Feds find uses for cameras, scanners

”It’s a super little camera. We’ve used the daylights out of
it.’’
—Ronald Phelps, project manager, John F. Kennedy Space Center, about Ricoh’s
RDC-2 digital camera

”We’ve had [an Epson 1200C scanner] for about a year and a half.
However, we just started using it not too long ago because we didn’t have anyone who
knew how to use it and the software that goes with it. And I don’t have the extra
time to play with those things myself. We finally got the right software and a person who
is good at using it.’’
—Sheri Sladich, administrative officer, Fish and Wildlife Service, Tule Lake, Calif.


Many federal information systems managers are adding desktop scanners and digital
cameras to their shopping lists, but fewer officials plan to add film scanners or video
capture devices to their digital repertoires.


That’s what we found in a GCN nationwide poll of feds about trends in government
demand for visual media hardware peripherals.


Although the installed base in this category is still small and—in the cases of
digital cameras, film scanners and video capture devices—too marginal to ensure an
accurate survey, our poll and follow-up interviews with respondents provide an insight
into why feds are using these devices and why they’re not.


Our poll of 376 systems officials revealed that 69 percent either have or plan to buy
scanners, while 45 percent have or expect to acquire digital cameras. Only 9 percent
either have or are thinking about getting a film scanner, and 30 percent have or are
considering video capture devices.


A key finding: desktop scanners are becoming an integral part of the government office.


“It saves a lot of typing,” said Dennis Begay, supervisory civil engineering
technician for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in San Carlos, Ariz. Begay scans long letters
into an ActionScanner II from Epson America Inc. and uses optical character recognition
software to first save the image as text, then make changes in the file instead of having
to key in the documents.


Digital cameras as standard office equipment also are on the rise as managers find a
wide variety of uses for them.


Begay, for example, plans to buy a digital camera in the new fiscal year to document
road and other traffic conditions on the San Carlos Apache reservation and integrate those
images into reports to BIA’s main office. Current reports simply describe those
conditions because incorporating paper photographs into the reports just hasn’t
worked, he said.


At the Marine Design Center of the Army Corps of Engineers in Philadelphia, where a
30-member staff designs dredges, barges, survey boats and tugboats, a digital camera from
Nikon Inc. of Melville, N.Y., comes in handy to document projects from start to finish,
said system administrator Gene Best.


“We’re now taking digital pictures of vessels at the shipyard, either under
construction or the finished product, so we can selectively incorporate the photos into
reports,” Best said. “We also can put them into a photo footage file of the
vessel, so when someone has questions, we can take one of the photographs, scan it into a
file and send it with e-mail.”


Ronald Phelps, project manager at the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida, uses a
RDC-2 digital camera from Ricoh Corp. of West Caldwell, N.J., to put images on Space
Center Web pages.


Phelps also incorporates digital images into Corel Corp.’s CorelDraw and CorelCAD
to create Web pages. “We haven’t had any problems in moving them back and
forth,” he said. “It always seems to work.” He uses Digital Camera Suite
from IXLA USA Inc. of Danbury, Conn., and Ricoh software bundled with the camera.


Phelps, who has been using a Hewlett-Packard Co. ScanJet scanner for about three years,
recently acquired a printer from Canon USA Inc. of Lake Success, N.Y., with a scanner
cartridge for use with his notebook PC.


At the Marine Corps base in Parris Island, S.C., electrical engineer Louis Ackerman is
getting set to put a brand-new Eastman Kodak Co. digital camera to use. “I do things
like modify existing power-pole installations, taking equipment off and putting new
equipment on,” he said. “The camera will help in gathering data on what’s
out there now and what has to be changed. It will be a boon being able to record and
digitize it and incorporate it into a drawing.”


Ackerman’s office doesn’t have a scanner but needs one. “We’ve had
it on our list of wants for a long time,” he said. “It’s been approved but
not funded. Working for the Marine Corps, you kind of live on a shoestring. But we’ll
eventually get one. We have a lot of old files that need to be digitized.”


The Agriculture Department’s wind erosion research lab at Kansas State University
uses its Kodak digital camera a lot. So much so that it might buy another one, said
engineering technician Wayne Carstenson.


The lab finds the camera handy for documenting research plots and putting the images
into a database, taking photos for the lab’s Web site and, in conjunction with an
image analyzer, creating profiles of variations in field surfaces, Carstenson said.


When the lab needs a film scanner, technicians borrow a unit from KSU’s agronomy
department. “We have no plans to buy one because we use it only occasionally,”
he said.


The situation is similar at the Fish and Wildlife Service’s national wildlife
refuge near Tule Lake in northern California. There, officials use an Epson 1200C desktop
scanner to help create brochures and other public-information materials.


Although the service has no plans to acquire a video capture device or film scanner,
according to administrative officer Sheri Sladich, she isn’t ruling out acquisition
of the devices somewhere down the road.


“Anything that makes our jobs easier, I could see eventually getting,” she
said. They are considering getting a digital camera, however, probably after Oct. 1, when
the next fiscal year begins.



Desktop scanner Digital camera Video capture device Film scanner

Yes 69% 55% 30% 9%

No 31% 45% 70% 91%

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