The coolest new public-sector tech at FOSE
The show floor at FOSE 2013 is filled with lots of great products, covering nearly every aspect of agency IT. But which are the best? We explored the show floor from one end to the other, taking in as many product demonstrations as we could, even breaking a couple things in the process. Here’s a subjective rundown on the best public-sector products we saw.
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For printing technologies, we were most impressed with the HL-S7000DN from Brother for a variety of reasons that will appeal to government employees. First off, it’s an inkjet, which we found a little odd in this day and age, until we learned that the monochrome powerhouse could go for 10,000 pages on a single ink cartridge. Better still, it can print at up to 100 pages per minute. You can almost get a cooling breeze from the pages flying out of the printer.
Because it uses inkjet instead of laser, the cost is also reasonable, less than a penny per page. You might spend more on the paper. However, a careful look at the pages that were output showed that, especially for text, they were quite readable and indistinguishable from a laser printer without a very close examination.
Pricing in the United States is still being worked out, but according to the folks at the booth, the HL-S7000DN will probably go on the GSA schedule for around $3,000.
For software, we were most impressed with the Fast Adaptive Secure Protocol from Aspera. It addresses the fact that the typical FTP transfers used by many government agencies are simply too slow. So Aspera invented the Fast Adaptive Secure Protocol. Once installed at both ends of a pipeline, the FASP can greatly reduce file transport times. On a recent test, a 460G file belonging to the National Institutes of Health took two and a half hours to move across a 1 gigabit/sec network from Bethesda, Md., to Montana using standard FTP. The same file made the same trip, fully encrypted, using FASP, in 11 minutes.
For ever-important scanning technology, the Kodak i5800 was an impressive beast of a unit, able to separate typical scanned pages from patch pages with ease. Patch codes are a set of six distinct barcode patterns (1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and T) that are used frequently by heavy scan users as document separators. The i5800 can automatically recognize them, sending them to a different output tray from the rest of the documents. That way, they can be reused without having to fish them out of the pile, something few people ever bother to do. Kodak said that one customer was saving thousands of dollars a year just reusing their patch pages.
The i5800 also is capable of sorting pages by size, so it can zero in on a check sitting in the middle of a pile of other documents. The machine slows down when outputting a check so that it drops into a separate paper tray area from other pages. In combination with the new Kodak Info Active Software, this intelligence can be used in a process management system that begins at the scanner level. The i5800 is pricy at $75,000, but for agencies that do lots of scanning, and lots of different types of scanning, it’s worth its weight in gold.
In the mobile arena, two products really impressed us for government service. The first was The IronKey Workspace W-500, which is a key drive that runs a full version of Windows, complete with a user’s personal desktop. It combines the security of the impregnable IronKey flash drive with the speed of a USB 3.0 connection that makes it about as fast as accessing the local machine. Everything on the key is protected with a dedicated 256-bit encryption chip. If someone tries to guess the password more than 10 times, all the data is fried and the key is rendered unusable. If someone tries to physically dissemble the drive, epoxy ensures that the chip and all its data is destroyed.
Once authenticated, the IronKey Workspace W-500 runs a full version of Windows from the key drive, without leaving anything behind on a hosting computer. It will be available in about a month for $175.
The runner up for mobile is the Seido OBEX waterproof case and holder. Made to fit just about any smart phone, it actually can take a non-rugged device and make it able to pass the military specification for rugged testing. And it goes beyond that, giving any mobile phone an IP rating of 68, which means it can operate underwater constantly. Seido officials even said they’ve tossed normal phones protected with the case off of three-story buildings onto concrete with no ill effects. They had a Samsung Galaxy phone running a movie inside a fish tank at the show.
The unofficial special judges award this year, for a transformational product that’s filling an interesting niche or need for government, goes to nextScan. The nextScan device is built in the United States and enables government agencies to take microfilm or microfiche, which is rapidly starting to degrade, and automatically scan it into an electronic format.
On the FOSE show floor, the nextScan unit was busily scanning in a long roll of old microfilm documents. The film passes through a red light strobe to have its image captured. Software that comes with the unit then records each frame of the film as a document and allows adjustments in brightness and contrast to be made to help with readability.
It’s quite fast, too. Scanning at 200dpi, the default setting, the nextScan machine can record 400 images, or about 400 frames, per minute. A more detailed scan is possible, but the machine has to do that a little bit more slowly. Examining the scanned images as PDF documents, we were impressed with how readable the source material was compared to the original.
Most agencies used to store some type of data in that old film format, and many still do. Records that need to be preserved now before time degrades them to the point of uselessness could really benefit from a nextScan machine. The complete package, which includes the recording scanner, a loader and the editing software, is available now on the GSA schedule for $65,000.
FOSE this year is a great show, filled with lots of amazing products. These were the ones that stood out to us as being particularly good for government service, and many will soon be reviewed by GCN.
John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.