A roundup of the latest IT initiatives, including: stories on digital cameras on the highway; the 2006 National Technology Champion Award; biometric hand time clocks; airport security smart cards; a citywide Wi-Fi initiative; mobile wallets; oblique imaging; and more.
SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ., is making its main freeway safer by patrolling it with digital cameras and ground sensors to catch speedy motorists. The city is believed to be the first in the nation to install fixed digital cameras over a freeway to catch vehicles exceeding the speed limit, says Mary O’Connor, transportation general manager.
Scottsdale mounted six sets of cameras on poles along a 7.8-mile stretch of Arizona’s Loop 101 Freeway. When ground sensors installed on each lane spot cars driving 76 miles per hour (11 mph over the speed limit) or faster, the cameras snap photographs of the vehicles. The data is wirelessly transmitted to a city database, where Scottsdale police officers and employees from the city’s freeway camera vendor view each photo to determine whether to issue citations.
Before the implementation, about 50 percent of drivers drove 76 mph or faster. Now, only about 2 percent are speeding, O’Connor says. Scottsdale invested $468,000 on the plan and expects to break even from ticket revenue.
The city got a permit from Arizona’s Department of Transportation to test the system through October 2006. If the pilot succeeds, O’Connor says, officials will consider whether to make the cameras permanent. – Wylie Wong
STATE CIOs SALUTE LEAVITT WITH TECH CHAMP AWARD
IF YOU’RE going to have a vision, it’s best to have a view of how to achieve success. Michael Leavitt does.
On June 1, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services secretary received the prestigious 2006 National Technology Champion Award from the National Association of State Chief Information Officers at its mid-year conference. NASCIO presents this award on an annual basis to acknowledge pioneers who promote excellence in technology and good government.
“Secretary Leavitt’s passion for enabling the use of technology has advanced citizen service, information sharing and good government,” notes Wisconsin CIO and NASCIO President Matt Miszewski.
Leavitt has focused on the widespread deployment of health information technology to provide patient-centered health care that is safer, timelier, more efficient and equitable, and less costly. He also has pushed for better standards and improved collaboration throughout the government. – Samuel Greengard
Deerfield Beach, Fla., decided to implement a biometric hand clock “to streamline our payroll process for field employees, who have to clock in every day,” says Burgess Hanson, assistant to the city manager.
“It is more efficient to have employees place their hand in the biometric device, which automatically tracks their time in and out so the division secretary does not have to manually check the time-clock card.” – Catherine LaCroix
SPEEDING THROUGH THE AIRPORT
Thirty seconds or thirty minutes? The choice is yours when it comes to getting through airport security — if you’re willing to pay $80 to use an express lane. Verified Identity Pass’ Clear system uses biometrics to quickly identify you as a precleared traveler and speed you on your way.
The Clear system started at Florida’s Orlando International Airport in June 2005 and will begin in the San Jose, Calif., and Indianapolis airports this summer. To use the system, you go to a participating airport, where the system records your fingerprint and iris data. Your application is passed to the Transportation Security Administration.
Once your application is approved, Verified Identity Pass issues you a smart card. At the airport, your fingerprint or iris image establishes your identity. – Bill Machrone
NEW YORK’S VIRTUAL LIBRARY
NEW YORKERS can now access library data anywhere, anytime. A program from the New York State Library, New York Online Virtual Electronic Library (NOVEL), offers residents entree to national and international publications, health resources, business and investment information, downloadable graphics and information for children.
Residents can access NOVEL via their local public, academic or school library, or even from home. There is no charge for database access. All that’s needed is a borrower’s card from either the local public library or the New York State Library, a New York State photo driver’s license or a nondriver ID card.
“Unlike information available via Internet search engines, NOVEL data is vetted and organized for maximum value,” says Mary Woodward, senior librarian, New York State Library. “It is also peer reviewed, up to date and evaluated by professional librarians.”
New York is one of only a handful of states to offer access to library databases from multiple locations, including residents’ homes.
As of March 2006, more than 5,000 N.Y. libraries made NOVEL available to patrons. Use of NOVEL collections soared 1,400 percent between 2001 and 2006, to some 30 million searches a year. Use is expected to climb to 50 million searches a year by 2008.
“Our plan is to grow the database offerings, with emphasis on scientific information, history resources and other areas,” says Research Library Director Loretta Ebert.
– Mike Kosinski
SUPER SEARCH ENGINE STOPS CRIME
Ohio’s new Law Enforcement Gateway Search Engine casts a wide net across disparate databases and delivers results that speed and simplify police searches. Part of its multifaceted Law Enforcement Gateway, OHLEG-SE is a secure, Web-based application that extends across nine databases.
Jim Petro, Ohio’s attorney general, knew officers used many databases daily, each with different login and query techniques and reporting results in different formats, says Steven Raubenolt, OHLEG director. “[Petro] mandated the creation of OHLEG and the search engine that greatly simplifies tasks,” he says. “[Officers] can start with a simple query, get results from all the databases, and then drill down, without having to relog in or use different retrieval techniques.”– Bill Machrone
CORPUS CHRISTI GOES WIRELESS
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas, is deploying a Wi-Fi network that will cover its 147 square miles. Scheduled for completion by September 2006, the wireless mesh network, installed by Northrop Grumman, will provide Wi-Fi networking to public sector offices, employees and the private sector.
This $6 million project is already showing a return on investment, says City Manager George “Skip” Noe. “We got started [using Wi-Fi] as a solution for our automated [water] meter reading project.” The city determined that Wi-Fi would be the best technology for the AMR project and realized that the network could be extended to cover the entire city.
A successful Wi-Fi AMR pilot project began in May 2005, and network construction began last October. “We built the backbone network along arterial streets, and now we’re backfilling in areas around that,” says Noe.
Corpus Christi also is converting the police and fire departments’ automated vehicle location system to a more efficient Wi-Fi system.
“This is a massive transformation in the way cities approach the services they provide,” says Jeffrey King, the director of Northrop Grumman IT Utility Services.
– Matthew D. Sarrel
A NEW WAY TO PAY
FOR YEARS, the promise of a mobile wallet loomed just over the horizon. Automating payments and combining debit and credit cards into a single electronic system would simplify and speed transactions. But the mobile commerce movement of the late 1990s failed to catch on.
Today’s mobile technology may be ringing in new opportunities. Scottsdale, Ariz., market research firm In-Stat says as many as 25 million wireless phone subscribers in North America could be using their mobile phones as electronic wallets by 2011.
The mobile wallet handles mobile sales and other transactions. Several technologies could enable the operation of mobile wallet handsets, including near-field communications, RFID, bar codes and visual recognition. – Samuel Greengard
GIS Update: New View From the Top
A SNIPER IS HOLED UP on the fourth floor of a building. Police ask, “What does the surrounding neighborhood look like?” Or a city’s tax collector might inquire, “Is that a new in-ground swimming pool that hasn’t been assessed?” These types of questions are being answered by Pictometry, a company that provides oblique imaging photographs of key U.S. cities.
Oblique imaging creates aerial digital photographs that are taken at an angle by airplanes, then stitched together to provide multiangle views. The photos have such high resolution that building signs, street lights and fire hydrants are visible.
Government agencies made up the initial users. In New Orleans, Pictometry images provided a detailed view of what the levees looked like before Hurricane Katrina hit. In Atlanta in 2005, these images gave police a view of the apartment where murder suspect Brian Nichols was hiding. In Massachusetts, they help tax assessors check for building additions made without permits.
Private users, including golf courses and online services, are signing on. Microsoft incorporates Pictometry imagery on its map site, MSN Virtual Earth, which lets people see their house and, for a fee, order images of the house, block or neighborhood. Pictometry maps now cover about a third of the populated areas of the United States, and that number is expected to rise to 80 percent by the end of 2007. – Bill Howard