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Seven Keys to Strengthen Your Cybersecurity Culture

August 20, 2017 - 07:00

While running on my treadmill on Thursday morning, August 17, 2017, I was watching CNBC’s ‘Squawk Box,’ as David Novak, co-founder and former CEO of YUM Brands, came on the show as a guest.

He was asked how he was so successful at growing such a powerful set of global YUM Brands with great results including names like Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Burger King and others. His answer made me slow the trend mill to a walk and listen closely.

He said several things, but his clear messages focused on building a great culture with a set of core values and staff recognition. Here’s what stood out to me (paraphrased):

Success is all about the culture. Great leaders know your core values and are true to them. What messages are you sending to your employees? Are you recognizing and rewarding your staff?

As an aside: David Novak elaborates further on the recognition theme in this earlier article and video from last year. He challenged all of us to say “thank you” to employees and everyone in our lives more often. He even wrote this fun book on the ten principles of recognition called O Great One!: A Little Story About the Awesome Power of Recognition.

Near the end of his ‘Squawk Box’ interview, the topic of what actions to take on several global cybersecurity issues came up. Becky Quick asked Mr. Novak what the Trump Administration should do about China stealing our intellectual property via computer hacking?

Mr. Novak said we need WIN/WIN answers that will work for both countries. Despite serious problems that require tough negotiations, we need to be positive in our approach, while enforcing laws and acting on areas where we have international agreement.

Issue One: Back to Security Culture

Management guru Peter Drucker is attributed with the well-known saying, "Culture eats strategy for breakfast." And while there are hundreds of books and thousands of articles on building great work cultures, not nearly as much is written about creating a positive enterprise culture emphasizing cybersecurity in the workplace.

So how can we lead a digital transformation that is also people-focused and security-focused at the same time? Here are few of the common answers I have seen around the Internet over the past few years:

Tripwire: 3 Tips on How to Create a Cyber Security Culture at Work Huffington Post: 6 Tips to Build A Cyber-Security Culture At Work Security Intelligence: Building A Cybersecurity Culture Around Layer 8

For several years now, the typical answers included a central focus on effective security awareness training or all employees as well as the need for management buy-in and business leadership for cybersecurity.

Nevertheless, digging a bit deeper, here are, in my view, seven keys to building a lasting security culture that can outlive individual security incidents and staff turnover.

1) Genuine Executive Priority and Support - We all know that children watch (and usually follow) what their parents do and not just what they say. In the same way staff learn what the real priorities are from executive actions. Are managers walking the talk? Are resources backing-up the executive memos?

For example, when I was CSO is Michigan Government, Governor Rick Snyder was a true champion for cybersecurity in the state, and in the nation, who frequently discussed cyber-actions at cabinet meetings and led by example. If this executive priority focus is missing, you will struggle to succeed in the other areas in the long run. Consider these suggestions to build management support for cybersecurity.

2) Honest Risk Assessment to Measure Security Culture Now - What is the security posture currently? How are security audit findings addressed? What are real technology and security priorities? Are there metrics and/or dashboards to measure progress?

Here is a video from the RSA Conference on one method for measuring security culture.

Also, this excellent article from Deloitte shows how to assess your culture from a perspective of beliefs, behaviors and outcomes.

3) A Clear Vision of Where You Want Your Security Culture to Be - A lot has been written about benchmarking and following best practices in cybersecurity. One important question is whether you know where you are heading? What is the vision of what success looks like for your security and technology teams?

Consider visiting your industry peers and learning from other public and private sector organizations that are doing cybersecurity culture well. Look at the National Association of State CIOs (NASCIO) award-winners, NGA best practices and state and local partners in your region. Consider a road-trip to learn from others and benchmarking progress.

For example, back in 2011-2012, Stu Davis the Ohio CIO, brought a team up to Michigan to see how we built our security architectures and governance. Ohio State government used that visit and follow-on conversations to build an excellent cybersecurity program. 

4) Do You Have a Cyber Plan? - Many state governments have published cybersecurity plans to clearly described where they are going, who’s involved, and what the expectations are for various groups. Examples include: Michigan, Delaware, Missouri, North Carolina and others.

More details will soon be provided on this cybersecurity planning topic in an upcoming blog.

5) Clear Cyber Communication to the Masses - Great, you have a plan and specific actions steps. But does anyone know what’s happening? What is the elevator pitch? How well are these messages received? Is the communication flowing both ways? Are you getting feedback?

Communicating cyber messages is an ongoing challenge, and no leader has done that better over the past year than Virginia Governor McAuliffe – who has made cybersecurity the top topic during his year as NGA leader.

6) End User Security Awareness Training for Everyone. This Includes Managers, System Admins, and Other Specific Roles – As mentioned several times above, culture change definitely involves offering intriguing, relevant, updated, timely training that is brief, frequent and focused to the entire enterprise.

And while this is the area that is the one most often discussed regarding security culture change, it is only one component. Still, this cannot be a check-the-box exercise and be successful. I described this effective cyber training area in much more detail in this recent interview with MicroAgility CEO Sajid Khan.

7) Celebrate Success with Food & Fun. Find out if security is a part of business DNA? How do you know what people are engaged in? Answer: See what they celebrate. When is their food and family showing-up for awards?

Ask this question of your organization: When do you celebrate success? Assuming this is happening at all, are people rewarded for doing the right things regarding security. Any bonuses for great cyber etiquette or awards for doing the right things?

Here are some specific examples to ponder. And, here are some cultural mistakes to avoid with security training.

Final thoughts

 In conclusion, building a healthy security culture is not a one-time project or one-year focus. Like building a great college football program at schools like Alabama, this is an ongoing challenge that must be repeated as the organization changes.

For more details, I really like this ISSA series of CISO mentoring talks, which provide many practical tips for security leaders to consider from CISOs that have been successful in different industries over many years. Following their advice is great way to enhance your culture of cybersecurity.

Finally, I want to close with this quote from David Novak on the greatest challenge facing leaders today.

“7 in 10 employees in the U.S. are not engaged. They're going to work and they can't wait to go home," he says.

Novak says great companies create environments where everyone counts and is valued.

That’s why your corporate or government culture is so central to organizational success.

Is security a piece of your culture change efforts?

Verizon to Build Public Safety Communications Network to Rival FirstNet, AT&T

August 18, 2017 - 15:15

On Aug. 16, Verizon announced that it plans to build and operate a private network dedicated to public safety communications, targeting the same customers AT&T gains under the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) contract awarded at the end of March — and which several states have already opted in to.

According to a press release, Verizon is committing to build a dedicated public safety core that will operate separately from its commercial core, and give first responders priority access to the company's 2.4-million-square-mile 4G LTE network.

Though the company urged the FCC in a July filing to tell states that FirstNet isn’t their only option for a wireless network for public safety workers, Verizon's current announcement states that its public safety network solution does not require that states opt out of FirstNet — nor does it require access to any federal funding provided to FirstNet or any financial commitment from states to support network deployment.

"We’ve proposed a network solution we believe will achieve the mission of FirstNet, as well as maintain the competitive nature of the communications marketplace," wrote Michael Maiorana, senior vice president, Public Sector for Verizon on LinkedIn. "Competition and choice are important to public safety because they drive innovation and competitive pricing, and give first responders the flexibility to choose the communications solutions that best meet their needs and the needs of their communities."

Verizon says that it's fully funding the creation of this dedicated public safety network core — and will make available multi-band devices that will provide access to Band 14 spectrum and enable full interoperability with any Band 14 radio access networks (RANs) deployed by FirstNet.

"By building our own private network core dedicated to public safety users and providing them with enhanced priority services, including pre-emption, when they need it (at no charge), we can ensure our public safety customers have the opportunity to weigh all their options as they make their important communications network decisions," Maiorana wrote. "The security we build into our commercial networks, combined with the inherent security advantages of our private core dedicated to public safety, will help protect first responders’ communications."

The resulting multi-carrier environment, he continued, "would give first responders the ability to choose between the two largest national networks to achieve the best network reliability, greatest innovation and best pricing for their communications services."

Smart City Competition Seeks Startups, Companies with Eye on Public Sector

August 18, 2017 - 13:30

Entrepreneurs and others from the tech community are gearing up for the Smart City Fall 2017 Cohort session in Herndon, Va., next month.

The event, organized by the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) and the Smart City Works Actuator, begins Sept. 13 and is an expansion of the spring 2017 pilot program that was launched in March.

Applications will be accepted until all available slots are filled, organizers say. 

"We strongly encourage the applicants to apply as soon as possible but we will consider new applications until the point that all slots are full," said Kevin May, marketing and communications director for CIT, a Herndon-based, non-profit corporation that helps and invests in next-generation technology companies. "After our cohort is selected for this session, all new applicants would be considered for future sessions."

The program, he noted, is designed to provide participating companies with the skills and resources to become successful in an ever-changing and highly-competitive industry.

“The application process is highly competitive," May added. "Our management team fields applications and inquiries from dozens of startups from across the globe that are interested in participating in the actuator program."

Each class of companies that is accepted into the cohort goes through a 90-day program where they are coached on all aspects of creating a successful business.

“Our program brings together industry experts, veterans, buyers and customers into a platform that supports the rapid launch of the next generation of smart infrastructure companies,” said May. “At the end of the program, we host a Demo Day where we invite over 150 mentors, investors and industry experts to hear the companies' polished pitches.”

The spring event narrowed the field down to six companies that specialized in one of three high-demand sectors: transportation, construction techniques and public safety/resilience. The request spawned a competitive selection process that brought submissions from startups and entrepreneurs located across the world. The six companies selected were:

Greater Places – Arlington, Va. UnomicEdge – Arlington, Va. Integrated Health Solutions – Washington, D.C. Infraccess – New York Capital Construction Solutions – Chicago PlanIT Impact – Kansas City, Mo. The Fall Cohort is calling for entries from six areas: Transport – Solutions that reduce costs, extend serviceable life, reduce congestion, improve parking, improve inter-modalities, facilitate multi-modal transportation (car, train, bus, bike, pedestrian) and ubiquitous mobility, or leverage smart, autonomous and intelligent transportation solutions to improve the transportation infrastructure network. Resilience and Public Safety – Solutions and/or IoT technologies that address the safety and security of the urban public; that mitigate the impact of rising sea levels, extreme weather events, or other natural or man-made shocks; that protect critical infrastructure; or those solutions that allow cities to be more livable and sustainable. Of particular interest are unmanned aerial systems suitable for indoor use and indoor sensing suites that can deliver building renderings and post event change detection using video, imagery or other technologies. Additionally, solutions that provide sustainable-energy-based, clean-drinking water.  Construction Techniques – Solutions that improve the design, construction or maintenance of infrastructure; reduce lifecycle costs or improve safety, schedules or margins.  Urban Data and IoT Technologies - Solutions that utilize community, city, state, national or global data sets to better understand and solve for the most pressing urban issues; that utilize Blockchain methodologies to improve the value, use and trust of infrastructure data sets and supply chains; or that leverage IoT technologies and devices to improve urban outcomes.   Energy – Solutions that use metering, controls and IoT applications to reduce usage and waste of energy; alternative and renewable energy sources; alternative and improved transmission and distribution of energy sources; and smart lighting as a central core of intelligent services. Caring Cities – This fall CIT has reserved up to two slots in its cohort for qualifying not-for-profit organizations focused on at-risk communities. While the emphasis on smart cities is traditionally on reducing congestion, improving public safety and facilitating sustainable energy use, other critical challenges of growing urban communities for those most in need — the poor, the disabled, the homeless and those without access to the Internet — are sometimes ignored. Organizations with disruptive high-impact solutions to support those most in need are encouraged to apply as well.

Interested applicants are encouraged to visit for more details and to fill out the online application.

Gwinnett County, Ga., Officials Hope Smart Water Meter Pilot Can Help Other Utilities

August 18, 2017 - 11:30

Officials in north central Georgia's Gwinnett County say they don’t have a problem with water leaks today. No one knows what tomorrow will bring, though, and so they want to be ready.

With a smart meter pilot now underway, they are looking to get a more granular read on water usage, while also providing consumers with more detailed information on their own consumption patterns.

“We recognize that this technology is becoming more widespread and that customers will be expecting this ability to manage their water, by seeing more frequent data than the monthly data they see now,” said the county’s project manager Steve Seachrist. “It’s really an enhancement to our service.”

The county is deploying smart meters at approximately 500 homes, including 450 Neptune meters and 50 advanced Capstone meters.

The Neptune ultrasonic meter can register a low rate of flow, just 5/100ths of a gallon per meter. At this level of sensitivity, “it will measure tampering, if someone tries to move a meter, as well as detecting leaks on the customer side,” Ken Thompson, a senior fellow technologist with Colorado-based CH2M Hill Engineers, which is helping to manage the project.

“It will also register if water starts to flow backward on the customer side. If there is a pipeline break in the system a meter will reverse flow because there is a loss in pressure, so if we see clusters of meters showing this backflow problem, that could show us a local break in near real time,” he said. “That speed is critical. The quicker you can identify a pipeline break and shut the water down and try to fix it, the less damage it is going to do.”

The more sophisticated Capstone meters also register changes in pressure and temperature. “That allows us to get a more complete profile of how the system is changing within this area,” Thompson said. “That’s important from a service perspective: We want customers to have a nice steady pressure level. Also if pressure starts to drop that may signify a pipeline break, or it could mean that someone is on the system trying to steal water.”

The advanced meter has another advantage over conventional models. Unlike traditional meters, which run on 10-year batteries, the Capstone powers itself off an internal turbine, and is thus constantly recharging. Industry analysts say this is a significant consideration. Because water metering is rarely located within convenient reach of a main power supply, “smart water meters are dependent on a reliable and long-lasting battery to power data transmission,” they note.

With a population of almost 900,000 individuals, Gwinnett County does not have a big problem with leaks, averaging only about a 10 percent water loss rate annually. But county planners look at the worldwide average of about 30 percent, and they see some counties where water loss can go as high as 70 percent. They say their smart meter project could help some of those places do a better job.

“We can develop this new capability and share that information with other utilities,” Seachrist said. “Maybe we could help other systems to address those needs.”

The new meters also will help the county to keep a firm grip on the tiller when it comes to water usage as circumstances change over time. “To be a good water steward you have to be sure of where you stand. You need to track it continuously. We could always have a change that increases our leakage, and we want to know about that,” Seachrist said.

It takes some finesse to roll out a 500-home prototype of a smart meter system. Planners did a careful search to identify the right set of homes for the trial. They needed houses close to the central office, in case the meters need servicing. They also wanted homes that incorporate a range of different pipe materials in order to get a wide read on the meters’ abilities.

The greatest challenge involves the installation of a master meter vault. Planners need access to an 8-inch pipe but they also need room to work: With equipment and added piping, the vault occupies a 10-by-12 foot space. “You don’t want to be bumping into other utilities, and you can’t be in someone’s front yard,” Seachrist said.

In this case fortune smiled on the project’s planners. “There happened to be a vacant lot close to the feed location, with no underground utilities. That was a lucky find,” Seachrist said.

The county started deploying the new meters this spring, and while they hope to see a significant uptick in the quantity of information coming off the system, they do not anticipate having to put additional hands to the task of monitoring that new information.

“It will be an automated system with algorithm and software applications to process the data in real time,” Thompson said. “Then it will provide alerts when something is happening. The idea is not to have someone sitting there watching the screen — that is just not feasible with this amount of data. So we will be using big data analytics to do that processing.”

In the initial phase of the project, data will be consumed only by the county. While the long-term intent is to make the information available to consumers, planners say they want to tackle the data themselves first in order to get a handle on the kinds of information the meters can provide, and in what form.

“Part of the reason for doing the pilot is to understand the value of the data and how the customers could benefit from it,” Seachrist said. “We want to look at it first in order to start to understand that.”

Austin GigaTECHs App Competition Bridges Gap Between City and Local Innovators

August 18, 2017 - 07:00

In an effort to foster a new generation of apps that use ultra-fast connections to bolster municipal government, Austin, Texas, is hosting its first GigaTECHs App Competition, an event for which it has now released a list of 11 finalists.

Two winners from this field will get seed funding following a final pitch to judges on Thursday, Aug. 31, with the amount of distributed cash totaling $38,000. The reward will mark the culmination of an event that started in early June at the ATX Hack for Change day of civic hacking, with a total of 26 entries. Developers were asked to focus their work on local transportation, education, clean energy, health and public safety.

Austin’s competition is part of a nationwide initiative that’s being led by US Ignite, a nonprofit organization out of Washington, D.C., that strives to spur next-generation apps that would be foundational elements for smart communities powered by ultra-fast, programmable fiber and wireless networks.

“We wanted to really be as inclusive and broad as possible with our ideas, with our teams and with our app ideas,” said Charles Purma, an IT project manager with Austin. “We didn’t really want to dictate from the city’s perspective or from US Ignite’s perspective. We wanted to give some broad ideas, but really it was driven by the community.”

Purma also said that the city was initially hoping for 10 applicants and was thrilled to get 26 solid entries, all of which have the potential for improving the lives of not just Austinites, but of residents of other cities that will share the apps. Following the competition, the two winning teams are expected to use the seed money to build out prototypes. The award money will be broken down into chunks, distributed once the developers hit certain progress targets. To this end, the teams will establish timelines for deliverables. In addition to cash, the city plans to give the winners expertise.

“We really want to set up our teams for success, so they’ll have some design and user research folks at their disposal,” Purma said.

The finalists are:

1AustinSol - A New Community Approach to Solar submitted by Scott Nguyen's Team BloxMob submitted by Joseph Fischer and Sean Bauld Cognitive Roadway Knowbot (Carnak) submitted by Lynn Riley's Team Farm to City submitted by Ryan Pasca's Team JoeVolunteer Keeping Austin Weird and Much Kinder! submitted by Chip Franks' Team Just-in-time VR Training for Ambus EMS Personnel submitted by Scott Smith's Team Med reconciliation + incentives & blockchain submitted by Hector Torres' Team M.Y. H.O.M.E. submitted by Jerry Blackwell's Team The Path to Python: A guide for middle schoolers submitted by Julia Lamorelle's Team PenPal Schools VR Field Trip to the USA submitted by Joe Troyen's Team Accelerating world's mission toward Zero Hunger submitted by Nitin Vignesh Bati

The finalists apps are wide ranging and roundly impressive in their ambition and scope. One of note is the Just-in-time VR Training for Ambus EMS Personnel, which takes a bit of explaining.

As unfortunate as it is, most major population centers at one time will face a large-scale emergency event with potential for many causalities, and when they do, emergency responders are often brought in from nearby jurisdictions to render aid. In Central Texas, this is done along with a massive vehicle, a combination of a bus and an ambulance aptly called an ambus.

With this in mind, once a year officials generally use a presentation via PowerPoint to train paramedics and others who use the ambus. While the optimal solution would be training through sustained exposure to the actual equipment, this isn’t always an option. So, one tech company is building a VR platform that would allow responders to train within the ambus from anywhere.

The idea is that with this app, these responders would be able to familiarize themselves all over again with the ambus the day of an event for which they are needed by using virtual reality, possibly even by using their mobile devices while they speed toward an incident site. Through virtual reality, the app can even go so far as to simulate situations like hurricanes with high winds or school violence with active shooters.

“It’s one thing to look at a PowerPoint or walk through the ambus without any kind of stress situation going on to learn where all the equipment is,” said Grayson Lawrence, an associate professor of communication design at Texas State University who is a member of the team developing it. “It’s another thing if we can put them under increasingly stressful situations in a virtual environment. We can train them in a more realistic way.”

Lawrence said that even if his team’s app doesn’t win the competition, the process of competing has been beneficial, because the city has facilitated interactions between the developers and the people who would use it in the field, which has helped them hone what they are working on. While the app could be ready for testing in two to nine months, the team says that in order to ultimately make it viable, they’ll need commercial interest from a large private company, which is more likely to take place with support from Austin.

Basically, the app competition is a mutually beneficially relationship for the participants who get access to the city’s resources and for the city, which due to the nature of government is not able to focus as much as would be ideal on new ideas and innovation.

“We’re operational folks,” said Ted Lehr, an IT data architect with the city of Austin. “In terms of thinking outside the box and trying to do something edgy, the city, you could say, doesn’t have the mission to do that.”

But an apps competition can help the city reach out to academia and the private sector, both of which do.

Study: Government Should Think Carefully About Those Big Plans for Artificial Intelligence

August 18, 2017 - 05:48

Government is always being asked to do more with less — less money, less staff, just all around less — and that makes the idea of artificial intelligence (AI) a pretty attractive row to hoe. If a piece of technology could reduce staff workload or walk citizens through a routine process or form, you could effectively multiply a workforce without ever actually adding new people.

But for every good idea, there are caveats, limitations, pitfalls and the desire to push the envelope. While innovating anything in tech is generally a good thing, when it comes to AI in government, there is fine line to walk between improving a process and potentially making it more convoluted.

Outside of a few key government functions, a new white paper from the Harvard Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation finds that AI could actually increase the burden of government and muddy-up the functions it is so desperately trying to improve.

Hila Mehr, a Center for Technology and Democracy fellow, explained that there are five key government problems that AI might be able to assist with reasonably: resource allocation, large data sets, expert shortages, predictable scenarios, and procedural and diverse data.

And governments have already started moving into these areas. In Arkansas and North Carolina, chatbots are helping the state connect with its citizens through Facebook. In Utah and Mississippi, Amazon Alexa skills have been introduced to better connect constituents to the information and services they need. 

Unlike Hollywood representations of AI in film, Mehr said, the real applications for artificial intelligence in a government organization are generally far from “sexy.” The administrative aspects of governing are where tools like this will excel.

Where it comes to things like expert shortages, she said she sees AI as a means to support existing staff. In a situation where doctors are struggling to meet the needs of all of their patients, AI could act as a research tool. The same is true of lawyers dealing with thousands of pages of case law. AI could be used as a research assistant.

“If you’re talking about government offices that are limited in staff and experts," Mehr said, "that’s where AI trained on niche issues could come in.”

But, she warned, AI is not without its problems, namely making sure that it is not furthering human bias written in during the programming process and played out through the data it is fed. Rather than rely on AI to make critical decisions, she argues that any algorithms and decisions made for or as a result of AI should retain a human component.

“We can’t rely on them to make decisions, so we need that check, the way we have checks in our democracy, we need to have checks on these systems as well, and that’s where the human group or panel of individuals comes in,” Mehr said. “The way that these systems are trained, you can’t always know why they are making the decision they are making, which is why it’s important to not let that be the final decision because it can be a black box depending on how it is trained and you want to make sure that it is not running on its own.”

But past the fear that the technology might disproportionately impact certain citizens or might somehow complicate the larger process, there is the somewhat legitimate fear that the implementation of AI will mean lost jobs. Mehr said it’s a thought that even she has had.

“On the employee side, I think a lot of people view this, rightly so, as something that could replace them," she added. "I worry about that in my own career, but I know that it is even worse for people who might have administrative roles. But I think early studies have shown that you’re using AI to help people in their work so that they are spending less time doing repetitive tasks and more time doing the actual work that requires a human touch.”

In both her white paper and on the phone, Mehr is careful to advise against going whole hog into AI with the expectation that it can replace costly personnel. Instead she advocates for the technology as a tool to build and supplement the team that already exists.

As for where the technology could run affront of human jobs, Mehr advises that government organizations and businesses alike start considering labor practices in advance.

“Inevitably, it will replace some jobs,” she said. “People need to be looking at fair labor practices now, so that they can anticipate these changes to the market and be prepared for them.”

With any blossoming technology, there are barriers to entry and hurdles that must be overcome before a useful tool is in the hands of those best fit to use it. And as with anything, money and resources present a significant challenge — but Mehr said large amounts of data are also needed to get AI, especially learning systems, off the ground successfully.

“If you are talking about simple automation or [answering] a basic set of questions, it shouldn’t take that long. If you are talking about really training an AI system with machine learning, you need a big data set, a very big data set, and you need to train it, not just feed the system data and then it’s ready to go,” she said. “The biggest barriers are time and resources, both in the sense of data and trained individuals to do that work.”

Chicago Looks to Fill New Digital Experience and Design Director Position

August 18, 2017 - 05:30

The city of Chicago is looking to fill a new type of position within its executive ranks: a digital experience and design director. The idea is that whoever is picked for the role will be able to boost digital engagement and access across the city’s online assets.

The job announcement comes roughly four weeks after the mayor officially tapped Danielle DuMerer to lead the Department of Innovation and Technology. DuMerer, who originally served in a number of the technology positions with the city, replaced former CIO Brenna Berman as interim CIO in April, and was officially confirmed to the role in June.  

Duties for the executive-level position include: defining and leading user experience practices; establishing document and design standards; leading the creation of user-centric digital tools to help departments achieve their engagement goals; continuing improvement through the use of data and analysis; monitoring and adapting to trends in the city’s online user behavior; and delivering projects within cost and time limitations.

Pay for the new position will range between $98,664 and $109,632. It is unclear exactly when the posting closes.

What’s New In Civic Tech: Hawaii Launches Month-Long Innovation Competition

August 17, 2017 - 12:59

Hawaii is preparing to welcome hundreds of programmers, software developers and innovators to the state’s month-long innovation competition inspired by hackathons.

The primary difference between Hawaii's event and a normal hackathon is that traditional hackathons take place over the course of a day or a weekend, and aren’t nearly as elaborate as this event. Named the Hawaii Annual Code Challenge, the event involves technologists working directly with public servants, as well as a healthy dose of prize money. The official start date is Saturday, Aug. 26.

“We invite the local tech community to join us in working toward improving how our state government interacts with and serves the public,” Gov. David Ige said in a press release. “The 2017 Hawaii Annual Code Challenge is on track to exceed the success of last year’s inaugural event, which brought together hundreds of participants with our state employees and partners.”

This is the second year Hawaii has done the event this way. Last year’s version gave rise to many successful projects, a number of which have proofs of concept that are in development and scheduled to launch later this year.

Those who would like to participate are heavily encouraged to register in advance of the competition in order to guarantee themselves a seat. The list of challenges for the developers to work on will be announced at the official launch. To register or for more information, visit

Arkansas governor announces computer science tour of schools, state website for high-tech jobs

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson will be doing a computer coding tour of high schools throughout the state beginning next week and lasting through the end of the month.

This tour, which marks the fifth of its kind since Hutchinson took office in 2015, is focused on promoting the discipline of computer science, as well as encouraging students to enroll in related courses come fall — all with the eventual goal of creating broader employment opportunities for them while deepening the pool of employable technologists in the state.

Also related to technology jobs in Arkansas, Hutchinson recently announced the launch of a website that would centralize listings for high-tech work throughout the state. The site is, and its part of the governor’s Computer Coding initiative, which requires school districts to offer coding and computer science. The new website's mission is to bridge the gap between potential employers and tech employees in Arkansas in a variety of industries, including IT, Web development and design, database administration, software development, computer science architecture, and information security.

Arkansas is the first state to create a statewide database of available tech jobs.

“The number of high school students participating in computer science and coding courses has increased almost 400 percent since we began our initiative,” Hutchinson said in a statement. “Now it is time to focus on connecting tech-savvy young people to the growing number of available tech jobs in our state. By connecting those searching for jobs with local employers, will simplify the job-search process and keep more of our tech talent right here in Arkansas.”

Judge dismisses AT&T lawsuit against Louisville related to utility poles being cleared for broadband providers

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by AT&T against the city government in Louisville, Ky., over a law related to utility poles that was striving to clear the local infrastructure for broadband providers such as Google Fiber.

Media outlets throughout the Louisville area are reporting that AT&T brought the lawsuit over a controversial law called One Touch, which seeks to entice high-speed Internet providers such as Google Fiber by expanding the city’s broadband infrastructure. The way it does this is by streamlining the process for Internet providers to install new equipment on utility poles throughout Louisville. City officials pushed hard for this ordinance in order to ensure that companies like Google Fiber would make their technology available in the city, thereby improving local connectivity.

The new law would allow Google Fiber, for example, to rearrange existing service providers’ equipment on utility poles, instead of having to request that company to move its own equipment, which could at times create delays of up to six months.

This decision is likely to be of great interest to another major city in the region — Nashville, Tenn., where AT&T has filed a similar lawsuit that seeks to slow down the availability of Google Fiber in that city.

Ars Technica reports in depth about the factors that went into the judge’s decision to dismiss the suit. 

CityBase Acquires Department of Better Technology

August 17, 2017 - 12:00

CityBase is acquiring the Department of Better Technology (DOBT), bringing together two companies focused on helping governments provide digital services to citizens and automating back-office processes.

The pair of companies share a number of similarities — both have worked on digitizing forms, both have executives that held jobs in finance and both believe that newer government technology companies are still struggling to fit the “guts” of government work into the cloud. 

“There’s not a proven model in this generation of gov-tech companies yet that has figured out how to marry truly modern SaaS applications with problems that I consider in the guts of gov tech — so work flows, payments, all of these things are still transitioning,” said Josh Goldstein, CEO of DOBT. “And it was rare for me to encounter a CEO that was thinking about innovating in that space.”

Both companies are also on the Gov Tech 100 list this year.

Where the two companies diverge is in focus. DOBT’s flagship product, Screendoor, is all about digitizing forms and re-shaping the back-end processes a government might use to process those forms. CityBase handles a broader set of concerns, running from content discovery all the way to handling citizen payments.

“We often group at the macro level into payment, digital service, content and communications,” said Mike Duffy, CityBase’s CEO. “And the DOBT platform is [for us] just a gigantic leap forward on the service layer.”

The pair also have a fairly different customer base. DOBT’s leadership includes multiple former members of the White House’s Presidential Innovation Fellows program who served under President Obama, and so they had access to federal agency clients early in their trajectory. CityBase’s work is much more closely tied to local governments.

DOBT has about 60 clients, including some non-governmental groups, while CityBase has somewhere north of 50  customers on board. That includes cities, municipal agencies and utilities. 

“DOBT brings a broad set of clients that are new to CityBase,” Duffy said.

The companies will be integrating their products in the days ahead, and Goldstein will take on the role of vice president of products at CityBase.

“[We’re] in an extremely powerful position to understand the underlying structure of multiple services and take them from being siloed, which it seems like they have been since eternity, into a more connected and networked service offering,” Goldstein said. “That’s the thing as VP of products that I’m most excited about digging into.”

That emphasis on the lifecycle of a process is key to where both companies see themselves within the gov-tech ecosystem. Duffy believes that many companies serving governments today will simply digitize a form when asked to do so, without considering everything else the government does with that form: how citizens find it, what the government does with it once it’s submitted, how citizens submit payment along with a form. The result, he said, is employees simply printing out digitized forms and completing their work as they always have.

Similarly, he said, many governments will seek to put a payment online but won’t necessarily put anything else associated with those payments. So the digitization, and any benefit that might come with it, is minimized.

“Until you digitize the process that sits before the payment, you can’t entirely move that service online,” he said.

The companies didn’t disclose the terms of the deal, but did specify that it doesn’t represent an exit for DOBT’s previous investors, 500 Startups and the Knight Foundation. Both will retain their equity in the new company.

Total Solar Eclipse 2017: How Data, Mapping Technologies Are Helping State, Local Oregon Agencies Prepare

August 17, 2017 - 06:30

Celestial events may have inspired fear and wonder in ancient man, but in Oregon — the first U.S. region to see the total solar eclipse on Monday, Aug. 21 — readiness is the watchword for state and local officials who have spent a year planning how they will work together to make better use of existing technology.

The state expects roughly 1 million visitors for the solar eclipse, according to a recent news release announcing mobilization of agencies including its Office of Emergency Management, the Oregon Health Authority and the National Guard.

On Monday, Aug. 14, Gov. Kate Brown issued Executive Order 17-14, letting agencies suspend rules if needed to mitigate effects of the eclipse, and declaring a state of emergency enabling personnel to seek help from “other jurisdictions” to “facilitate the life and safety missions” they may carry out during the eclipse.

Residents and visitors should know, the governor said in a statement, “that state agencies, along with our local, tribal and federal partners, have extensively planned and are well-coordinated” for the event.

Municipal and state IT officials told Government Technology that their offices have long discussed potential scenarios and forged new partnerships with scores of agencies.

ArcGIS technology from Redlands-based Esri, which lets officials make and share maps, underpins and informs their efforts. So well ahead of Monday’s event — which is already swelling highways, hotels and campsites — officials have focused on enhancing maps and online services they provide through it.

Esri’s Director of National Government Industries Chris McIntosh said the company began to have substantially more eclipse conversations with public agencies nationwide about four months ago — but of them all, Oregon is in a truly unique position.

“There’s no opportunity for them to look at what happens elsewhere and make adjustments. Being first, they don’t have that luxury, so they’ve had to be even more proactive and leaning forward,” McIntosh said, praising the state for being a national “leader” for its work in its Real-time Assessment and Planning Tool (Raptor) app. 

The state deployed Raptor atop ArcGIS technology in 2010 to let Web users add and edit incident information, including datasets, images and shapefiles. Visitors can also access live data and traditional map layers, and search geographic areas of interest.

The public-facing side of Raptor utilizes Esri’s public information map template, whereas its internal app relies on the company’s Web builder template customized for the state’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and its partners. The EOC will increase staffing in the days before and after the event, and IT staff will be on an enhanced watch status in case they’re needed.

Daniel Stoelb, GIS program coordinator for the state's Office of Emergency Management (OEM), spearheaded eclipse-related modifications based on feedback from other agencies.

Among them, Stoelb said he created an additional GIS data layer, Solar Eclipse Events and Camping, that allows people to add information about eclipse-related events, as well as view, edit and chart current eclipse events using a geoform.

Users simply complete an online form and pick a location, and their event is automatically updated in the data layer, appearing on Raptor’s public side — but also internally in the state's operations center. In recent weeks, the number of events listed has incrased from around 150 to more than 500.

“The big key items that we were after were eclipse events, you know, where are people going to be staying, where are people going to be having events,” Stoelb said.

Cory Grogan, state OEM public information officer, said that “just about all of our campsites and hotels have been reserved for a long time,” and private land has been rented out for events.

“There are events all over Oregon," he said. "When we start talking about this, we need to think about things like traffic for one; health considerations, making sure that local businesses and local cities and counties are stocked up to handle all the tourism."

The state is also charting the eclipse’s path of totality — the shadow cast as the moon obscures the sun — via Raptor, and has added internal tracking via Raptor for public works assets deployed during the event.

Elsewhere, a Live Traffic data layer shows highway congestion levels, while two wildfire and two air quality data layers document a busy wildfire season with six fires burning in or near the path of totality as of Thursday, Aug. 17.

Public-facing eclipse updates went live in May and June, while the website, promoted earlier this month with a Facebook Live event, had more than 1,000 views during the week of Aug. 7. Stoelb emphasized the significance of agency collaborations and what Raptor updates could mean for the future.

“This was a major collaboration effort between us, our local emergency managers, state agencies, federal partners and even the private sector for destination marketing. The capability that we added into this system was actually kind of a first, and really started to tie our operations center and Raptor together to really interact and display critical information for our partners,” Stoelb said.

“Over time, we’ve really been trying to bridge the gap between the two systems and now, the data-gathering effort that we have created for the eclipse events is something that we can reproduce for any other special event in the future. Or anything that needs to rise to a state significance,” he added.

The eclipse’s cost to the state isn’t clear, but Grogan said its economic benefits are expected to outweigh its costs.

One municipal agency with which the state is working closely is its capital city of Salem, roughly one hour south of Portland.

Officials there don’t have their own Raptor app — but they, too, have utilized Esri’s ArcGIS for years and have access to state information streams. Salem officials have also been preparing for the eclipse since last year, assembling an Eclipse Data Team of officials from across city departments to coordinate a response.

Kenny Larson, the city’s communications manager, told Government Technology that response to the eclipse has been “unprecedented,” with anywhere from 50,000 to 150,000 visitors expected.

With stargazing crowds in mind, the city debuted an eclipse information website on Monday, June 12. It features everything from parking information to park rules, food safety tips to live traffic updates and event listings, plus a look at what public agencies are doing to prepare for the event.

“We have several public maps available on our city of Salem website. And we also utilize the ArcGIS online platform and we call it Salem Maps Online,” said Daniel M. Brown, the city’s enterprise GIS technical lead.

Privately, Salem will keep a close eye on happenings as well, Brown said, “mapping a variety of data internally for our own internal uses to manage the event.”

Officials are aware of many planned events in the region, and are tracking those as well as lodging statistics internally via GIS, according to Susan Ross Blohm, enterprise services manager in the city’s IT department.

“We will have people out in the field making field observations where the Eclipse Data Team will update those population estimates as we go. We’re trying to track our real-time population, trying to estimate how many people we do have in the city so we can gauge our response and services,” Blohm said.

Officials are particularly interested in ensuring visitors are properly prepared, and in monitoring traffic, Larson said.

“I think we’re all excited to see it, because we’re putting so much effort and energy into getting everything crafted that we’re excited to see this come to fruition and put it into real practice,” he said.

Salem’s Blohm said the preparation agencies have done could change the way users think about GIS.

“And I'm excited to see GIS used to bridge that gap of communications," she said. "To see that technology in action, I think, will help people make that realization that GIS is more than a map."

And Esri's McIntosh said that interoperability between state and local systems should be key to achieving that.

“What these technologies do is allow people to bring information in from many different sources," he said. "All of this stuff is dynamic and alive. In the eclipse, those kinds of things are going to be critical.”

Los Angeles Launches Cybersecurity Lab to Aid Local Businesses

August 17, 2017 - 05:30

In an average day, Los Angeles’ municipal government analyzes more than 1 billion cybersecurity-related events, automatically blocking about 4 million attacks on its own systems as a result. Now, city officials want to share with businesses throughout their community the effective measures that keep Los Angeles from being victimized.

To this end, they’ve launched the Los Angeles Cyber Lab, a city-based resource to dole out the info and intelligence on which the local government relies each day to prevent intrusions into its own network. The lab, which is the first of its kind in the nation, is a public-private partnership between Los Angeles and Cisco, with an advisory board that includes representatives from a host of companies, including Amazon, Motorola and Microsoft.

Los Angeles CIO Ted Ross told Government Technology about the lab, who it aims to help and how, and about the potential for cybersecurity assistance to become a standard service that major city governments provide to local businesses across the country.

“Taking the resources that the city of Los Angeles is already paying for to protect ourselves, and making them available at no cost to L.A. businesses, it just seems like the right thing to do,” Ross said. “If we can help small-, medium- and large-sized businesses protect themselves against cybercriminals, then I think we’re really helping move the needle, and I think our constituents are getting even more out of their government.”

These resources are specifically coming from Los Angeles’ Integrated Security Operations Center. Ross broke the major functions of the lab at launch down into three categories: cybereducation, threat intelligence and providing an innovation incubator — “a physical space where businesses can try security products before they buy.”

While the lab does have resources to offer larger businesses, including automated updates to their own cyberdefense systems, Ross emphasized how beneficial it will be for small- and medium-sized businesses throughout the Los Angeles region, noting that those organizations rarely have the resources for security officers.

Ross also noted cyberattacks can be silent crimes that go unreported. Instead, owners just pay costs associated with ransomware or other hacking and move on. In some instances, however, such expenditures can be crippling.

“In the year 2017, we’re a highly automated, highly online society,” Ross said. “We’re tremendously reliant on our technology. Cyberthreats and the changing cyberthreat landscape is a challenge and it’s a danger to that way of life. Hacking can have tremendously negative impacts on a business. Small businesses are going from pay period to pay period, and they may not have the capital to survive it.”

The lab builds on Mayor Eric Garcetti’s executive directive that created a Cyber Intrusion Command Center in 2013 to lead cybersecurity preparation across the city's many departments. Part of the new lab’s function is to alert local businesses of attacks as they occur, at no cost or obligation for membership. The long-term plan for the lab calls for it to evolve into a mutual exchange of threat information between government and the private sector.

Los Angeles ranks as one of the first cities in the country to share its cyberthreat data with the public in this way. This model is akin to what’s been happening in the open data arena for years, where the data sets and platforms used by cities are open source and publicized for anyone who wants to benefit from the resources that went into creating them.

This sort of cybersecurity coaching conducted by government is more prevalent at the federal level. Dating back to 2015, the National Guard Bureau has deployed cyberprotection teams. At the state level, this sort of support is also becoming more prevalent, with Georgia, for example, investing in the Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center that is slated to launch in July 2018. That center will be a place where local government officials in Georgia can go for training, as well as for using a cyber-range. The cyber-range, which is common in the private sector, is where users can test defenses against practice attack scenarios.

In terms of city-based efforts, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order in July to establish that city’s first Cyber Command, which is a unit that will set information security and policy standards while also responding to cyberincidents. What’s unique about Los Angeles' new lab is that, among other things, it places such a heavy emphasis on the collaboration aspects inherent to the incubator, which will launch in full in 2018. The city has plans to invite a wide range of stakeholders to share information and resources through this incubator.

“Our ability to share with each other makes both of us better,” Ross said. “The reality is, bad guys have constantly been working together in the area of cybersecurity, and now, using our city government, we’re having the good guys work together to help in the defenses.”

How Cities Should Plan and Prepare Their Transportation Infrastructure for the Future

August 16, 2017 - 14:30

When it comes to the future of transportation in cities, change is increasingly being driven by technology. At the Resilient Cities Summit in Stowe, Vt., in July 2017, I interviewed Harriet Tregoning, the immediate past principal deputy assistant secretary of the Office of Community Planning and Development at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, about how cities should be planning and preparing their transportation infrastructure for the future.

Tregoning was previously the director of the District of Columbia Office of Planning, where she worked to make D.C. a walkable, bikeable, eminently livable, globally competitive and thriving city. Prior to this, she was the director of the Governors’ Institute on Community Design, co-founded with former Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Bob: I'm interested in understanding how a government official, a city planner for example, deals with the impact of technology on their transportation system.

Harriet: Well I think the larger context for planning or governing of any kind is really the process of managing change. So that's really what you're talking about, and technology has impacted communities and cities from the very beginning. Certainly we all live in places that are in part the product of the most disruptive technology of the 20th century: the automobile.

This is another phase of that disruption. Autonomous vehicles are what a lot of cities are beginning to pay a little bit of attention to, and we've already seen so much disruption with electronically hailed car service, in part because the privately owned automobile is an incredibly wasteful thing. According to automaker statistics, in the U.S. automobiles are driven 5 percent of the time and parked 95 percent of the time.

Don Shoup — the parking guru who is at UCLA — tells us that there are between seven and nine parking spaces for each and every automobile in America. All of that adds up to a tremendous amount of waste.

Let's say you're a city official and you have parking structures throughout your downtown. With ride hailing services like Uber and driverless cars there will be excess capacity. What would you suggest as a solution?

When I was planning director in the District of Columbia (I worked for the last two mayors), this was already on my mind. When my team and I updated our zoning code for the first time in more than 50 years, one of the things we did was greatly reduce the parking that was required. But even before that, we decoupled parking from housing, so that everyone would have the choice of whether they wanted to have parking or not. So that wasn't built in, baked into the cost. Because once you've already paid for an expensive parking space, the likelihood that you would own or keep a car is much, much higher.

I also approved one standing parking garage in my time as planning director, and for that parking garage, I required the developer to design it to be retrofit for housing. Because I said, "You might think you need it now, and I agree, you might. But you're not going to need it for long." And things need to be designed for adaptation. We actually have a lot of great examples in the district already where the first one or even two floors of parking have been converted into office buildings.

If parking utilization rates are dropping, and in many cities they are, that means there might already be excess parking in existing structures. So one of the things that technology can help you do is identify where that excess parking is and figure out a technologically enabled way to access it.

One of our developers in the district did a study to look at what really affected parking utilization rates because it's a big mistake to miscalculate on the parking. It might cost $50,000 to $75,000 per underground structured space.

They looked at income, they looked at proximity to metro, and the thing that they found that had the highest correlation was that a low walk score meant higher parking utilization, and a high walk score meant low utilization. So think about the evolution of a neighborhood. The walk score is really about stuff within walking distance. So as a neighborhood develops, or as a district gets more mature, you get more and more stuff within walking distance. But you've already bought your parking. And now as the utilization goes down, you have a stranded asset.

So you've really got to be thinking broadly on how this is going to impact your community.

Well again, you're managing change as the planning director, or someone who is looking at the future cities. Honestly not a lot of people are thinking about the future. They're mostly looking at the past. They're not really even looking at the trends in some cases. So I think that's a primary obligation for people who are leading our cities today. This is an area that's seeing a lot of change, so it's definitely something to keep on top of.

On that note, did you start looking at the impact of autonomous vehicles in D.C.?

Yes, the district solicited for updates of the comprehensive plan. That solicitation was open to the public for several months and it closed in June. This is an area where the District of Columbia has always been very much an early adopter with transportation innovation, whether it's bike sharing, car sharing, electric vehicle technology; whatever it might be, drone delivery, very much on the front edge. So why would that be different when it comes to autonomous vehicles?

What's interesting about the district is that it's both a city and a state, so it deals with state DOT directors on the one hand, but also has many of the characteristics of a city. It works very closely with some of the leading cities in the country. In many ways, D.C. is perfectly positioned to be a leader in thinking about autonomous vehicles.

I wrote an element for the comprehensive plan that's being considered now by the city officials to help the district prepare for autonomous vehicles. We will need to consider both how will land uses change when vehicle utilization is higher, but also what kind of ground rules are important? Autonomous vehicles have the potential to make things like traffic congestion much, much worse, as well as to make things much, much better and more convenient.

So I think it's really up to cities to figure out what are the rules of the game that would get you the best possible outcomes for your citizens.

Great point. It seems that cities that don't have D.C.'s resources and experience would do well to look at what's evolving there.

Yes, cities are so generous, mayors are so generous, and their staff, so generous with each other, they like nothing better than to share good ideas or even failures. Don't do this, we've tried this and this is how it turned out for us. And they love to see somebody do it better. So it's really a great atmosphere.

Well that's certainly something that I enjoy about working in the public sector, that the state and local government is very willing to share. Any final thoughts you'd like to share?

I would say one more thing. You know, driving is a major occupation in many cities, and if you think about the impact of automation, if people who drove taxis and buses and trains and delivery vans and all other sorts of vehicles, if those jobs were to go away, that would have an enormous impact on cities. And it's not clear what would replace it.

So that is one of the things that I think is very important for cities to be thinking about. You know, we've reflexively automated many things in cities, whether it's recycling separation or transit ticket collection, or whatever it might be, and really look to minimize our labor cost in cities. And that might not be the right strategy going forward, especially since so many cities also pay a lot to subsidize the livelihood of those who are unemployed or underemployed.

We have an economy that's producing so many jobs in the service sector that often don't even pay a living wage, and still require subsidies for families. That's just not a great situation. That's partially why so many cities have raised their minimum wage. Because people who have the dignity of working a full-time job should also be able to live independently.

This is a situation where cities, I think, need to look at the whole set of costs and impacts that the city is covering, not just at the first cost of an automation decision.

Tampa Bay, Fla., Seeks Toll-Road Drivers to Volunteer for Its Connected Vehicle Study

August 16, 2017 - 07:00

Tampa Bay commuters now have a chance to lower their toll-road payments, while also receiving important highway driving warnings — right to their rear-view mirror.

The central Florida city is participating in a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) research program, known as the Tampa Connected Vehicle Pilot. The pilot aims to demonstrate the safety, mobility and environmental benefits of “connected vehicle” technology. To do this, some 1,600 private vehicles will be equipped with devices that will consider speed, braking distance and other driving data to determine, for example, when a motorist should brake when coming to the end of a freeway off-ramp, given the car’s speed and number of cars ahead.

To encourage participation in the pilot program, which runs through December 2019, the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA) will offer drivers a 30 percent toll rebate, up to a maximum of $550, on the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway Reversible Express Lanes (REL).

“So we’re actually asking participants to volunteer to take part,” said Bob Frey, planning director at Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority.

Tampa Bay is one of three similar pilots selected to study connected vehicle technology by the DOT, which has awarded a total of $42 million to the three pilot programs. The other two are:

In Wyoming, 400 tractor-trailer rigs traveling a 400-mile stretch of Interstate 80 will be outfitted with devices that allow the trucks to both communicate with each other and with roadside communication infrastructure. The aim is to improve the reporting and monitoring of road conditions along this often snowy and icy corridor.

In New York, the pilot will focus on three areas: a 4-mile segment of Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) Drive in the Upper East Side and East Harlem neighborhoods of Manhattan, four one-way corridors in Manhattan, and a third area covering a 1.6-mile segment of Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn.

Approximately 5,800 cabs, 1,250 Metropolitan Transportation Authority buses, 400 commercial fleet delivery trucks and 500 city vehicles that frequent these areas will be fitted with the connected-vehicle technology. Using “Dedicated Short Range Communication” (DSRC), the deployment will include approximately 310 signalized intersections for vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) technology.

“The [connected-vehicle] technology is a new tool to help NYC reach its Vision Zero goals to eliminate traffic-related deaths and reduce crash-related injuries and damage to both the vehicles and infrastructure,” said Wesam Daraghmeh, a spokesman for the New York City Department of Transportation. 

“This is a three-phase, 50-month program. We are on the second [phase] now,” said Daraghmeh. Some devices were installed in our fleet for testing purposes.”

Back in Tampa, it’s not just private vehicles outfitted with the connected-vehicle technology; 10 city buses and 10 TECO Line streetcars will also don the tech.

Pedestrians will be able to participate in the pilot by installing an app on their smartphones. The app, which is expected to be available for download in February 2018, will enable pedestrians to request a “walk” signal at several intersections on Meridian Avenue. On some downtown streets, it will also issue an audible alert if a bus or streetcar is starting to move nearby.

Volunteers’ automobiles will be outfitted with devices that “talk” to other connected vehicles to help prevent crashes. The cars will also communicate with downtown traffic and pedestrian signals to enhance safety, improve traffic flow and even reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

How does it work?

The technology will use the same sort of dedicated short-range communications to be used in the New York pilot. The technology allows roadside communication units along the 10-mile reversible lane section of the Lee Roy Selman cross-town toll-road expressway — which connects eastern Hillsborough County to the other side of downtown Tampa — to “speak” to vehicles and relay information.

“Each car will be installed with a [rearview] mirror, and on-board unit and an antenna … that will allow the vehicle to contact the roadside-unit and let them know where they’re at, and run the applications,” Frey explained. 

The rearview mirrors can interact with the driver via audio or through icons that appear on the surface of the mirror. Public transit buses and street cars will get a tablet device to relay the information to drivers.

“For example, one of the applications is an ‘end of freeway ramp’ warning,” said Frey. “So when they come to the end of the freeway, the vehicle’s speed is taken into consideration, and the number of vehicles in front of it, and it calculates this and tells them when they need to slow down.”

The program launched just a few days ago, and so far about 300 motorist have signed up to have the free equipment installed in their cars, say officials. Tampa received about $17 million from the federal government for the pilot, which received an additional $3.8 million local match from THEA.

The performance of the Tampa Connected Vehicle Pilot program will be measured by looking at whether traffic movement and safety along the toll-road stretch improves, said Frey.

“We’re looking forward to taking part and showing Tampa Bay what this technology can do, moving into the future,” he added.

Startup Seeks Cities to Test Bonds that Put a Twist on Pay-for-Success

August 16, 2017 - 05:00

It can be difficult for government to try new things. If one is spending taxpayer dollars, and under constant public scrutiny, and has an enormous legal broadside, it tends to make one risk-averse.

So what if someone else took on part of the risk of uncertainty?

That’s the thesis Neighborly is starting from. The municipal bond-focused startup has announced a new program that puts a spin on the pay-for-success concept and is seeking a couple local government projects to put the idea to work. It's called an environmental impact bond (EIB).

Thus far, pay-for-success projects have mostly taken the form of social impact bonds (SIB), which tend to focus on many of the same areas charities do: reducing criminal recidivism rates, helping children in the foster care system, etc. The projects were met with enthusiasm from government, but are still a relatively new concept and have faced skepticism from researchers because of their complexity and the sudden crumbling of certain programs.

The EIB differs from the traditional SIB in two big ways: payments and area of focus. Where SIBs call for the government to pay for a project only in the event of measurable success, EIBs establish a sliding scale of payment. Where SIBs focus on services, the EIB concept appears more readily geared toward hard infrastructure.

The payment part is a particularly large departure. After all, an early SIB in New York City failed because the investor pulled out for fear of the program not meeting its goals — and thus not requiring the city to pay back the bond. With EIBs, the city must still pay back the bond if the project doesn’t meet its goals. The payback simply becomes smaller in the event of failure.

From an investor perspective, return on investment (ROI) disappears, but at least they don’t lose everything they put in. From a government perspective, they still must shell out money for a failed project, but at least it’s a smaller payment.

The opposite is also true under an EIB: If a project is more successful than anticipated, the government that issued the bond must pay more, and then the investor generates an unexpectedly good ROI.

As George Hawkins, CEO of the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority puts it, it’s like a bond with insurance.

“Most insurance policies you pay a premium no matter what,” Hawkins explained. “In ours, we only pay the premium if it works for us.”

DC Water’s project, which involved using water-absorbing “green infrastructure” instead of tunnels to help avoid too much rainwater overwhelming the sewers, was a sort of trial balloon for the concept. In that instance, they issued the bond privately to Goldman Sachs and the Calvert Foundation.

In Neighborly’s project, the startup is looking to open up the bonds to a wider pool of purchasers. In fact, that’s what Neighborly was founded to do — the startup’s goal is to allow average people to buy municipal bonds. In the context of EIBs, then, people could use the platform to invest in environmental projects in their own cities and then earn a payback on it.

“The humble municipal bond is the original impact investment,” said Neighborly CEO Jase Wilson. “It’s been funding things like parks and schools and libraries since longer than that’s been a term.”

The Neighborly program isn’t limited to projects to absorb rainwater, either. In preliminary talks with cities, Wilson said he’s heard ideas ranging from sea walls to electricity microgrids.

“We don’t know what happens when we open the flood gates on the project, but it’s shown us that there’s a world of innovative projects waiting to be financed,” Wilson said.

And there are, potentially, a lot of areas where the project’s organizers think the model could work. Because the purpose of the EIB is to provide peace of mind through risk reduction, it could theoretically apply to any project where the government isn’t totally sure that the project would work.

Take D.C., for example. Green infrastructure has proven successful in plenty of places, but that success tends to hinge on things like what type of soil the green infrastructure will sit on. Others have examined this type of bond for a program helping farmers implement best practices to avoid pollutants entering local water supplies, or setting up a program to help reuse materials from deconstructed homes instead of simply demolishing the structures.

A key aspect of such bonds is setting up the performance metrics. That’s where Quantified Ventures (QV) comes in — in the Neighborly project, they’ll be aiming to structure the bonds so that the most likely scenario results in a middle-of-the-road bond payment. Just as important, they’ll be working out what constitutes underperformance and overperformance.

The Rockefeller Center is supporting the initiative through a grant that will pay for QV's and Neighborly's support services. Should the projects prove helpful to governments looking for ways to try out new things, the program’s organizers will be looking to try it out on a larger scale.

“Rockefeller is trying to promote a wider market for this,” said Todd Appel, QV’s impact director. “So our thinking, and Rockefeller’s, is if we had a couple different examples, different locations, maybe a couple different design features, that that will help facilitate adoption of the model.”

Seattle Increases Financial Commitment to 20-Year-Old Digital Equity Program

August 15, 2017 - 15:00

Seattle is upping its financial contribution to a program that for the past 20 years has helped community groups provide technology, as well as the skills needed to use technology, to residents who are traditionally underserved and often left behind.

The program is called the Technology Matching Fund, and the Seattle City Council recently voted to award $430,000 through it to 15 local groups. This year the fund is expected to help more than 6,000 residents of Seattle in underserved or underrepresented communities, including those of immigrants and refugees, seniors, at-risk youths, and people with disabilities. The resources will help these residents by being put to use through a wide range of social groups, including the Boys and Girls Club, LaunchCode, the West African Community Council and many others.

The matching facet of this program is a simple one: For every dollar the city gives, an organization will match it with 50 cents of its own money then being put toward tech. What the money is used for varies from organization to organization, but in a broad sense it all will go to one of the three priorities that have been established by Seattle’s digital inclusion planning: increasing connectivity throughout the city; fostering better digital skills among residents; and providing devices and other technology to those who do not presently have access to it.

Although the fund has grown slowly over the years — it started out at $100,000 and has only just this year reached $430,000 — the city’s commitment has been steadfast. Over the lifespan of the initiative, 300 projects have been funded by more than $4 million in grants.

City officials involved with the fund and with Seattle’s larger digital equity work say one of the benefits of distributing the money this way is that it reaches residents whom the municipal government often struggles to engage. When deciding which groups will receive the grants, Seattle’s technologists spend time interacting with the groups and the communities, giving them a window into the city.

“Seattle — probably because of the kind of companies that have been there for a very long time — has been on the leading edge within city government for creating opportunities for people to engage with government online,” said Chance Hunt, a community technology manager with Seattle. “So, with that comes the realization that we need to do more to then help our community get involved.”

Seattle is home to Microsoft and Amazon, among other tech companies, and, as Hunt notes, has long been in the vanguard for gov tech. Seattle has also been out ahead on digital inclusion work, as evidenced by its 20-year commitment to the Technology Matching Fund. Still, that doesn’t mean it has digital equity all figured out. City officials are well aware that there is still work to be done, and that being such a technologically advanced city means they are perhaps at an even greater risk than other major local governments of leaving some residents behind.

Jim Loter, Seattle’s director of digital engagement, is very much aware of all of this. He uses an experience he recently had as a reminder and example of the challenges that citizens who aren’t in possession of or savvy with technology face around town.

Loter said he recently went to see a movie on a typical Seattle afternoon, when it was “already dark and already raining.” To get to the theater, he had to use a parking garage nearby, and that parking garage had a payment system that required an app. There was no kiosk, and seemingly no way to pay with cash money. To go to a movie, Loter had to have a smartphone with a data plan, he had to download the app, and he had to connect a credit card for payment. That’s fine for him, but what if someone was missing any one of those three things? Parking their car to go to a movie would have then been problematic.

Although it was a privately owned garage, Loter said he often keeps the experience in mind in his work.

“[Digital equity] is something we’re acutely aware of here in Seattle, because you can’t turn around and not see evidence of the high-tech presence here,” Loter said. “There’s Amazon and Microsoft, and Google and Facebook are growing here. We have a rich and robust startup and small business community in the tech sector as well. There’s probably even a greater risk in a high-tech city like Seattle of people being left behind and unable to receive certain benefits and services.”

The city is well aware of this, as the increasing support for the fund attests, and the community groups are putting the money from the fund to good use. The Somali Family Safety Task Force, for example, is using the funds to expand an existing program that has been helping immigrant mothers build computer skills.

“The laptops we’ll purchase will triple the time these women can spend in a computer lab each week,” said that group’s grants manager, Consuelo Echeverria, in a statement. “We’ll also be able to hire college students from the Somali community to teach them.” 

Seattle recently won a pair of awards from the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors for its efforts to foster digital inclusion. Digital inclusion is of increasing concern nationwide, with many cities establishing official initiatives. This was also the first year that an official national digital inclusion week was established, complete with a series of accompanying events.

Car Crash Reporting Guidelines Prepare for Self-Driving Vehicles

August 15, 2017 - 12:30

Officials from many corners of the automotive and technology industries, along with government, see the era of self-driving cars arriving in the not-too-distant future.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Governors Highway Safety Association just completed the latest edition of the Model Minimum Uniform Crash Criteria, which sets the guidelines for reporting car crash data by law enforcement and other authorities.The MMUCC’s fifth edition now has specific instructions related to reporting crashes related to autonomous vehicles.

“Almost every day, you read about another company that plans to develop AVs, so the widespread deployment may happen sooner than everyone had anticipated,” said Barbara Harsha, of BLH Consulting, the firm managing the MMUCC update project. “Since MMUCC is only updated every five years, the community of data collectors and users wanted to be ready.”

The U.S. is expected to have several thousand autonomous vehicles on the road by 2020 and as many as 4.5 million self-driving cars by 2035, according to IHS Automotive

The type if information requested by the MMUCC related to autonomous vehicles includes levels of automation, systems used and other information. 

To date, 19 states have passed legislation related in some way to autonomous vehicles, while still others are considering new rules. Additionally, governors from four states have issued executive orders creating councils and working groups of stakeholders and public officials dedicated to looking at how their states should proceed.

“It wasn't anticipated that law enforcement would be able to collect this information now but, by including it in MMUCC, it sends a signal that they should be prepared to do so in the near future. Collecting crash data on AVs will help manufacturers make adjustments and provide information to policy makers on needed laws and regulations for AVs,” said Harsha.

The changes to the guidelines around recording car-crash data come with added emphasis by officials with NHTSA and the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) on the need for standard, across-the-board reporting of accident data.

"So much is changing on our roadways,” said Jonathan Adkins, executive director for GHSA, in a statement. “And traffic fatalities are increasing at an alarming rate. We need good data to make informed decisions about how to change driver behaviors and save more lives. GHSA strongly encourages states to align their crash records with MMUCC and collect comprehensive, consistent data that is critical to pinpointing regional and national trends."

Car fatalities are on the rise not because cars are less safe — they aren’t — but because of a range of factors related to issues like the economy, gas prices and distracted drivers, say observers. The estimated number of motor vehicle deaths in 2016 reached 40,200, according to the National Safety Council. Fatalities increased 6 percent from 2015 and exceeded 40,000 for the first time since 2007.

“There is a strong correlation between a good economy and increased crashes,” said Harsha. “With more disposable income, people tend to drive more. More driving means more exposure and, hence, more crashes. Low gasoline prices also contribute to increased driving,” she added.

Kara Macek, senior director of communications at GHSA, said the reason for the increase in highway fatalities is multipronged, including more cars on the roads and more distracted drivers.
“Cars themselves are actually getting safer, it’s the human behind the wheel we still have to worry about,” said Macek.

The MMUCC 5th Edition is the result of an 18-month collaboration between NHTSA, GHSA, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and subject matter experts from state Departments of Transportation (DOTs), local law enforcement, emergency medical services, safety organizations, industry partners, and academia. The traffic records community and general public also contributed comments. The next update of MMUCC is tentatively scheduled for 2022.

With Indiana's First IoT Lab Rising, Fishers Seeks to Become a Tech City

August 15, 2017 - 06:45

Northeast Commerce Park in Fishers, Ind., is getting closer to hosting the one business that might truly cement a reputation for economic diversity: the state’s first Internet of Things lab.

The squarish former home of Bates Technology, a maker of honing stones and machine shop tooling that moved to another Indianapolis suburb slightly north, doesn’t look entirely revolutionary from the outside.

But the city’s mayor and two local entrepreneurs — ardent supporters of the lab they expect to open during the year’s fourth quarter — are adamant that technology and IoT will continue to transform this city of more than 86,000 and yield huge dividends for the state and region.

The issue has also been a focus for Gov. Eric Holcomb. He visited Fishers to announce the lab in February and his Next Level Fund, part of a legislative agenda with the same name, will invest a quarter-billion over the next decade into venture capital, a potential boon for startups.

"To maintain our position as a leader in the new economy, IoT must be part of our strategy for the next generation of Hoosiers," Holcomb said in a statement earlier this year, commending IoT lab organizers.

Fishers is far from an unknown quantity. The freeway-adjacent community has grown so swiftly that it asked for a special census in 2003 from the U.S. Census. It became a city in 2015; last year, officials conducted another partial special census to assess high-growth areas.

Simultaneously, it is building a reputation for supporting technology. Launch Fishers, a co-working space near the future IoT lab, opened in 2012 under the aegis of entrepreneur John Wechsler, its CEO and founder; Mayor Scott Fadness; and John McDonald, CEO of IoT systems integration business ClearObject.

Discussions at Code and Coffee, a weekly development group meeting in the co-working space, helped create CrimeWatch, an app one of its developers built in consult with the Fishers Police Department. The app lets residents report suspicious activity; more than 5,000 have downloaded it.

Agency360, a company formed to create solutions to assist public safety personnel in doing more with less, has created field training software that lets officers quickly, easily and accurately document trainees’ progress. The company is headquartered at Launch Fishers.

“There’s already easily 10 IoT-focused companies in Fishers without them doing this. There’s already a ‘there’ there. It’s less aspirational than building it in the middle of a cornfield,” McDonald told Government Technology.

But he immediately called the lab — adjacent to Launch Fishers — a “bold move” and a “calculated risk” from a city “well ahead of most of its competitors in the U.S. and maybe in the world.” By supporting IoT, Fishers hopes to create a technology generator that could produce the state’s next bumper crop of signature industries.

Fadness, the city’s first-ever mayor, started at Fishers as an intern in 2006 and said officials have set a bold outward agenda even as they pursue an IT modernization intended to integrate solutions enterprise-wide and enable the free flow of data among departments.

He said the trio — McDonald, Wechsler and himself — see the IoT lab as “what’s next.”
The state does three things well: agriculture, distribution and manufacturing, the mayor said, and ranks in the top 5 in each category as a state.

“The challenge with all three of those is they’re about to be disrupted by the IoT in a way that they’ve probably not seen since the Industrial Revolution,” Fadness told Government Technology. “And what we want to make sure in Indiana is that we have an economy that’s growing around these technological innovations.”

Fishers is closely involved in the 24,562-square foot IoT lab at 9059 Technology Lane. Similarly to Launch Fishers, the city will pay for the lease of the building; while Launch Fishers, a 501c3 nonprofit, will pay for the lab’s day-to-day operations through membership fees and sponsorships.

More than 50 members have joined at a fee of $1,000 each, which entitles them to work out of the facility when it becomes available.

Major sponsors, whose contributions are more substantial — amounting, Wechsler said, to funding “specific functional areas or physical parts of the building” — include Comcast, AT&T, Indiana University and DeveloperTown, an Indianapolis ideation, app development and design company.

The lab’s soft opening date, originally thought to be this summer, has been pushed to October with a grand opening date likely in early 2018. But when its resources do become available, they’ll include a laser cutter, 3-D printer, a pick-and-place printed circuit board maker; and a stereolithography (SLA) printer that deploys 3-D printing technology to refined tolerances.

Being immediately south of Launch Fishers could stimulate some interesting connections, McDonald said, noting that research labs and co-working spaces have developed separately but not, to his knowledge, so closely together.

“We’re trying to get it up and running, and we’ll kind of build the airplane on the way down in terms of what this is going to be in the marketplace over the long-term,” Wechsler said, referring to the strategy as both “offensive and defensive.”

He characterized it as “an opportunity for us to extend our leadership position and kind of define the next industries that will lead our economy.”

The lab has yet to find its exact market position, but Fadness said it could one day offer employment to Indiana residents as existing jobs in agriculture and elsewhere become more automated.

Bigger picture, the mayor — who was successful, McDonald noted, in wooing ClearObject to relocate from Indianapolis to Fishers — said he’d like to convince Cummins Inc., headquartered in Columbus, Ind., to utilize it for developing IoT devices for their diesel and alternative fuel engines.

“What we want to make sure in Indiana is that we have an economy that’s growing around these technological innovations,” Fadness said.

Depending upon its path and the solutions it creates, the lab could also play a role in providing IoT solutions to public agencies, Wechsler said.

“I think it’s not only smart from an economic development perspective to foster innovation in this space, but it could lead to better municipal services as well,” he added.

McDonald agreed, but pointed out that despite the city of Fishers’ dominant support, not every solution will have a place in the Indianapolis suburb. One issue, he said, will be leveraging the data.

“Just because you can collect it doesn’t mean it’s useful. And all too often, the challenge of municipalities has been in how do you apply the data to something productive for the running of a city,” McDonald said, noting that some solutions that have done well elsewhere like Shotspotter, the gunshot detection system, are out of place in low-crime areas like Fishers.

But even these issues, he added, could be an entry point for the lab.

“We’re struggling with the use cases in smarter cities. The lab can explore those things and do interesting things and be an incubator for ideas just the way they’re an incubator for private reasons,” McDonald said.

Fadness said cities need to be “thoughtful” about the problems they’re trying to solve with IoT — but in Fishers, he emphasized, “we have always opened our doors to new technology.”

CIO for Maricopa, Nation's Fourth-Largest County, Heads to Private Sector

August 14, 2017 - 14:15

David L. Stevens, chief information officer for Maricopa County, Ariz., the nation’s fourth-largest county by population, will leave his post to take a position in the private sector in about six weeks.

Stevens, who has served as CIO for nearly five years, told Government Technology he gave notice on Thursday, Aug. 10, and his last day of work will be Oct. 2. However, he will work with Maricopa County to facilitate a transition, he said.

Previously, he had served in county government since 2001, in positions including CIO of the county’s judicial branch, and deputy county CIO before ascending to CIO in Oct. 2012.

He is leaving for the private sector, Stevens told GT, to take a position as executive vice president of corporate relations at Valor Global, which offers call center, managed information technology, infrastructure and data center services to companies including Sprint.

The firm is headquartered in Scottsdale, Ariz., with offices in Germany, Costa Rica and the Philippines, where it nevertheless expanded in 2014 despite cancelling planned acquisitions there.

In a news release, Stevens said he will “focus on Valor’s rapid national growth in the public sector market.”

“I think it will be a great fit for them and for us and a great opportunity to come alongside a lot of public sector companies,” Stevens told GT, citing Valor Global’s “pretty strong track record here, locally reducing operations costs,” improving call times and forging equal or better service-level agreements.

Valor Global CEO Simer Mayo said in a statement the company continues to experience rapid public sector growth, and Stevens’ knowledge of the market will help it “focus on creating best-of-breed public-private partnerships.”

“David’s extensive experience in public sector business and as a nationally recognized leader in technology is a major asset to Valor Global,” Mayo said.

“His experience and knowledge of incorporating ITIL and LEAN in IT and Call Center delivery will allow us to continue to serve national, federal, state, county, education and city governments while expanding our current product capabilities to our customers,” Mayo added.

Maricopa County is in the first year of a three-year strategic plan built upon a technology foundation improved to meet the growing demands of business, as part of a long-term tech strategy aimed at enabling development of innovative products and services and engaging customers “on their terms — anywhere, anytime, with any device.”

Going forward, the county is working to enhance cybersecurity with increased investment, develop new solutions to further customer experiences, and promote its Digital Government initiative to improve online citizen, customer and business engagement.

A special edition of the county’s Office of Enterprise Technology Business Value Report that Stevens provided highlighted achievements during his tenure as the county has modernized its technology infrastructure.

The report, which examined the 2014-2016 fiscal years, documented savings including:

$4.3 million in savings over five years by implementing a 3PAR enterprise storage solution. More than $4 million over three years by renegotiating a Microsoft Enterprise License Agreement. More than $2 million savings in replacing the treasurer’s information system by creating a virtual server environment. More than $1.8 million savings by reducing maintenance costs through a network modernization.

But Stevens said he's also very proud of the county’s employee culture and its staffers.

“Just a culture of success. People not afraid to win and to collaborate. Really, to be bought into the shared business outcomes that we’re trying to achieve and building that kind of culture, just takes time and trust,” he said.

Officials at Maricopa County did not respond to requests for comment. However, the departing CIO said he will remain closely involved as the agency shapes its search to replace him.

“They’re working on what kind of recruitment process they want to do. I think the county executive is still sorting that out, and thankfully I think I’ll be able to help them in that transition in some way, shape or form,” he said.

Roads that Pay for Themselves: Startup Nears Two Smart Pavement Pilot Project Contracts

August 14, 2017 - 14:00

After years of planning, the next several months are when Tim Sylvester will get the chance to start testing out what he’s been telling people for years: roads can pay for themselves.

Sylvester’s company, Integrated Roadways, wants to put sensors, phone and Internet connectivity and other hardware inside the surfaces society drives on. The company has been pitching the idea to governments since 2012, but unlike the nimble cloud startups that have flared in and out of existence in the interim, Integrated Roadways is dealing in one of the heaviest kinds of hardware possible for a tech company to lift. So until now, it’s been limited to exploring the idea in partnership with governments who might want to put high-tech roads in place in the future.

Finally, it has two pilot projects coming up where it intends to actually lay down pavement and prove its concept: One in Kansas City, Mo. and one in another state. Bob Bennett, Kansas City’s chief innovation officer, confirmed the location of the first pilot. Sylvester has yet to announce the location of the second.

Sometime this month, Sylvester expects to formally enter into contracts with both state agencies involved to lay down a combined 1.5 miles of pavement. He expects construction to begin in the spring, and to finish around August 2018.

Though limited in physical length, the pilot projects are looking to offer preliminary proof of some grandiose ideas.

The status quo in most of the U.S. is that the government always has a maintenance backlog when it comes to roads, and there’s never enough money or time to catch up. So the roads sit in disrepair, the problems grow more expensive, transportation departments have less ability to try out new things without federal assistance and traffic continues to get worse.

“The reason that we’ve had the circular discussion for decades now about paying for roads is that it’s always been a back and forth between taxes and tolls,” Sylvester said. “There’s never been a voice for using technology.”

Sylvester’s idea is to veritably stuff the roads full of technology. Connectivity backbones could help telecommunications firms deploy 5G networks, or give cities a place to put fiber-optic cable and spread high-speed Internet. Sensors could gather data on vehicle counts, speeds and weights, giving cities better access to information. In the future, other built-in hardware could support the communications needs of connected and self-driving vehicles, or electromagnetic coils could charge the batteries of electric vehicles as they drive.

All of those things are valuable enough to be sold to various buyers. So valuable, Sylvester thinks, that they could enable Integrated Roadways to put down the roads without charging anything up-front to the government. So valuable that they could give transportation budgets all they need to pay for maintenance.

Emphasis on “thinks.” There’s a lot to be proven. Bennett said he has no idea how much of it will turn out the way Integrated Roadways is planning. After all, it’s a big departure from the way roads currently operate.

In fact, Bennett said he’s skeptical that the roads would pay for themselves if they were installed today.

“Until such time as a sufficient number of connected vehicles on the road, or the technology that is included in the road itself, links to the applications people already have on their phones and get monetized by corporate organizations, I think that’s probably not likely,” he said.

From a government standpoint, simply getting fast, accurate, granular data on traffic conditions is highly valuable.

“Right now we estimate it, we can send people out to track it, and we can send people out if there’s a problem … but (it would be different) to now be able to give you a precise number and a trend analysis to figure out how we can get traffic off that road, ways to incentivize mass transit, ways to engage the public to mitigate that mass transit issue,” Bennett said.

Ideally, the data would fly beyond the IT offices and onto the desks of elected officials, who could use the insights to legislate better solutions for traffic problems.

“Right now if I just say ‘It’s bad,’ everyone will shake their head,” he said. “But if I can say ‘It’s bad to X degree and we need to remove this many cars,’ now we can do some policy with that.”

For now, it remains a series of hypotheses to be tested. Specifically, Bennett said he will be curious to see how well the sensors work, how the technology integrates with the city’s existing civic data platform, what the maintenance needs will be, and how well the road enables him to describe Kansas City’s commuting problems.

Market Niche Focus: Who Helps Government Take Online Payments?

August 14, 2017 - 05:30

Amazon has become the perpetual pariah of government technology. Public-sector chief information officers, startup founders and investors alike all point the finger at the e-commerce giant again and again, blaming it for high expectations from the average citizen. If they can order dog booties online with one click and have it shipped to their house in two days, with what measure of rage might they react when they must physically appear at the Department of Motor Vehicles for a driver’s license?

A whole host of companies have sprung up to make government a bit more Amazon-like. Among them are a bevy of firms all seeking to make it easier to pay the government for all the various things citizens need to pay for: parking tickets, permits and licenses, utility bills, and so on.

There are, of course, some giant players already in the marketplace. These include companies like Visa, MasterCard and American Express, which all have government business segments. These firms, however, occupy a very specialized place in payment processing: acting as a clearinghouse to facilitate connections between banks acting on behalf of payers and payees.

For this list, we are narrowing in on more software-focused payment processors that have been working specifically with state and local government to enable digital payments.

The companies on this list — which is not necessarily comprehensive — tend to offer a variety of services to government. Some, like Heartland and Vantiv, process payments directly. Others focus on user interfaces, systems integration and back-end process automation and leave the actual handling of payments to third-party partners.

Many on the list, such as NIC, PayIt and US Merchant Systems, take the approach of offering services such as website setup to government for no up-front cash, instead opting to collect revenue by attaching convenience fees to customer transactions.

Everyone on the list takes card transactions, but a few provide some more specialized services — Creditron, for example, lets governments send images of checks in for processing instead of having to physically send checks to banks. Paymentus offers payment through text. Some on the list, like Heartland and Stripe, give users the ability to accept newer payment methods like Apple Pay.

Many on the list also put a premium on integration. Stripe is the engine that powers ProudCity’s new payment tool, while Accela builds its payment tool into its Civic Platform.