June marks the beginning of what is expected to be an active U.S. hurricane season, coming up just as the weather research community is switching out some of its most sophisticated storm tracking tech.
Yet some of its most recent technology changes have been more reactive than planned. Just last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite 13 failed for the second time in two years, forcing the weather agency into triage mode.
Imaging technology aboard GOES-13, NOAA’s main weather eye in the sky of the eastern United States went out, according to reports that said NOAA engineers were working on repairing the GOES-13 imager with software updates.
The GOES system has four satellites — numbers 12 through 15 — in orbit to support U.S. forecasting, storm tracking and weather research.
GOES 13 was temporarily backed up by NOAA’s GOES-15, which covers the western United States, but GOES-15 was a less than stellar understudy, according to the website Satellite Today, sending back images that were distorted.
So NOAA went to work activating GOES-14 to assist covering the eastern part of the country. GOES-14 had been switched on in September 2012 after a GOES-13 was hit with a similar problem.
As of May 28, NOAA was reporting that that GOES-14 is providing GOES-East coverage. Otherwise, GOES-13 will “remain in storage mode while the anomaly is being investigated ... there is no estimate on return to operations at this time,” NOAA said.
Alex Sosnowski, a senior meteorologist with AccuWeather.com, wrote in his blog that if NOAA, “fails to repair GOES-13, there is an important concern of what could happen if GOES-14 were to fail.”
“The options would be very limited, possibly extending to foreign satellite coverage,” he wrote.
With seasonal weather patterns under the watchful if not fully operational watch of NOAA’s satellite systems, the agency also plans to activate new supercomputing technology capable of improving forecasting by 10 percent or more, according to a report in Network World. The new supercomputer will run an upgraded Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting (HWRF) model that will help researchers better forecast the scale of a storm by examining the hurricane’s structure.
NOAA also plans to add Doppler radar to its Hurricane Hunter aircraft. Doppler will help meteorologists see the rain bands within a storm system and put that data into their weather models, improving the ability to forecast storms’ track and intensity, according to the EarthSky website.
Posted on May 29, 2013 at 9:39 AM0 comments
As part of the White House’s statement of progress on the Digital Government Strategy, two innovations were announced by Data.gov, the federal government’s portal for federal datasets.
The first is a list of developer resources that includes links to all federal agency APIs and agency developer hubs. These APIs make government data freely available in machine-readable formats so that innovators and entrepreneurs can turn them into insights, products and businesses. The list of developer hubs links to pages that describe and document the agency’s digital government toolkit of APIs, software development kits, code repositories and open-source resources.
The second is the launch of Data.gov’s data catalog on an open-source data management system called CKAN, which will make it easier for Data.gov to federate with other federal agency catalogs as well as with those of states, cities and counties, according to the CKAN website. The new catalog offers improved search, better sorting and tagging of datasets, enhanced geospatial functionality and improved metadata.
CKAN was developed by the non-profit Open Knowledge Foundation and powers more than 40 data portals for local, national and international governments.
Data.gov plans to make its CKAN/Drupal set-up reusable for others on Github as part of the Open Government Platform.
Posted on May 24, 2013 at 9:39 AM0 comments
The Defense Information Systems Agency will re-open to competition a sole-source contract it just awarded for big data storage after potential competitors emerged to pursue the advanced cloud services contract.
DISA said in a May 20 notice that it would cancel the $45 million non-competitive contract it made in April to Alliance Technology Group, a small disadvantaged business based in Hanover, Md.
The contract called for developing a large data object (LDOS) cloud service capable of storing the torrent of imagery files generated by Defense intelligence sensors and systems.
In justifying the original award, DISA had said it needed the LDOS technology because it lacked capacity in its own data centers to build it and did not have the funding to purchase the hardware to do the job.
The contract for a secure intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR) storage cloud called for systems capable of handling an exabyte, or 1 million terabytes, of data, some of it generated by drones and other advanced data-taking technologies.
DISA wanted the cloud to be capable of storing full-motion video, including data from the Air Force’s Gorgon Stare surveillance sensor system.
In canceling the contract, DISA said the response period following the award to ATG, “provided an opportunity for industry to respond to the requirement,” and that “based upon capability statements and responses received, DISA plans to pursue competitive means through the National Security Agency Acquisition Resource Center to satisfy the requirement.”
Posted on May 23, 2013 at 9:39 AM0 comments
Using telemedicine to reduce costs and improve treatment outcomes for remote patients has been in the works since the early 1990s, and it has lately gained traction with public-sector agencies. The Veterans Affairs Department tested a system in 2011, and the Army tested a 4G battlefield system last year.
Employing telemedicine in correctional facilities also has obvious benefits, giving states and local jurisdictions the ability to get health consultation and treatment to inmates without the cost of securely transporting them to medical facilities. Adoption so far has been slow, but as state budgets tighten, prisons become ever more crowded and the inmate population ages, that is changing. Combined with the increasing maturity in mobile, health IT, videoconferencing and communication technologies, more states are launching or outsourcing telemedicine programs.
In June, the Colorado Department of Corrections and the Denver Health Medical Center will launch a pilot program using high-definition video conferencing for inmates who need consultations in rheumatology, infectious disease, orthopedics and general surgery, according to an article in Government Technology. Because both Denver Health and the Colorado Department of Corrections have modern video conferencing systems, the article said, there are no up-front costs associated with the program for either party, which has been cited as a barrier to entry for smaller hospitals and prisons.
In Wyoming, where almost everywhere is remote, teleheath services for prison inmates help address challenges of distance and distribution of doctors. According to HealthcareITnews, the Wyoming department of Prison Health Services has been able to dramatically increase the range of clinical services, including mental health and specialist services. In 2011, approximately 2,000 physician visits were conducted via remote connection.
Likewise, the Department of Corrections in Louisiana is on the verge of signing a contract to provide 17,000 annual checkups to thousands of inmates, increasing telemedicine by nearly 600 percent, a report on WBRZ stated.
Mental health services to prisoners also can be delivered via face-to-face consultations over mobile devices. Wind Currents, one of the providers of these systems, estimates a state can save $30,000 to $40,000 a month with its system, which includes a hosted Voice over IP platform, video software and special videophones, according to the Mobiledia website.
Posted on May 21, 2013 at 9:39 AM0 comments
Equinix has added an eighth data center to its sprawling campus in Ashburn, Va., that serves as a key hub for IP traffic on the East Coast.
The center, called DC11, provides colocation, International Business Exchange (IBX) and IT infrastructure services to government agencies and technology companies in the national capital region.
The Equinix campus was built north of a former UUNet facility that was a key hub in MAE-East, the Internet’s first major interconnection point, according to an article on Data Center Knowledge. The company’s first data center opened in Ashburn in 1998, “providing a ‘carrier-neutral’ facility where companies could gain access to Internet backbones operated by UUNet and AT&T,” the article stated.
Since then, the Ashburn campus has become known as the IP hub of the mid-Atlantic seaboard, said Equinix’s Jim Farmer, director of Americas marketing in the company's blog. It is the largest IP traffic hub in North America and the gateway to Europe, he added.
The new DC11 has space for 1,200 cabinets, with capacity for an additional 1,800 cabinets. Phase 1 offers 42,800 square feet of customer floor space, but the facility will provide 232,000 gross square feet in total, with additional capacity being built out in phases, the company said.
Equinix treats its eight buildings on the Ashburn campus as one virtual building, with fiber connectivity between each, according to Equinix regional operating chief for the Americas Raouf Abdel, as reported by Data Center Dynamics.
In support of its government customers, Equinix offers the following features:
- Connection to more than 900 network carriers, including all of the GSA Networx and WITS providers.
- Interconnection to more than 300 cloud providers and more than 500 managed IT service providers.
- Certification and accreditation support for federal compliance standards and security controls such as FISMA, DIACAP, NIST800-53.
- Secure data center facilities featuring secure cage spaces, 24x7x365 on-site security guards, multiple levels of biometric readers, CCTV, access control lists, motion detectors and comprehensive procedures for screening inbound deliveries.
- Back-up services through a comprehensive global service-level agreement that includes 99.999 percent power availability, 99.99 percent temperature and humidity availability, and 99.99 percent cross-connect availability guarantees.
DC11 also meets Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative mandates for efficiency, as well as industry compliance frameworks such as HIPAA and PCI, according to Data Center Knowledge.
Posted on May 14, 2013 at 9:39 AM0 comments