By GCN Staff

'Innovation lab' puts Air Force brain power on DOD-wide issues

This post was corrected April 21, 2014.

As difficult fiscal times have senior Defense Department officials struggling with balancing budget cuts, sequestration, furloughs and force-shaping initiatives, the Air Force Technical Applications Center is offering some creative solutions of its own. AFTAC commander Col. Chris Worley assembled a team of technicians and scientists in an innovation lab that spends 10 percent of its time finding creative solutions for Air Force problems.

One of the lab’s achievements involves experimentation with 3-D printers, which can help equip the center’s overseas detachments when machine parts break and require maintenance. The printers can help get repairs made faster and cheaper by reducing the supply chain. "By using the 3-D printer concept, we can drastically reduce the logistics chain and get the part installed in half the time and at less cost,” Worley said.

In a second success story, AFTAC's machine shop personnel teamed with fellow seismologists and computer technicians to systemize requirements for short-period seismometers. The project will allow the center to limit its dependence on outside vendors by modernizing the equipment in its own shop. 

The innovation lab has enjoyed a cost avoidance price tag in the vicinity of $1 million simply from innovating from within. Worley said he wants AFTAC link up with the Air Force Research Lab in the future to help advance mission capabilities.  

Posted on Jan 30, 2014 at 1:07 PM0 comments

PwC OK'd as certified third-party assessment organization for FedRAMP

PwC US has been accredited under the terms of the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program to act as a Third Party Assessment Organization (3PAO) for cloud providers offering secure services to federal agencies.

FedRAMP is the governmentwide program that offers a standard approach for conducting security assessments of cloud service providers who want to provide services to federal agencies.

Receiving 3PAO accreditation permits PwC to assess the security features of cloud service providers who plan to work with the federal government. Cloud service providers in turn are required to a use a FedRAMP-approved 3PAO to assess they meet the program’s requirements.

FedRAMP helps accelerate the adoption of secure cloud services and the consistent uses of secure practices, which in turn might reduce the time it takes for agencies to adopt cloud services, according to the firm.

Posted on Jan 24, 2014 at 8:13 AM0 comments

Patent search engines aim to open innovations to the world

The search for patent information is like finding a needle in a haystack — make that a million haystacks. Inventors have to scour the globe to identify evidence or “prior art” of their ideas to ensure their work is original, a real innovation, before it can be protected with a patent. Recently, two tools have been developed to help innovators speed their patent research.

Richard Jefferson, a scientist and intellectual property reformer and the Queensland University of Technology, last month officially launched, “the Lens,” an open search engine that points to patent information for inventions in 100 million documents in 90 countries. 

The Lens is an effort at “innovation cartography,” says Jefferson, which he describes as “mapping the problem-solving landscape so that anyone can navigate their way through the teachings, the minefields, the partnerships and the pitfalls present in the patent system, to fast-track real innovation on a safer and more level playing field."

The Lens already hosts several tools for analysis and exploration of the patent literature, including graphical representations of search results to advanced bioinformatics tools. In 2014 developers will be working to create forms of the Lens that can allow all annotations, commentary and sharing to be behind firewalls for those who need it, without forsaking the open and inclusive cyberinfrastructure, the organization said on its website.

In an interview with Scientific American, Jefferson, a direct descendent of U.S. patent system founder President Thomas Jefferson, says the U.S. patent system is “in dire straights,” the victim in part of companies that have “become incredibly skilled in hiding the ball in intentionally opaque patents.”

The purpose of the Lens, he says, is to “render so much clarity that we have the tools for looking at policy and figuring out how to change it.”

The launch of the Lens follows an announcement in July 2013 that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had launched its own Global Patent Search Network. Teresa Stanek Rea, the Acting Undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property said the office hoped the network would, “make patent research easier and more comprehensive by providing streamlined search capability to multiple international patent collections.”

In launching its network the PTO also announced it had worked with the Chinese government to make Chinese patent documentation searchable via the PTO website. 

Users can search documents, including published documents and granted patents, recorded from 2008 to 2011. The records are available in in English machine translations, which PTO acknowledged could sometimes generate awkward wording, but “provided an excellent way to determine the gist of the information in a foreign patent.”

In the announcement, Rea also said the PTO patent search network is the first patent project to use cloud technology, which would allow the agency to respond to the needs of the public and examiners faster.

Posted on Jan 22, 2014 at 8:56 AM0 comments

1940s motion simulator rehabbed for tech testing at sea

The Navy is repurposing a piece of training equipment from World War II and converting it into a facility for testing and simulating how radar and other tactical communication systems would operate at sea. 

The 96,000 pound “motion table” platform, rechristened the Ship Motion System (SMS), was originally used in the 1940s to simulate ship motion for training machine gun operators for action at sea.

Now the Naval Research Lab and the Office of Naval Research are mounting an effort to restore the system to test how radar, tactical electronic warfare, communications, optical sciences and remote sensing would operate with rolling and pitching on the deck of a Navy ship maneuvering at sea.

To use the SMS with today’s high precision systems, NRL will upgrade its control and monitoring systems. The foundation and two main decks will be reused. The hardware will be replaced with state-of-the-art equipment including motion control and monitoring, according to a Navy notice.

NRL engineers Richard Perlut and Chuck Hilterbrick are leading the effort to refurbish the system at the NRL Chesapeake Bay Detachment, on the shore of the Chesapeake in Calvert County, Md. 

The NRL uses the site for research in radar, electronic warfare, optical devices, materials, communications and fire research. It says the facility is ideal for the SMS project, as well as for experiments involving simulating targets of aircraft and ships. 

Posted on Jan 17, 2014 at 8:55 AM0 comments

Texas opts for General Dynamics CloudBroker services

The Texas Department of Information Resources has picked General Dynamics Information Technology as the state’s cloud services broker. General Dynamics’ CloudBroker portal is now available to all state and local agencies and public education institutions – in Texas and other states – seeking a single point of contact to procure, manage and integrate public, private and hybrid cloud services.

The company’s CloudBroker online portal has been used by large commercial clients that must balance requirements for security with the need for an agile IT environment, including global financial services and manufacturing companies, General Dynamics said in a statement. 

The brokerage platform is based on Gravitant, Inc.’s cloudMatrix platform.

The portal enables agencies to compare cloud offerings, estimate charges, govern acquisitions, manage costs and capacity across multiple cloud providers. Additionally, General Dynamics facilitates contract negotiations between agencies and cloud providers and provides government-specific workflow tools that automate purchase approval, including  cost estimation and consolidated billing.

General Dynamics helps agencies identify preferred providers and execute orders online. In addition, it has a nationwide workforce that’s available to help agencies from states, counties and municipalities use the Texas contract to provision and manage their own cloud services. 

Posted on Jan 16, 2014 at 1:38 PM0 comments