Pulse


Pulse

By GCN Staff


Philadelphia forks Analytics.USA.gov for local use

Philadelphia forks Analytics.USA.gov for local use

When the General Services Administration's 18F unveiled the Analytics.USA.gov dashboard for federal website traffic, it also posted the code on GitHub.  Now the Philadelphia city government has put that open-source project to use for its own sites with analytics.phila.gov.

In an April 20 blog post announcing the launch, City of Philadelphia Data Scientist Lauren Ancona called the new site a "first attempt to capture a 'big picture' website report card in Philadelphia, and it’s still a rough draft. There are currently almost 30 offices or agencies included in the reporting, with around 25 still to add, as well as several non-phila.gov domains."

The dashboard relies on Google analytics, and is a static website that, for the federal-government version, lives in Amazon S3 cloud storage and is served up via Amazon Cloudfront.  18F published an explanation of the project's technical underpinnings in March.

Posted on Apr 22, 2015 at 8:00 AM0 comments


Army eyes virtual training

Army eyes cloud-based virtual training

The Army is making plans for a cloud-based fully immersive training environment that aims to make soldiers’ time in the field more productive and meaningful.

"The next capability will be a leader-focused, soldier-centric capability that immerses a soldier, wherever they are at the point of training, in a synthetic environment, that allows us to tailor that environment to the demands of the leader," Col. David S. Cannon of the Combined Arms Center said. Officials expect those next-gen tools to be introduced between 2023 and 2031, Defense Systems reported.

Cannon envisions the use of 3D goggles that that will realistically and cost-effectively replicate real-life scenarios, such as assembling and disassembling weapons systems for soldiers, no matter their location.  The virtual training will be a “cloud-based, network-delivered, device-oriented capability that is borne on the mission command information network," he said.

The military as a whole has embraced virtual training tools as a means of more efficient training. The Army’s Future Holistic Training Environment-Live Synthetic, or “Live Synth” encompasses several realistic battlespace scenarios and computer modeled simulations that include training with small arms, armored vehicle and aircraft. The Office of Navy Research’s video game-based training tool Strike Group Defender allows sailors to train in a risk-free environment, offering feedback on performance in deploying electronic mechanisms to either avoid incoming missiles or offensively shoot them down.

Posted on Apr 15, 2015 at 8:27 AM0 comments


USGS: 18 million electronic maps downloaded

USGS: 18 million electronic maps downloaded

The U.S. Geological Survey, through the National Geospatial Program, announced that more than 18 million US Topo quadrangles and Historic Topographic Maps have been downloaded in the past six years from the USGS Store or The National Map Viewer.

In late 2009, the USGS began releasing electronic topographic maps, called US Topo maps. In 2012, the National Geospatial Program added high-resolution scans featuring more than 178,000 historical topographic maps of the United States, known as the Historical Topographic Map Collection (HTMC). Both of these digital products are accessible free of charge.

The HTMC database features high-resolution digital scans of legacy paper USGS maps, some as old as 1884. The most popular HTMC map is the Half Dome, Calif., quadrangle, which has been downloaded 4,257 times. The most viewed and downloaded US Topo map is the Washington West, DC, quadrangle, having been downloaded 2,785 times, according to USGS.

On average nearly 280,000 US Topo and HTMC maps are downloaded each month. That adds up to more than 9,300 downloads per day or nearly 400 every hour. The majority of downloads are downloaded to .net or .com domains, USGS said.

To further encourage public use, USGS has also posted various videos that explain how to download and manipulate the maps. 

Posted on Apr 09, 2015 at 8:21 AM0 comments


NASA gets practical with 3D printing

NASA gets practical with 3D printing

Remember the film [insert any space drama here] with the damaged space ship and the astronaut who needs a specific tool to return to Earth? Sorry Hollywood, you need a new plot.

NASA is using the 3D printing technology to manufacture tools on the job, in space. While the technology is still in the testing phase, NASA hopes 3D printing will eventually provide supplies for long-term space exploration – think Mars, asteroids, space undiscovered.  

Following the 3D printer’s installation aboard the International Space Station late last year, the crew built 21 items, including a ratchet wrench, the first tool built in space. The 3D printer used on the space station created each item by layering heated plastic filaments on top of each other using design programs supplied to the machine.

The crew sent the tools down to Earth via the SpaceX Dragon so engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama could inspect their durability, strength and structure. The examination, which began April 6, will compare each tool against an identical set made with the same printer before it left Earth. Experimentation with the printer aboard the Space Station will continue over the course of the year.

But 3D printing, also called additive manufacturing, isn’t meant for space alone and isn’t limited to plastic tools. The technology to print food and other necessities is also in the works for federal and commercial use. 

Posted on Apr 09, 2015 at 8:21 AM0 comments


Raising the bar on smartcards for physical access

Raising the bar on smartcards for physical access

Smartcards can be even smarter when organizations follow a new individualized implementation guide, says the Smart Card Alliance. The step-by-step, insert-your-needs-here publication released April 7 is meant to help companies employ more accessible and secure physical access control systems (PACS) for their specific facilities.

Written in industry-standard language, and meant to work with a variety of PACS, the information is directed to the architects, engineers, consultants and others in charge of a procuring a company’s PAC design and engineering. There is even a version that answers questions about terminology to bring all those involved onto even ground.

While this Smart Card Alliance initiative is explicitly aimed at non-government systems, it comes as both the private and public sectors alike are struggling to balance security and accessibility when deploying smartcards.   

Randy Vanderhoof, executive director of the Smart Card Alliance believes this guide can help. The specification, he said, "sets forward clearly defined and industry-validated recommendations surrounding smartcards and PACS, ensuring that the full security benefits are achieved with each implementation."

The Smart Card Alliance’s guide, however, makes clear that it is just that – a guide – putting the onus of success on those in charge of implementation. “Proper installations not only involve the specification but also include the responsibilities of the manufacturer, integrator and end user to deploy, operate and maintain the solution,” the report states in its opening pages.

Read the Guide Specification for Architects and Engineers for Smart Card-based PACS Cards and Readers for Non-government PACS.

Posted on Apr 08, 2015 at 8:21 AM0 comments