We’re making infrastructure investments in our state data center, and there are all sorts of security initiatives across the state.
8. Sonny Bhagowalia, CIO, Hawaii
I’d say the biggest issue is mobility. I’ve been watching this thing trend upward. I’m focusing a lot on mobile and how you can actually display information, not only on smartphones but also on tablets.
9. Michael Cockrill, CIO, Washington state
The biggest trend is the consumerization of IT — and that has a bunch of ramifications. As innovation starts with consumers and moves behind the firewall, you end up with a huge amount of change in the way IT works. It used to be in the IT world that you could guide your customers. But today you’re responding to your customers.
- FirstNet Issues RFI on Mobile Apps
FirstNet released a request for information (RFI) on mobile application platforms last week, as the authority continues to develop a nationwide public safety broadband network.
The RFI seeks input from mobile technology providers that have demonstrated experience in creating and supporting public safety products. Responses are due by Jan. 17, 2014.
“Mobile apps running on the FirstNet nationwide broadband network will transform the way public safety completes its mission,” said Bill D’Agostino, general manager of FirstNet, in a statement. “We want to hear from all interested stakeholders on their creative and innovative ideas on how this platform should operate.”
Examples of specific technology FirstNet is interested in learning more about includes:
mobile device application solutions – experience in building mobile solutions at a device and platform level; app store – solutions for user-oriented mobile app stores; big data/API and cloud – real-time search, analytics and reporting, and auditing when accessing cloud-based solutions; public safety data – experience working with public safety data from agencies; data security – maintaining application, information and big data securely in terms of encrypting the data, accessing the data, providing an audit trail and reporting; application testing and certification – test suites and processes to verify applications and interfaces; publisher interfaces – experience building interfaces to agency information; and identity management – platforms that allow first responders to be identified and integrate with local identity solutions through a federated system.
This is the 12th RFI issued by FirstNet in 2013. An RFI for devices was released in May, followed by 10 others in July regarding the radio access and core network portions of the nationwide public safety communications system.
In an interview with Government Technology, TJ Kennedy, deputy general manager of FirstNet, said the authority is particularly keen on the types of responses it will get regarding the app store and identity management.
Regarding the app store, Kennedy explained that the authority believes innovation in the mobile application space is going to have a positive impact on police officers, firefighters and paramedics. But he expects a wide variety of submissions about identity management.
“There are a lot of options, but one of the keys, and you can see the way it is written, it is really focused on identity management for first responders,” Kennedy said. “So it has to … work with city, county, state, federal and different levels of public safety and have an identity management solution that would work with that.”
- 2013: The Year in Review
For fans of technology highs and lows, 2013 certainly didn’t disappoint. Remember the “Big Data President?” That’s what we and others dubbed Obama after his campaign team masterfully used data analytics to deliver a decisive second-term victory in January. Political Analyst Mark Halperin, speaking at an e.Republic event shortly after the election, called Obama’s re-election effort the most technologically sophisticated campaign ever run.
Ten months later, the president was back in the headlines with technology, and this time it wasn’t pretty. HealthCare.gov — the online health insurance marketplace at the heart of Obama’s signature health-care reform law — landed with a thud on its Oct. 1 launch. Problems with the site kept all but a relative handful of visitors from choosing a health plan. As of mid-November the administration was still struggling to fix the site’s long list of shortcomings.
But beyond those high-profile events, state and local governments made steady progress. They embraced innovation through civic technology initiatives. They grew more sophisticated in their use of social media, cloud computing and predictive analytics. They filled gaps in cybersecurity. They explored how robotics may fit into the everyday tasks of running public agencies and programs.
Here’s our take on how it all fits together.
President Barack Obama’s re-election clarifies the future of health IT, the Affordable Care Act and other key initiatives.
Social media-savvy police agencies create Pinterest pages, using the popular image sharing site to help catch crooks.
Cited as one component of Chicago's infrastructure modernization plan, the city says goodbye to its three separate internal email systems and hello to email in the cloud.
Iowa sets ambitious one-year timeline for replacing its 1970s-era human services eligibility system with new ACA-compliant technology.
The federal government extends Real ID Act compliance deadline for a fourth time as states continue to bristle at the cost of implementing the law, which was passed in 2005.
San Francisco partners with Yelp to link the city's restaurant health score data with the popular review website. New York City and Philadelphia plan similar moves.
Ninety-eight percent of Americans have access to wired or wireless broadband, says the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
Google and Microsoft throw their support behind the FCC's plan for a free nationwide Wi-Fi network — big telcos … not so much.
President Obama signs an executive order on cybersecurity that aims to improve information sharing between the public and private sectors.
California Controller John Chiang pulls the plug on $90 million statewide payroll system after a limited test run finds numerous errors. SAP, hired in February 2010, is the second contractor to be fired from the project.
Mayor Mike McGinn axes Seattle Police Department’s drone program, putting the city at the center of debate about the role of unmanned aerial technology.
Texas plans to move more than 100,000 workers to Microsoft Office 365, launching one of the largest cloud deployments in state government.
Internet pioneer Vint Cerf, speaking at a security conference, says better authentication is key to safeguarding the emerging Internet of Things.
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard launches a plan to convert all city vehicles to run on alternative fuels. The initiative, which includes police vehicles, is a first for major cities.
With the cost of cybercrime skyrocketing, some public officials take a closer look at cybersecurity insurance. But coverage will demand IT management changes.
New Palo Alto Innovation Council taps input from tech leaders in California’s Silicon Valley to make better city decisions.
A multistate criminal justice group uses open source software to develop plug-and-play solutions for functions like incident reporting.
Seven regional wireless projects will serve as test sites for the FirstNet national public safety communications network.
Los Angeles becomes the largest city in the nation to control all of its traffic lights — more than 4,300 of them — remotely.
Columbus, Ohio, is named a finalist in the Intelligent Community Forum’s global list of smartest municipalities for 2013 — the only U.S. city to make the list.
UC Berkeley researchers develop a technique for replacing passwords with “passthoughts,” unique signals from brainwaves that could be used to authenticate users.
Following the bombings at the Boston Marathon, police use Twitter to solicit video footage of the finish line from spectators to find suspects.
South Dakota DMV leads a national pilot to replace paper vehicle titles with a new electronic titling process. The nine-month test involves a few other states.
New Jersey passes “Anti-Big Brother Act” after students in Pennsylvania were secretly monitored in their homes using school-issued laptops.
Kansas City’s first “fiberhoods” — neighborhoods connected to high-speed Google fiber — begin attracting tech entrepreneurs.
San Francisco plans to launch a social network designed to help the city recover from disasters. The site aims to connect disaster victims with citizens willing to offer resources and services — from food, water and an extra generator to mechanical services and a place to stay.
The New York City Comptroller’s Office launches a revamped transparency website, known as Checkbook NYC, and shares the site’s software on the Github open source code repository.
California creates a cybersecurity taskforce to combat growing threats to information and IT systems. Officials say the state-led public/private task force is the first of its kind.
Miami Beach, Fla., announces an application programming interface (API) designed to help third-party developers create tourism-related apps. The API provides information on city amenities like parks and green spaces, as well as the proximity of hotels to popular restaurants.
Texas Department of Transportation announces an agreement to outsource its IT operations to Tokyo-based NTT Data. About 350 of the agency’s 400 IT workers are transferred to the company and guaranteed six months of employment.
Montana becomes the first state in the country to require law enforcement agencies to get a warrant before they track individuals using cellphone location data.
The Circuit Court of Alexandria, Va., accepts what it believes is the first digitally notarized property deed in the country. The process potentially eliminates the need for in-person notary services.
Pittsburgh launches Wireless Waterways, an initiative to blanket the city’s three rivers with high-speed wireless connectivity.
Oakland County, Mich., and the state of Michigan partner to create G2G Marketplace, a Web portal for sharing information, apps and services.
Louisville, Ky., Metro Government launches a plan to use data analytics to improve its criminal justice system. The project's first phase includes using analytics to design more effective pre-trial intervention programs.
Eleven Idaho schools are selected for a $3 million technology pilot to test the teaching effectiveness of new technology. Among other things, the test pits Samsung’s Chromebook against Apple iPads and Lenovo ThinkPads for classroom supremacy.
Nonprofit Gangplank produces apps for Chandler, Ariz., one of a growing number of cities engaging civic coders to acquire software and promote growth of local tech startups.
FirstNet releases 10 RFIs covering radio access and core network technology. The move marks the first step toward defining technologies that will be used to build the nationwide communications network for first responders.
The public sector gets more comfortable in the cloud. Orlando, Fla., Minneapolis and King County, Wash., are moving beyond cloud-based email, shifting core business applications to the cloud for the cost savings and ease of upgrades.
Emergency managers grow more sophisticated in their use of social media, realizing that emergencies are rarely contained within city limits. For instance, Morris County, N.J.’s MCUrgent is a social media notification system that issues alerts through a central, countywide platform. Douglas County, Neb., and the city of Omaha begin a joint deployment of Google Apps for Government for email and calendaring services. The city and county already share a central IT department.
Newly appointed Maryland CIO Isabel FitzGerald plans to continue consolidation and modernization efforts, while outgoing CIO Elliot Schlanger becomes the state’s first director of cybersecurity.
Las Cruces, N.M., IT staff are caught off guard when the city website goes dark. An overly aggressive spam filter is to blame, preventing city staff from getting notices that their domain license agreement was coming due.
Controversy erupts over a tech tax in Massachusetts that would funnel money toward state infrastructure projects. Gov. Deval Patrick eventually withdraws his support after the technology sector convinces him the tax would tarnish the state’s innovative image.
Michigan and Illinois join forces in what they believe is a first-of-its-kind Medicaid Management Information System partnership, eyeing millions in savings in implementation and maintenance costs.
A revamped open data portal from New York City launches with the promise that all city data will be open by 2018.
Twitter joins the emergency notification game with its own alert system to deliver timely updates from major players in emergency response, like the Red Cross, FEMA and the CDC.
Reversing its earlier policy, the California Public Utilities Commission approves rules to let ridesharing companies operate legally in the state.
For the first time in 17 years, the federal government shuts down. The closure cripples many federal websites, closes national parks and furloughs thousands of employees.
Despite the government shutdown, state and federal health insurance exchanges launch on Oct. 1. While traffic volumes overwhelm many state portals at the start, most glitches are ironed out quickly. But problems with the federal HealthCare.gov site persist well beyond the launch.
The $1.5 billion National Security Agency data center in Bluffdale, Utah, misses its launch date, due to a series of explosions blamed on power surges at the facility.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder launches an all-volunteer Michigan Cyber Corps of technologists who would be called into action in the event of an incident.
White House CTO Todd Park testifies before the U.S. House of Representatives about efforts to fix HealthCare.gov, which continues to be riddled with problems more than a month after its debut.
The Los Angeles Board of Education moves ahead with a plan to provide iPads to students despite complaints that high schools should be provided laptops instead of tablets.
Coming to an agency near you: Robots!
How do you measure how much innovation took place during a year? What qualifies as emerging technology? 2013 has certainly seen its share of new gizmos: Google Glass, the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch, the iPhone 5s (OK, that’s really not new or innovative but, hey, gold case!) and a new generation of video game consoles. In the pages of this magazine, much ink has been spilt to tell the stories of emerging technology with the potential to truly impact lives.
Robotics is one technology that’s generated speculation for decades. In many ways 2013 could be considered the “year of the robot.”
Palo Alto, Calif., CIO Jonathan Reichental sees the potential of robots in government. In the future, he expects robotics to start replacing person-to-person interactions for services rendered in city halls and state agencies.
“The sense of a robot going around doing a task — we’ll see some of that, but I think we’ll see it be less overt,” Reichental said. “The mechanics and intelligence will be built into everyday tasks.”
A different sort of robot, but a robot nonetheless, matured greatly in 2013 — the 3-D printer. Although 3-D printing is still new and no one yet knows the technology’s full potential, that hasn’t stopped people from imagining.
Rob White, chief innovation officer for Davis, Calif., told us “If 3-D printing were a stock, I would absolutely buy, and in fact, I would try to figure out how I could become an early investor.”
From clothing and food supplements to human organs, 3-D printers could someday localize the manufacture of almost everything — which won’t just change how local and state governments do business, but also alter how everyone gets the things they need and want.
“We’re only just now touching on what it can do,” White said. “The reality is that I don’t think most of us know where it will really go.”
The ultimate robot, presently at least, is the unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV. The UAV field got a boost this year when the University of Nevada, Reno, and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas announced that they may begin offering education in drone technology, much like the University of North Dakota (UND) has done since 2009, becoming the first major university to do so.
Ben Trapnell is an associate professor at the UND’s Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences. He said education in drone technology will be vital to the burgeoning commercial/civil drone market. “It just seemed logical to bridge the gap between the engineer and operator to develop the leaders of an emerging civil UAV industry.”
Perhaps 2013 brought cyborgs closer to reality as well. Google Glass was showcased at the annual Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials conference in Anaheim, Calif., with demonstrations illustrating how the device could serve real-time information, hands-free, to public safety officials using their interoperability communications platform. In another demonstration, a company illustrated how Google Glass and its network could allow video or a map to be shared during a mock school shooting — modern-day Robocops.
Year of the robot or not, was 2013 a banner year of innovation and emerging technology? As Government Technology contributing writer Adam Stone put it, “Innovation isn’t necessarily a dramatic change. Rather, it’s something transformative. It may be a new way of thinking, a new way of managing processes or a new use for technology that no one had foreseen.”
If you accept that definition, then 2013 had innovation in spades. — Chad Vander Veen
The future will be focused
“CAPTURED!!! The hunt is over. The search is done. The terror is over. And justice has won. Suspect in custody.” With that tweet, the Boston Police Department announced news that the nation was anxiously waiting for, while at the same time further solidifying Twitter — and social media in general — as a vital communications platform. The importance of using social media to interact with residents has been drilled into public officials’ minds. This year saw governments move to specialized and in some cases, sophisticated uses of the networking platforms.
No longer viewed solely as an outbound tool for messages, governments are joining social media conversations to aid situational awareness during emergencies and get feedback on everyday services. The American Red Cross’ digital operations center, for example, displays a running stream of social media mentions based on keywords of interest.
“Every morning during a disaster, we produce a report that is distributed widely, with graphs and data points, so everybody is on the same page as to what the affected public is saying,” Wendy Harman, social strategy director for the American Red Cross, said earlier this year. “We know what people are going through, we know where there are pockets of need and we know what to watch out for during the course of a day of responding.”
And for everyday uses, agencies can search for mentions of their departments to collect unsolicited, and potentially brutally honest, feedback from citizens. They aren’t the only source for public opinion, but comments made on social media sites can help capture feedback from individuals who haven’t been engaged by standard communication methods.
Outside of situational awareness, social media has moved toward specialized platforms that focus on taking two-way communication to the next level within specific communities. It’s been said that 28 percent of Americans don’t know any of their neighbors by name, and while it may seem counterintuitive to go online instead of swinging by the house next door to say hello, social media is helping reduce that percentage. Platforms like Nextdoor connect neighbors (as well as local elected officials and police officers) based on their location and are simultaneously restoring and changing the idea of community. Neighborland helps citizens and public officials connect on ideas and community plans. And Voterheads adds an online engagement function — and ideally increased participation — to local meetings by alerting citizens when their city, county or school board is discussing a topic that they’re interested in.
Activities like these have been underway for some time, but 2013 saw them gaining traction among governments and residents alike. The future of social media may lie in these platforms — instead of turning to one social network for all outreach, specialized forums will create new levels of engagement among focused groups. This could make it easier for governments to connect with key audiences on specific topics.
“We have incredibly low voter turnout in this country, incredibly low participation in our democracy,” Ruthbea Yesner Clarke, research director of IDC Government Insights’ Smart Cities Strategies program, told Government Technology in early 2013. “If you can use this to increase engagement, then maybe you can increase public interest in their local governments. Confidence then goes up because there is a fuller understanding of the initiatives that might be happening in your city, and expectations may change because people have a far better understanding of how things are working.” — Elaine Pittman
Making progress from the ground up
It’s easy to paint a grim picture of cyberthreats in today’s tense digital world.
GovLoop claimed in April that the number of federal cyberincidents had risen to 48,562 in 2012 from 5,503 in 2006, an increase of nearly 800 percent. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said in September that cyberattacks on state systems had increased to about 500,000 a day. The most recent Verizon 2013 Data Breach Investigations Report stated that attacks on government are on the rise, including those aimed at stealing intellectual property and trade secrets.
Such events have prompted public officials to warn of cyberattacks that could shut down critical services like food, power and water supplies. Former homeland security Secretary Janet Napolitano told the National Press Club in August that America is bound to suffer a cyberattack that harms the economy and disrupts daily life, echoing defense secretary Leon Panetta’s 2012 warning of a “cyber Pearl Harbor” where online exploits cripple public utilities, trains and chemical factories.
Despite the dire predictions, federal lawmakers have struggled for a national response. Late last year Congress failed to pass the Cyber Security Act of 2012, which would have created cybersecurity standards for the companies that run critical infrastructure like the power grid, gas pipelines, and water and transportation systems. In the absence of legislation, President Obama signed an executive order on cybersecurity in February, arguably the strongest government action on the issue recently, if not the most attention-getting. It calls for public-private collaboration and data sharing to improve organizational intelligence. The measure, while vague on details, was seen by observers as a step in the right direction.
State governments launched their own collaborative efforts this year. And those efforts may force cybersecurity progress that reaches Washington from the ground up.
Initiatives in California and Michigan could serve as examples to other states. California leaders met with private-sector partners in May to discuss comprehensive cybersecurity planning and launch the California Cybersecurity Task Force, a statewide collaboration that’s ripe for emulation.
California CIO Carlos Ramos told Government Technology that the state would aggressively pursue the implementation of its cybersecurity plan. “California really is out in front of other states,” he said. “We’ve seen a number of areas, particularly in technology, where governments tend to follow our lead.”
In the fall, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder announced that he would tap community expertise to strengthen his state’s cybersecurity posture, launching the Cyber Civilian Corps, a volunteer IT force that would help the state respond to cyberincidents.
Snyder also joined Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley to unveil a cyberthreat dashboard developed by the National Governors Association (NGA) to help states monitor their cybersecurity readiness. Snyder and O’Malley, who co-chair the NGA’s Resource Center for State Cybersecurity, also released guidelines for other governors who want to improve their states’ defensibility.
These are promising starts that could lead to a more inclusive cybersecurity strategy for the nation. But broader federal legislation needed to form a clear picture of national cybersecurity will wait for 2014, or beyond. — Hilton Collins
Hosted Platforms and Apps
Cloud computing — now it's personal!
This year, organizations of all kinds continued to move to the cloud in droves in search of cheaper and better software, storage and infrastructure.
But really, that’s yesterday’s news.
Here’s a fresher idea: You can make a good case that in 2013 the biggest driver of cloud computing was the explosive rise of mobile computing. Yes, it’s about our phones and personal devices again.
New York state announced plans to move its 120,000 employees to Office 365, while more than 100,000 state workers in Texas also headed for Microsoft’s cloud. Colorado added an extra layer of Web middleware to improve security on the state’s cloud Gmail system. More governments considered moving ERP, CRM, 311 and other core business applications into the cloud too.
What do all those forays into the cloud have in common? They’re preparing for a future where data and applications are available to both the public-sector workforce and the public at-large anytime and anywhere on personal devices. The CIOs we spoke to in 2013, whether about New York state’s email migration or any number of other projects in states and localities, usually mentioned that the cloud would help their organizations continue to adapt to the increasingly mobile-centric world.
Numbers tell the same tale. CDW’s 2013 State of the Cloud Report found that 34 percent of state and local government respondents said that employees’ use of cloud apps and mobile devices hastened their organization’s move into the cloud. Also, 57 percent of the IT professionals surveyed said their personal use of the cloud influenced their enterprise recommendations when considering cloud adoption.
So the cloud isn’t just about catering to personal devices. It’s becoming deeply personal to all of us and deeply wired into how we work and live.
In 2013, Wyoming CIO Flint Waters spoke to Government Technology about how the cloud is benefiting his state. He mentioned the hard-dollar savings and the flexibility to reassign staff outside the data center. Those are the “wins” we have come to know all too well.
But then Waters took the discussion in a surprising direction. He said the state’s use of Google cloud technology is responsible for starting a “significant cultural shift in how we capture creative thought.” That’s high praise. The cloud, he said, is allowing state workers to collaborate with one another in real time and even the governor is accessing documents on a tablet when traveling. Waters said he’s bullish on the cloud’s potential to improve productivity for individual workers at their desk and on the go.
Yes, cost savings are nice. But the next frontier could be fusing mobility and the cloud together so that it’s easy to use and seamless for the individual. Again, the cloud is getting personal. — Matt Williams
Moving from descriptive to predictive
State and local governments didn’t crack the code on big data in 2013, but they took steps in the right direction.
In October, police in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., launched an effort to mash together traditional criminal justice data and information from other city departments to gain new insights on criminal activity. New analysis tools will let the city police department comb through traffic and transportation information, building permits and social media activity in addition to standard law enforcement databases. Correlating these diverse data sets could help police anticipate where crimes will occur and put cops in the right places to stop them.
Earlier in the year, Denver’s water department began analyzing machine data produced by its IT systems to spot failure trends in real time and react more quickly to user demands. The data — normally a jumble of text and code — is displayed in graphical user dashboards that allow IT leaders to make proactive decisions. The next step, according to Denver Water, is to marry the machine data with business transaction data to gain better understanding of the utility’s overall operation.
And Dubuque, Iowa, is improving city bus routes with information gleaned from a smartphone app carried by an army of 1,000 volunteers. The app tracks riders as they move throughout the transit system, and that data is being crunched by city planners to design more efficient routes. Ultimately the city may use individual travel data to give citizens personalized tips and alerts — for instance, notifying motorists when their typical travel routes are snarled by an accident.
These developments show the public sector’s increasing sophistication around using data as a decision-making tool. They also point toward the growing importance of state and local CIOs as the stewards of a jurisdiction’s information assets.
“We need to start understanding data and data sources better, and creating the capabilities within our organizations to handle this,” said Boston CIO Bill Oates. “Because what we’re seeing today is the tip of the iceberg.”
Although governments made progress this year, they continued to struggle with applying security and privacy regulations in a big data setting. Furthermore, inconsistent standards and questions around ownership of information hampered governments’ ability to mix and analyze large amounts of disparate data.
But mounting popularity of open data initiatives may be breaking down information silos and building more expertise in using data effectively. “The open data movement has really helped us identify ‘dark data’ that are difficult to extract from legacy systems or from departmental stewards who are reluctant to give up control,” said Oates in an October interview. “We’ve also had to think about the quality and currency of that data.”
There were other signs of progress too.
Maryland is building data platforms in key policy areas that promote and facilitate data sharing. For instance, its health information exchange links together all 47 acute care hospitals in the state, allowing those facilities to share patient admission, transfer and discharge data. “So if you show up at Mercy Medical Center one day and at Johns Hopkins a week later, Johns Hopkins knows your history of interactions,” said Maryland Chief Innovation Officer Michael Powell in a June interview. “Can we start sharing diagnosis data through that system? Absolutely. Can we start integrated cost data, so we understand that better? We can do that too.”
And in Philadelphia, CIO Adel Ebeid is looking to marry open data with GIS to more deeply understand community issues. “Data really can’t answer the ‘why;’ it can answer the ‘what’ and the ‘when,’” Ebeid said. “But when you start layering GIS technology on top of that data, you can begin to put it in a different context.”
As cities, counties and states build competency around data quality, standards and governance, they’re taking steps toward achieving the real value of big data — the ability to predict the impact of policy decisions, demographic trends, disasters and other events. Getting there will be both a key challenge and a great opportunity for government IT organizations in 2014 and beyond. — Steve Towns
- Los Angeles Fiber Connectivity Plan Mystifies Critics
Los Angeles will release an RFP early next year seeking a vendor to build a free, fiber-based broadband network for all residents and businesses. But while the concept of citywide, high-speed connectivity is attractive, experts believe the plan isn’t realistic.
Harold Feld, senior vice president of Public Knowledge, a technology-focused consumer advocacy group, told Ars Technica that his reaction to the news was wondering when Los Angeles would issue another RFP “for a unicorn supplier,” because he felt what L.A. was asking for in regard to broadband was impossible to achieve.
Los Angeles estimates a vendor would have to invest approximately $3 billion to $5 billion to create the network. While the company would have to provide free service at the slowest connection speeds to everyone, it could generate revenue by charging for premium services. The city may also look to be an anchor tenant on the network.
Steve Reneker, general manager of the Los Angeles Information Technology Agency, said he’s heard the criticism and is taking it into account as the RFP is being drafted. But the skepticism isn’t going to change much about what the city is looking for.
“I think the ask that we have is unrealistic from the standpoint we do not expect that all the terms and conditions that are being specified in the RFP will be able to be met,” Reneker said, referring to what the city is requesting. “So we’re looking at whatever provider out there that exists that wants to enter this market, or perhaps it’s already here. Whichever satisfies the majority of those [conditions] will be awarded the contract.”
Christopher Mitchell, director of the Telecommunications as Commons Initiative with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, and a national expert on community broadband issues, is one of the Los Angeles plan’s early skeptics. He’s concerned that Los Angeles’ idea harkens back to Minneapolis’ municipal Wi-Fi build a few years ago. Minneapolis wanted a vendor to come in and operate the network. But it didn’t pan out the way city leaders envisioned.
The Minneapolis Wi-Fi project was completed, but only after several political and technical delays. According to Mitchell, the city now has to set aside $1 million per year over the next five years to keep the network afloat, even though it isn’t highly used.
Mitchell argues that Los Angeles should not depend on a vendor to lay fiber. Instead, it should invest in fiber and conduit itself, installing it during new construction and retrofitting of buildings and communities. This way the groundwork is laid and the city will have more options in the future. He added that Chattanooga, Tenn., and to a smaller extent, Seattle, have taken similar approaches and found success.
“They’re not giving anything up and they’re continuing to expand assets so they will have a voice in their future,” Mitchell said of Chattanooga and Seattle. “I don’t see L.A. doing that at all.”
Reneker confirmed that L.A. has no plans to own any part of the network. The city wants to leverage those broadband providers that have already made major investments in the area, or open up the doors to someone else that is willing to go to the extent it is asking for.
Mitchell said that while he has respect for the work Reneker did as CIO of Riverside, Calif., he disagrees with L.A.’s approach to broadband expansion. He warned that any city that is not immediately figuring out ways of getting fiber or conduit in the ground that it has some control over is doing a disservice to its residents.
In addition, with large telecommunications providers having a history of “cherry picking” areas to serve and the financial resources to fight lower-priced competition, the road to full broadband connectivity could be a long one in Los Angeles.
Reneker acknowledged the perceptions of private providers and some of the historical difficulties. He said those factors will be evaluated as the RFP is drafted.
“If you don’t ask and you don’t go out to RFP, you’re not going to know at the end of the day if someone is going to be willing to bid it or not,” Reneker said. “I think what’s really interesting is the amount of foreign interest in this project. I’m very encouraged about the potential that exists.”
- Political Contributions Hang Over Seattle Gigabit Efforts
Outgoing Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn championed a public-private partnership between the city, the University of Washington and Gigabit Squared earlier this year that will bring cheaper high-speed Internet service to 12 neighborhoods in 2014. But with incoming mayor — and current state senator — Ed Murray’s campaign being financed in part by cable giant Comcast, time will tell if that project retains the support of Seattle’s political leaders.
While Murray has publicly countered criticism that he’s Comcast’s puppet, he has otherwise remained silent on broadband issues. Yet the donations to his campaign beg the question whether Comcast’s contributions were an isolated occurrence, or part of a larger strategy to influence local elections when there is support for lower-priced competition in the future?
Like big oil, telecommunications companies have a history of lobbying and donating to the campaigns of state and federal lawmakers. But diving headfirst into local political races with fistfuls of cash could be the next wave of attacks on communities wanting to create their own broadband networks or support smaller high-speed connectivity providers.
Christopher Mitchell, director of the Telecommunications as Commons Initiative with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a national expert on community broadband issues, thinks it’s clearly a strategic move by big cable to drill deeper into local politics. He believes the Seattle mayoral election was the start of a larger trend, primarily because cable companies are becoming more powerful through consolidation.
For example, Bloomberg reported that Charter Communications and Comcast are considering a joint offer to buy Time Warner Cable. Combining companies in this manner will undoubtedly provide more resources that could be used to influence decision-makers at all levels of government.
“I think that’s going to be the driver,” Mitchell said regarding big cable acquisitions. “I think we are going to see more [campaign funding] attempts, but at the same time, I’ve got to think they are going to be trickier about it. Because they really don’t want a Washington Post story about how they are trying to influence an election.”
Mitchell refers to an Oct. 31 story that analyzed the various political contributions Comcast made to Murray’s campaign in Seattle. According to the report, the Broadband Communications Association of Washington PAC — which received 94 percent of its 2013 contributions from Comcast — donated $5,000 to the group People for Ed Murray. Comcast also sent $5,000 to the PAC called Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy, a group that donated $54,500 to People for Ed Murray.
Comcast issued a statement to The Post denying that its donations had anything to do with Mayor McGinn’s activities. It was silent on which activities the company was referring to. Murray declared his support for Gigabit Squared following The Washington Post article.
Emails sent to representatives of both McGinn and Murray for further comment on the issue were not immediately returned. Matt Weinland, a spokesman for Gigabit Squared, said no one in the company was available this week to speak to Government Technology about the topic.
Mitchell added that because of the media attention that Comcast’s involvement in the Seattle mayoral race has received, Murray will have to be much more publicly supportive and ambitious about the Gigabit Squared partnership than he may have intended.
“Any time he does anything that appears to be good for Comcast and then bad for consumers, I think people are going to bring up that Washington Post story,” Mitchell said. “So to some extent … he’s going to have a different kind of pressure on him than he would have had, just because of how public it was that he got so much money from Comcast."
- 25 Tech Ideas for Improving Your Community
It could be said that community improvement has always started with community. It’s an idea -- close to a campaign slogan and with a touch of idealism -- that holds true for Ideation Nation, a national competition to promote community engagement through civic technology projects.
The five-week competition — sponsored by citizen tech organizations Code for America and MindMixer — announced its top 25 project ideas this month. A panel of judges with expertise in civic projects, technology and engagement efforts chose the ideas from a field of 356 submissions. The top 25 ideas include IT-based answers to city challenges ranging from recycling and zoning to street lighting and volunteerism (see the entire list below).
“A big part of this (competition) is breaking down the perception that government doesn't listen or that communities don't listen to the individual,” said Nick Bowden, CEO of MindMixer, a community engagement platform company based in Omaha, Neb.
The contest is designed to give exposure to individuals who want to improve their communites in significant ways, Bowden said. The winner, who will be announced Dec. 3, recieves $5,000 to develop their idea, along with a MindMixer website and expert mentorship.
Bowden said contest submissions were highly creative and came from across the nation. “What was cool to see is that we had representation from about 350 ZIP codes,” Bowden said.
One of those ZIP codes belongs to Baltimore resident Elizabeth Jones, who submitted three ideas: a bike pool app, a bike sharing app and a notification system for businesses to transfer unused food to homeless shelters.
Jones, an avid cyclist who belongs to a local club called “The Crank Maidens,” said bikers struggle to schedule rides with each other for recreation, for the morning commute, for companionship or for just simple motivation. Her solution turned into a pitch for a Bike Pool App, a mobile phone app that would allow cyclists to form bike-pool groups based on a specific city or town and with mobile access to routes, and meet-up and drop-off locations.
“There really isn't a single tool that incorporates all of those things.” Jones said. “It’s really complicated to try to get a group of us together.”
Baltimore’s urban environment can be intimidating to cyclists who aren't familiar with navigating the city on two wheels, she added. Pairing experienced riders with the aspiring is another way the app offers value.
“So far everybody has been saying that ‘the idea is so cool,’ or ‘I wish something happens like this,’” Jones said of the initial feedback.
Another notable submission comes from Derek Homann, a finalist from Omaha who proposed a mobile ticket payment system for police citations. Homann said the idea came to him after a he’d been cited for making an illegal U-turn.
“I had this traffic violation on my counter for a few weeks. And sure enough the deadline came and I remembered it the day it was due. I basically paid it at the last minute,” Homann said.
His solution would equip police officers with mobile credit card readers that attach to a smartphone, similar to the devices commonly used by small businesses. “It’s a win-win situation for government, in terms of collecting money more rapidly, and potentially for the violator who could get it over and done with more quickly,” Homann said.
He noted that the solution would be an optional service — as not all cited drivers accept alleged violations — and cities would need to have citation databases that could process the instant citations and payments.
Homann, Jones and the rest of the finalists will be judged by participant and community feedback to determine who will be crowned the winning idea. Top 25 Ideas 1. Allow police officers to accept mobile payments for violations
2. Recycling tracker and educator for the city
3. Mapping software for efficient yard waste collection
4. Volunteer exchange
5. Zoning iPhone app
6. Gift card remainder charity website
7. Electricity monitoring device rentals
8. Integrated discovery website for camping, hiking, outdoor recreation
9. Use the Internet to create a more direct democracy at all levels
10. Lodge a complaint, get connected on civic issues
11. Creativity Crowd
12. Gaming volunteerism and rewarding impact creation
13. Location-based app for public recycling
14. Creating an online community map of underutilized spaces
15. Install on-demand street lighting
16. Create a bike share app like AirBnB
17. Renaissance CSA
18. Create a resource center to share collaborative projects
19. A citizen’s board of developers
20. My place: Our World, a civic engagement app
21. App for food transfer
22. Create a social networking platform for volunteers and NPOs
23. Communitywide sharing application
24. Common permit application
25. Bike-pool app 2013 Judges 1. Jeff Friedman, co-director of the Philadelphia Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics
2. Stephen Goldsmith, former deputy mayor of New York City 3. Mitch Silver, immediate past president of the American Planning Association (APA) and chief planning & development officer of Raleigh, N.C. 4. Sly James, mayor of Kansas City, Mo. 5. Marci Harris, CEO of PopVox 6. Abhi Nemani, co-executive director of Code for America
- San Diego Central Library Goes with Passive Optical
Residents of San Diego got a new library on Sept. 30. The silver, nine-story complex provides access to more than 300 computers, free Wi-Fi, more than 1 million books, 3-D printers and iPad kiosks that provide access to rare and previously unreleased books and records. The latticed metal dome atop the San Diego Central Library tells passersby that the building is a modern one, and that claim is supported in many ways by the technology inside. In addition to the aforementioned devices and services, the building is also equipped with a passive fiber network to provide high-speed Internet access while using less power.
“We want a library of the future that is flexible, built for now and built for the future,” said Deborah Barrow, San Diego library director. “One of the early technology decisions we made was Optical LAN, a future-proof backbone to allow the library to expand as future changes occur. In a public building, the flexibility, the cost and the energy savings all need to be considered, and that’s what we’ve done here.”
As the needs and wants of people change, government adapts its services, and public libraries like San Diego's are a reflection of that. But maintaining a large network with many connected devices and a BYOD policy can be costly and difficult to manage in traditional settings, said John Hoover, senior product manager at Tellabs, the company that provided the library’s network infrastructure.
Hoover said that even though the library is three times larger than the facility it’s replacing, and serving three times as many people, the crew that manages the technology infrastructure has not needed to grow. He emphasized the value of a passive optical network (PON) over both active optical networks and copper-based networks for PON’s ability to reduce operating and capital costs, while also being easy to manage.
Initial cost analyses show that the city will save 80 percent on operational costs, thanks to reduced power consumption granted by passive networking, Hoover said, while capital expenditures will be reduced between 50 and 70 percent. “They can do that because of less moving parts, less electronics, and then it’s managed centrally from an open management system where you do things at a desktop computer,” he said. “So they don’t have the technicians running around, going in all those workgroup switches or all the distribution, aggregation equipment.”
The library’s network closets are either empty or full of brooms and cleaning equipment now, since there’s less equipment needed in a passive optical network. The server room consists of just a single shelf with the equipment that drives the network, rather than the usual racks of networking equipment.
While there are arguments for using passive or active networks, depending on the application, Hoover said large public facilities like libraries or even hospitals, which are known for consuming great amounts of power, passive networks help significantly cut power consumption.
“Fiber’s lighter, smaller, it costs less and it’s virtually future proof and you can do a terabit over it today with the right equipment,” Hoover said.
The library’s network delivers speeds higher than 1 Gbps, according to Tellabs. The facility has an automated materials handling system to speed up the check-in, sorting and distribution process, and self-check-out kiosks. The library has indoor Google Maps capabilities to help patrons navigate the facility’s nine floors, while electronic signs direct people to library events.
While copper-based networks are limited in their service area to hundreds of meters, Hoover said, optical networks have a reach of 30 kilometers, which means the new library network can also serve other libraries in the city.
- Dreamforce Conference: Products and Protests
Gray skies and scattered rainfall weren’t enough to discourage the thousands of attendees at Salesforce’s Dreamforce conference in San Francisco this week.
The event, that goes from Nov. 18-21, promotes the cloud computing company’s latest innovations in customer relationship management and sales tech. As with years past, 2013 boasts a high profile speaker list that includes Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Laurent Lamothe, the prime minister of Haiti, detailing how IT can support developing countries, especially as they recover from natural disasters.
Here’s a look at a few of the highlights from Dreamforce day two:
EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED
An opening keynote by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff promoted the company’s new multi-functional customer platform, Salesforce1, that consolidates a variety of applications in one place. He also spoke about the company’s developing AppExchange for the private and public sectors.
Benioff also talked about the "Internet of everything,” referring to a vision of a future where nearly every facility, product and tool is connected. He forecasted a future that would incorporate Internet connectivity into things like electric toothbrushes — which he conveniently pulled from his pocket as an example — to other household appliances to nearly every other facet of everyday life.
The CEO also offered a few hard numbers in his presentation, suggesting that the company’s first $1 billion quarter may be just the beginning. Benioff expects the company to have earnings greater than $5 billion next year.
HOW CAN IT HELP HAITI? Haiti’s Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe took the stage alongside Benioff, and at a special session where he identified how IT philanthropy has played a vital role in improving his nation’s data infrastructure. The two most significant contributions IT companies can give the Haitian people, according to Lamothe, are employment opportunities to help alleviate poverty and continued IT contributions to support the country’s data infrastructure.
According to its website, Salesforce raised nearly $800,000 for relief agencies in Haiti following the devastating 2010 earthquake, including the Red Cross and World Vision. The company has also donated free licenses for its products to organizations headquartered in Haiti.
PROTESTS AGAINST YAHOO CEO A short but newsworthy protest broke out during Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s interview with Benioff. A handful of protestors gathered with raised picket signs and chants, related to Mayer’s role on the board of directors of Walmart. Security escorted the protestors out of the Moscone Center, while Benioff quipped to Mayer, “You appear to have brought your fan club.”
Mayer kept to the interview, which focused on her drive to embrace the mobile app movement at Yahoo and her passion for team-building, two practices she believes are helping the company make a comeback.