Pulse


Pulse

By GCN Staff


DARPA challenges teams to predict virus spread

The latest software challenge from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency asks teams to work at epidemic speed to accurately forecast the spread of the Chikungunya virus (CHIKV).

The mosquito-borne virus – which causes a debilitating illness – is now expanding through the Western Hemisphere. Governments and health organizations could anticipate steps to limit its spread if they had accurate forecasts of where and when it would appear, DARPA said in its announcement of the challenge.

Modeling the future spread of infectious diseases is extremely challenging, DARPA said. Current models tend to be based on historic data. Although there are numerous sources of potentially useful data that could be incorporated into a forecast, it is difficult to predict which will be most informative, as different types of data may be more or less predictive under different conditions and regions, the research agency said.

“The science of forecasting is a work in progress. It’s akin to trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle with some of the pieces missing and a vague sketch of what the finished image should look like,” said Col. Matthew Hepburn, the DARPA program manager for the CHIKV Challenge.  “Identifying and acquiring the right data points and figuring out how to link them requires interdisciplinary coordination.”

In fact, one goal of DARPA’s challenge is to inspire the creation of teams drawn from multiple disciplines, including not only specialists in public health and infectious disease, but also experts in mathematics, meteorology, entomology, computer science and bioinformatics, among other fields. 

“The CHIKV Challenge is exciting on many levels,” Hepburn said. “For one, Chikungunya is already here in the Americas, so teams are going to have to work at the speed of an epidemic to build their models. But equally exciting, we believe this effort could lead to the creation of tools that work even faster than the speed of an epidemic, giving us the opportunity to act effectively before an infectious disease actually arrives and spreads.”

A robust and scalable forecasting tool could find uses in a variety of sectors, including emergency response and humanitarian assistance, in addition to public health.

Full details, rules, and registration instructions for the Challenge are available at: http://www.innocentive.com/DARPAChikvChallenge.  

Posted on Aug 18, 2014 at 12:23 PM0 comments


Satellite Internet coming to small public sector offices in Texas

Publicly funded organizations, including councils of government and school districts, will soon be able to get satellite Internet access under a contract modification awarded to Hughes Network Systems by the Texas Department of Information Resources.

Under the contract, the state will expand services it offers under the Texas Agency Network Next Generation (Tex-AN NG)  contract to include satellite Internet for small office/home offices and re-deployable Fixed Satellite Services (FSS) for larger organizations.

Since awarding the contract in 2011, Hughes has provided more than 600 public sector organizations bandwidth for satellite Internet access off its HX satellite platform, according to the company.

“Over the last three years, the Tex-AN NG vehicle has enabled Texas agencies and local governments – many in areas ‘unserved’ by terrestrial broadband – to access high-speed satellite Internet,” said Tony Bardo, assistant vice president for government solutions at Hughes.

Under the contract, SOHO users will be able to purchase tokens to extend bandwidth or data allowance. For FSS, redeployable services will include vehicle-mounted and fly-away antenna systems and support.

Both sets of users will also have the option to receive technical support including site surveys, very small aperture terminal installation, antenna reinstallation and relocation assistance.

Bardo said Hughes is “excited to see how Tex-AN NG will continue to evolve over the next two years and how our new service offerings will foster the evolution.”

Posted on Aug 15, 2014 at 9:44 AM0 comments


Texas towns consolidate 911 services, boost response times

Four Texas communities are consolidating their 911 services to form the North Texas Emergency Communications Center (NTECC), a partnership expected to reduce costs and improve service in all four communities.

The infrastructure and 911-dispatch center for Carrollton, Coppell, Farmers Branch and Addison, Texas, will be hosted at the CyrusOne Carrollton data center. The 12,000 square-foot space will include call center workstations, meeting rooms, a technology space, and reliable electrical and mechanical systems. The project, which is expected to be complete by early 2015,  marks the first time a dispatch center has chosen a colocation provider for its datacenter and dispatch needs, CyrusOne said in its announcement.

“Consolidation will allow us to combine our resources, save costs, and serve our communities more efficiently. The closest unit available will now be able to respond to the scene of a crime or accident, no matter the jurisdiction, saving precious time. We won’t have instances where someone needing assistance would have to wait for a unit in their jurisdiction that could actually be further away because they sit right on a city line,” said Gary Greer, NTECC board president.

“CyrusOne offers us a facility that would have taken us years to build,” Greer added, with its optimal power, resiliency, disaster recovery and security.

CyrusOne's 670,000-square-foot data center in Dallas/Carrollton is the largest facility of its kind in the state and one of the most energy efficient in the United States, the company said. Part of the Texas Internet exchange, the facility has 24/7 security, is carrier neutral, and can provide up to 60 megawatts of power.

Posted on Aug 13, 2014 at 9:44 AM0 comments


National lab shops for wearable gear for first responders

In an effort to enhance safety and performance of first responders in fast moving, complex emergency environments, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is undertaking a multiyear project to create wearable communication systems for emergency responders.

According to a recent announcement on FedBizOpps, PNNL is looking for a partner with knowledge of the integration of communications systems typically used by the emergency management and first responder community, including 4G LTE cellular technology for public safety communications, Federal Land Mobile Radio Systems (LMR), as well as Wi-Fi and satellite systems.

PNNL wants to identify companies that can integrate these systems into wearable components that would enable first responders to transmit and receive mission critical voice, video, and data communications from fellow responders, incident commanders, dispatchers and central command and control facilities.

Specifically, the lab is looking for approaches that include the following:

  • Rugged, secure, voice activated, hands free, two- way voice, video and data communications with multiple parties.
  • GPS-enabled Blue Force Tracking of each responder.
  • Active noise canceling capability to eliminate any unnecessary background noise.
  • Smart technology to find and transition between cellular, LMR, Wi-Fi, and satellite systems and transmit and receive information based on information priorities and infrastructure availability.
  • Integrated sensors monitoring video, heart rate, external/internal temperatures
  • Recording and storage capability of up to 12 hours.
  • A seamless transition to existing federal land-based mobile systems and the ability to demonstrate compliance with existing Federal Communications Security Protocols for Emergency Management.

Posted on Aug 12, 2014 at 9:44 AM0 comments


Autonomic Resources offers agencies a self-service cloud platform

Autonomic Resources announced a new cloud service the firm says gives government agencies a self-service cloud platform for infrastructure management.

With ARC-P On Premise, government community or private clouds can be replicated on agency premises, giving agencies the same cloud services for physical or virtual machines that are offered from the company’s off premise data centers, it said in an announcement.

ARC-P On Premise features the ability to customize the disaster recovery requirements of ab on-premise cloud service and to provide multisite cloud services to customer agencies. It also includes multi-factor authentication that supports agency HSPD-12 CAC/PIV integration requirements.

Posted on Aug 12, 2014 at 9:43 AM0 comments