Techie is in tune with mobile challenges

Techie is in tune with mobile challenges

There is a natural

correlation between

music and computer

stuff'it's the same

part of the brain.

Name: William 'Bucky' Buchanan

Agency: Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station, Washington Navy Yard

Title: Division head

Length of service: 15 years: four at NCTS and 10 at the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) as program manager for the Fleet Modernization Program Management Information System

Age: 48

Education: Bachelor's degree in music education, Indiana University

E-mail address: [email protected]

Responsibilities: NCTS is a fee-for-service organization under the Navy's Information Technology Services Center that combines the unique capabilities of a government agency and the resources of the private sector to provide quality information technology solutions to the Navy, Defense Department and other federal agencies. We focus on complete network solutions and administration, legacy system transition, applications development and integration, and mobile computing.

Most exciting aspect of my job: Right now we're concentrating on providing exciting mobile technologies to the Navy. One project involves equipping sailors with multiple technical-reference databases and a maintenance action form for the care and feeding of a mine-countermeasure piece of gear that is used on mine-countermeasure and mine-hunter ships'all on one easy-to-use Palm handheld computer [from 3Com Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif.]

Other projects involve using Palm bar code-reading devices to gather inventory data for consumables, equipment and even people on the USNS Comfort, a Navy hospital ship home-ported in Baltimore.
What the future holds for mobile and wireless computing in the federal government: We usually don't need all the computing power we have in our desktop computers. What we do need is the convenience of doing the majority of jobs from any location. Mobile phones have shown us that we can be somewhere else and get a lot done, but handheld devices take that mind-set to a higher level with more possibilities. My Palm VII wireless device, for example, is a great tool because of the e-mail capabilities. And because it is with me all the time, I don't have to wait for an idea to get transmitted to a host of people.

The biggest issues and challenges in federal mobile computing: Wireless palmtop technologies might not be the best thing for Navy sailors who are out to sea and away from data antennas, but for everyone else on shore they will definitely be the thing to have. The speed of transmission will obviously go up and the amount of data you can get to today will be minuscule compared with the bandwidths of tomorrow.
The most exciting new technologies in mobile computing: The most exciting are the new handheld technologies. As a Navy organization, we feel that mobile computing fits well with the Navy sailor. Unlike the rest of us, they don't have a computer at their desk'most sailors don't even have a desk.

But they still need to feed information to other locations and also need to have a lot of technical information at their fingertips. We want to empower the sailor as a self-contained logistician'someone who has all the data he or she needs to do their job and the ability to transmit maintenance or inventory data to larger computing platforms for analysis and action.

Notebooks are big, cumbersome battery hogs. Handheld devices are well-suited for Navy and Army applications because you don't really need the computing power of a notebook. What is really important is that you have your mobile device with you at all times, like a Franklin planner, but with many more features and capabilities.
What best prepared me for this job: My musical background actually was good preparation. There is a natural correlation between music and computer stuff'it's the same part of the brain. Music is an ordering of notes; computer programs are an ordering of commands or instructions. They both involve logical thinking, and studies have shown over and over that people who are good in music also will be good in computer programming.
The greatest influences in my career: During my years at NAVSEA, I looked to Brian O'Connor as my mentor. He was an engineer but I don't hold that against him. He was truly inspirational and always had a proper perspective on work, technology, office politics and most other subjects.

Other people that have vision at NAVSEA and inspired the self-contained logistician concept are Craig Brandenburg and Jeff Orner, men who have been instrumental in arming sailors with the tools they need to carry out their missions.
Other interests: When I'm not doing palmtop computing, you will probably find me out on the Chesapeake Bay racing yachts.

'Richard W. Walker


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