In an effort to keep up with its Silicon Valley constituents, the city of Palo Alto, Calif., has released a set of open geospatial datasets, available for making maps and apps ranging from planning to public safety.
The city's Open GIS datasets are the first of hundreds of data layers the city plans to make available, which entail millions of point and line features marking the city's spatial footprint as well as information on ownership, census tract and size.
The datasets are being made available via Google Fusion Tables, a cloud-based service that integrates datasets and visualizes them via pie and bar charts, scatterplots and timelines. Developers can also use Fusion application programming interfaces to extend the uses of the databases.
The city initially will make available datasets related to location, road centerlines, land use, tree data, public projects and trench plates and add more data in the coming weeks.
Palo Alto chief information officer Jonathan Reichental said the OpenGIS project represented a "stepping up to our responsibility as the heart of Silicon Valley" and being a model for innovative government.
"Experimenting with the power of Google Fusion Tables provides us with a free platform to try new ways to extend the data back to those it belongs: our community," he said.
The GIS data sets will be added to the city's existing repository of open datasets that are available for public use, including OpenBudget, an interactive database of its fiscal 2012-2013 municipal budget and comprehensive financial reports from 2009 onward.
Using the service, visitors can see financial budget timelines covering city salaries and benefits, contract services, facilities and equipment purchase and other municipal accounts.
Palo Alto's open data projects represent a movement by cities across the country to develop applications to mine public datasets as well as to combine and share datasets.
Data.gov, the federal open data repository, has created a shared data portal featuring datasets from the so-called G7, seven big cities that are collaborating on common IT and program challenges. The G7 cities are Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Seattle.
Posted on Apr 24, 2013 at 9:39 AM0 comments
Agencies' online activities have evolved steadily over the years from static to interactive Web pages and onward to a presence on social media. But social media is becoming more than just a little something extra. In some cases, it’s becoming the primary way agencies interact with their constituents.
The Air Force Medical Service, for instance, has found that Facebook is the most efficient way to reach the more than 1 million service members and families it serves.
AFMS, with 75 medical facilities around the world, had determined that its websites weren’t getting enough information to patients, according to an account of the project in the Partnership for Public Services’ #ConnectedGov report. People with medical questions had to go to a clinic and get the answers in person.
So in 2011, a communications task force began helping each of its facilities launch Facebook pages, using the AFMS Surgeon General’s page as the primary source of common content and answers to frequently asked questions. The task force didn’t mandate Facebook, but it caught on: Today, 86 percent of the service’s facilities use Facebook to communicate with patients, according to the report.
Twenty of the facilities also now are set up to respond to texted or e-mailed questions from patients through a secure messaging system, which saves time and money for both doctors and patients.
The medical facilities have expanded into specific areas, the report says, for instance creating Facebook pages for a diabetes support group, suicide prevention and asthma. When one facility announced flu shots on Facebook, a record number of people came in.
The move into social media is an example of agencies going where the people are. The Postal Service, for instance, lets people track their packages on Facebook. The Environmental Protection Agency and USA.gov are among the agencies active on Facebook. And many agencies, including NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, offer steady Twitter feeds of news, features and photos.
As the Partnership for Public Service’s report on AFMS notes, social media is not only a way for agencies to broaden reach, it’s become a necessity — because the people are there already. One AFMS facility, worried that a Facebook page would draw a lot of negative comments, discovered that a disappointed patient had already created one for the facility. Creating its own, legitimate page allowed the center to respond to criticism while offering offer help for patients.
Posted on Apr 22, 2013 at 9:39 AM0 comments
It's an axiom of research that a database is only as good as the search tool being used to explore it. The Energy Department’s Office of Scientific and Technical Information, therefore, has taken a step toward better databases in releasing SciTech Connect, a reference tool that helps users browse DOE's core reference collections using semantic search techniques.
Semantic search is the Holy Grail of computer-assisted research, intended to improve the quality of search results. Instead of using ranking algorithms as in a Google search, semantic search considers the context of a query, including word variation and natural language questions, to provide more relevant search results.
In unveiling the tool, OSTI director Walter Warnick said SciTEch also achieves the agency's goal of re-circulating research findings between DOE and the scientific community.
"With SciTech Connect," he said, "we are [making] DOE R&D results easier to retrieve and thereby [able to] better serve our dual core mission – getting DOE results out to the scientific community and beyond, and getting the community’s results into DOE.”
The SciTech tool contains full text documents of two earlier DOE scientific reference resources, the Information Bridge and the agency's Energy Citations database. Together, the new reference system comprises 65 years of energy-related scientific citations, DOE said, including 2.5 million citations and 1.4 million journal articles.
SciTech Connect will eventually replace the Information Bridge and Energy Citations databases in a transition period that should be completed by July.
DOE said SciTEch uses a semantic search approach called keyword-to-concept mapping. When a keyword-based query is made, the system maps the query to other associated terms, to produce a taxonomy of narrow and related concepts.
The technique enables the search engine to "make use of the logical relations among concepts in different scientific documents, regardless of whether those documents use standard [terms] to express those concepts," DOE said.
It is an "especially effective search approach when a person is truly is researching a topic rather than trying to navigate to a particular destination.
SciTech Connect has a other features, including in-document search; word clouds; and tools for personalization, allowing users to save searches, define alerts and create and manage document libraries.
Posted on Apr 19, 2013 at 9:39 AM1 comments
The Defense Cyber Crime Center (DC3) annual Digital Forensics Challenge is in full swing, with a new entry-level exercises and 10 percent bonus points offered to submissions received before July 1. The annual challenge is a free, online, international competition for individuals, teams and institutions tackling a series of progressively difficult forensic exercises.
So far, 819 teams have registered and submitted almost 1,400 exercise solutions. Teams hail from 46 states and 43 countries, according to the DC3 Challenge website. The DC3 Digital Forensics Challenge gives would-be digital forensic examiners an opportunity to test and expand their ability by completing increasingly difficult challenges, with the hardest challenges worth the most points.
This year’s challenge features 26 new individual exercises across five levels of difficulty:
- Novice: Exercises with solutions that are well-known to experienced examiners and cover topics such as file signatures, suspicious software and hashing metadata.
- Advanced: These solvable exercises have a varying degree of difficulty and include areas such as data hiding, file headers, passwords and registries.
- Expert: Exercises that may or may not have a solution in disciplines like encryption and parsing.
- Master: Exercises that have no known solution and involve communication recovery/parsing, information concealment in files.
- Developer: These exercises require development of digital forensic tools based on the defined requirements.
Besides running the annual challenge, DC3 provides digital forensics and multimedia lab services as well as training, research, development, testing and evaluation support for cyber counterintelligence and counterterrorism, criminal investigations, intrusion forensics and information operations for the Defense Department, according to the website.
Government-sponsored challenges are becoming increasingly popular, not just as engagement and recruiting tools but as a way to advance technology through widespread participation. In 2012 several agencies ran contests. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency offered $40,000 in a challenge using QR codes to understand how social media can help in disaster recovery and the State Department’s TAG challenge tested social media’s capacity to uncover and rapidly spread information. NASA held the International Space Apps Challenge, an effort find innovative solutions to problems both in space and on Earth. And the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in May launched an online competition to quickly and inexpensively develop a new module to help manage Medicaid programs.
Registration information for the Digital Forensics Challenge is on the DC3 website. Solutions are due by Oct. 31; winners will be announced Dec. 2.
Posted on Apr 17, 2013 at 9:39 AM0 comments
New York City police are piloting a somewhat novel use of Android smart phones, using them on the beat the same way they would use the laptop PCs in their cruisers.
NYPD has distributed about 400 Androids to officers as part of a program that started in 2012, the New York Times reports. Police with phones is nothing new, of course, but these phones can’t make or receive calls. Instead, they’re used to access databases of information on everything from criminal records, existing warrants, registered gun owners and motor vehicle records.
The Times, for example, went to a 14-story apartment building in a housing project with officers who were able to call up thousands of records related to residents in the building. Police told the Times that the Android apps gives them more complete information, and does it more quickly, than they get from radioing to a dispatcher, or even from the laptops in patrol cars, which can have spotty Internet connections.
New York is among the cities testing a variety of innovative technologies to help lower crimes rate. NYPD has developed what it calls the Dashboard, which pulls in data and imagery from about 3,000 surveillance cameras and other sensors, and combines them with data on 911 calls, arrests and other records to give police a clear operational picture. In early 2012, the city also was testing a long-range scanner technology that could “frisk” people on the street for concealed weapons.
On other fronts, police in the Bay Area around San Francisco have been testing phones that actually make calls, but with a software system that gives military-grade security to their communications. And during last year’s Republican National Convention, police in Tampa and St. Petersburg, Fla., tested a first-of-its-kind LTE cellular network dedicated to law enforcement as part of security operations.
Posted on Apr 15, 2013 at 9:39 AM4 comments