Pulse


Pulse

By GCN Staff


BlackBerry to invest in government-focused security innovation center

BlackBerry said it will invest in opening a “security innovation center” in the Washington, D.C., area to serve as “a hub for collaboration with key government customers and other expert partners.” 

BlackBerry interim chief executive officer John Chen made the announcement during a talk at the Consumer Electronics Show Government Conference being held in Las Vegas.

Chen said the firm was “committed to working with government and industry experts to solve some of the biggest challenges we face in securing mobile communication.”

The center will be “focused on creating lasting partnerships that will encourage ongoing dialogue aimed at making better products and policy," said Chen, who joined the struggling smartphone maker in November 2013.

“Additional details will be revealed in the coming weeks,” the company said.

BlackBerry used the CES show to also announce it would return to its roots in building keyboard-based phones after experimenting with introducing the BlackBerry 10 touchscreen model last year.

“I personally love the keyboards,” Chen told Bloomberg Television at CES.

Posted on Jan 07, 2014 at 11:09 AM0 comments


COBOL just keeps hanging on

Many of the federal government’s older mission-critical systems still run on COBOL, a programming language developed in 1959.

Despite the growing prevalence of modern programming languages such as C++, .NET and Java, the Common Business-Oriented Language is still responsible for more than 70 percent of the world’s business transactions, according to a report in FCW.

But unlike cloud and mobile computing, big data and social media, COBOL has developed a reputation as outdated and “uncool,” said Micro Focus’s Ed Airey, speaking at a recent COBOL Developer Day.

As a result, only about one-quarter of colleges across the country are teaching COBOL in their curriculums, and only 20 percent of those schools require that programming graduates take it.

The coming shortage of COBOL programmers will affect the government’s legacy IT systems and core databases, which suck up approximately 70 percent of the government’s $82 billion IT budget, leaving only 30 percent to spend on innovative technologies.

As agencies look to modernize their IT systems, they must decide whether to replace their COBOL code or repurpose it. This can be an expensive and difficult endeavor — the Defense Department has struggled with it for 15 years.  For those reasons, it is likely that systems running COBOL — at least on the back end — are likely to be a mainstay for many more years to come.

Posted on Jan 06, 2014 at 10:26 AM0 comments


National Guard training center to host open-source UAV research

Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center will host a multi-agency research program designed to drive innovation and reduce costs of government unmanned vehicle technology.

The Open Source Unmanned Remote and Autonomous Vehicle Systems (OS-URAVS) program is a collaborative, public-private program to be based at Camp Shelby and administered in conjunction with the Army, Navy, Air Force, Department of Homeland Security, Defense Acquisition University and private-sector organizations, including the Open Source Software Institute (OSSI).

John Weathersby, executive director of OSSI, said the OS-URAVS program seeks to identify common open-source technologies and practices used within various agencies’ unmanned vehicle programs.

“The goal is to identify and document specific technical, economic and administrative benefits provided by open technology solutions and to share this information with government unmanned vehicle programs, commercial suppliers and open-source development communities,” he said.

As one of the nation's largest military mobilization bases, Camp Shelby maintains exclusive access to nearly 100 square miles of restricted air space and currently operates training and testing facilities for a variety of government agencies and defense contractors. The post is home to the Unmanned Aerial Systems Flight Center.

“The unfettered infrastructure is why we are exploring ways open-source software can be more readily integrated into the development and maintenance of our unmanned systems,” said Col. William “Brad” Smith, commander at the sprawling Mississippi National Guard installation located just south of Hattiesburg, Miss.

OSSI developed the OS-URAVS program as part of the Department of Homeland Security, Science and Technology Directorate's Homeland Open Security Technology (HOST) program. The DHS HOST program was launched in 2007 to identify open-source software solutions that support national cybersecurity objectives. The initial phase of the OS-URAVS program is scheduled to last one year.

Posted on Jan 06, 2014 at 10:33 AM3 comments


Karen Jackson named Va. secretary of technology

Virginia’s Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe announced last week he had chosen Karen Jackson to serve as secretary of technology. 

Jackson currently serves as deputy secretary of technology for the Commonwealth of Virginia, a post which she has held since 2009. She has advised the current governor on technology matters including modeling and simulation, telecommunications, telework and unmanned aerial systems. She has also been responsible for policy and legislative initiatives and has developed programs to facilitate technology innovation, collaboration, development and adoption.

Jackson serves as vice president of CIT Broadband, an initiative by Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology that offers a “holistic” supply and demand approach to “accelerate the socio-economic growth of Virginia’s rural and underserved areas through the application and use of broadband telecommunications,”  according to CIT.  Additionally, Jackson serves as the Virginia lead for the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership with New Jersey. 

Posted on Dec 16, 2013 at 9:36 AM0 comments


DARPA pushes high-res maps to troops' smartphones

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is arming troops with high-resolution digital maps that can be customized and delivered to smartphones and tablets. 

DARPA's Transformative Apps program provides digital imagery to dismounted troops through secured Android devices, but it also aims to build a library of secure military apps that are as simple to access and use as their commercial counterparts, according to a report in FCW.

Initially soldiers wanted high-resolution maps on a handheld device. However, other requirements emerged, such as heat mapping, a feature crucial to establishing improvised explosive device patterns and routing patrols around them. The capabilities troops need on the ground today continue to evolve, and the goal of DARPA's program is to be able to quickly meet those needs and get solutions into soldiers' hands. 

Read more on DARPA's Transformative Apps program at FCW. 

Posted on Dec 10, 2013 at 8:16 AM0 comments