Government Technology News
Thu, 22 Jun 2017 18:32:20 +0200
How Can Advances in Technology Contribute to Evolving Electrical Grid?
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — “The grid” is one of those catch-all terms that holds different connotations for different groups. Generally speaking, it refers to the power structure network of users and suppliers, and can be thought of in terms of the power infrastructure at the city, state and national level. To compensate for the ever-increasing demand on this steadily aging infrastructure, regulators and tech companies are coming together to see what can be done.
During a panel discussion on the ways technology can support an evolving grid at the Advanced Energy Economy’s Pathway to 2050 event on June 21, state Sen. Henry Stern called on the wisdom of the regulators and tech folks pushing the industry forward. Due to technological advances and the growth of California’s population, energy utilities are under increasing demand to make energy available at all times. This demand comes in waves throughout the day, often peaking for Californians in the afternoon and evening.
People have traditionally wanted two things when it comes to power, Stern said — for it to be reliable and cheap.
“It is hard to humanize what happens behind a light switch,” he said. However, when the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility began to leak, and “when kids start getting sick… or pets die, you wake up," he added. "We start thinking about what happens behind that switch.”
In the midst of an “interesting moment in energy policy,” it is hard to predict how the technology will grow and what market forces will look like. But decisions can be made about what we do know about the future — and that's utilizing less fossil fuels and making distributed power grids more commonplace.
Part of the shift needs to be about how we think about energy, said Matt Duesterberg, co-founder and CEO of energy startup OhmConnect.
“We traditionally think about energy in terms of a resource,” he said. “We probably need to start looking at this from a product-type perspective.”
That includes looking at it in terms of data, of real-time capacity. “We have no idea what the grid will look like in 2050,” he added, noting that it is hard to guide how the grid will appropriate power.
Duesterberg gave an example of current efforts to build out electric vehicle charging stations in business parks and other public locations. This approach relies on the assumption that people will want to charge their vehicles away from home, he explained. But as electric vehicle batteries become more powerful and efficient, he cautioned that drivers may just charge them at home periodically. This model also does not take into account the possibility that autonomous ride-sharing fleets could threaten the model of personal vehicle ownership.
Expanding on this idea, Manal Yamout, vice president of policy for Advanced Microgrid Solutions, discussed harnessing power that grid utilities possess and how it can be transformed into value for consumers. “Folks think that battery storage is the issue. It's not,” she said, noting that batteries are just “big dumb boxes.” It's the software behind the batteries that can generate more value.
Some of the largest value lies in the possibility of aggregating battery storage units to store energy during off-peak hours — energy that can then be redistributed to public utilities for use during times of high demand. This market is “evolving very quickly,” she said, adding that regulators need to work to help enable it, not restrict it.
She also shook off the notion that the state has to choose between clean energy and jobs. The idea that jobs and environment friendly energy are at odds with one another is disproven by the amount of capital and investment in broader market trends.
“There is no silver bullet in terms of a future technology, at least I don't think there will be,” said Duesterberg. But getting to energy efficiency is all about the small gains that contribute to larger, more challenging goals. While getting to 50 percent renewable energy by 2030 is an ambitious goal codified by California Gov. Jerry Brown, he said we all want that to increase to 100 percent — and its going to take a lot of work.
Wed, 21 Jun 2017 10:45:00 PDT
New App Helps Officials, First Responders in 9 States Find Well Locations and Their Histories
Curious about the new pumpjack going into a certain neighborhood or wondering who owns the disused well site near your drilling operation? The oil and gas industry has an app for that.
Risk Based Data Management System (RBDMS) WellFinder, a mobile application from the Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC), launched in May 2017.
This latest offering from GWPC, a nonprofit organization with members from state and groundwater regulatory agencies, is designed to capitalize on the online migration of oil and gas agencies nationwide that are scanning decades of well ownership and regulatory documents by addressing calls for increased transparency and safety.
Oklahoma was first to pilot the app, which is a free download for Apple and Android users, but regulatory agencies in eight other states including Colorado, Kentucky, Mississippi and New York have since teamed with the app to enable access to their well data.
Anyone with a smartphone can download the app but, for now, only data from those nine states — also including Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho and Nebraska — is accessible.
As more states join, their data will follow, enabling users to search API or permit numbers; well types whether oil, gas or injection; whether wells are active or plugged; production data; and regulatory, operator and emergency contacts.
“WellFinder was originally designed for public information so that if you’re driving down the road or there’s a new well popping up across the street, what well is that? It was originally designed for that, but inspectors are using it now to help navigate to the well sites, because oil and gas wells don’t have street addresses,” Paul Jehn, RBDMS national project manager and GWPC technical director, told Government Technology.
The app helps field inspectors — who once had to carry data with them out in the field — as well as industry members and residents, all of whom share an interest in having the data be publicly available.
“People are concerned about injection wells. Everybody wants to make sure we’re doing things as environmentally sound as we can," Jehn added. "All these tools are designed to help managers in oil and gas agencies manage the resource, produce oil and gas in an environmentally sound manner, and actually follow up on compliance."
Main screen for the Ground Water Protection Council's new Risk Based Data Management System WellFinder app.
The app’s instant, virtual access should save the industry money by enabling employees to work remotely but — similar to the publicizing of other data streams — is also expected to generate cost efficiencies for state officials through a projected drop in public information requests.
“In the end, that also helps them be better regulators because they have a lot of data that they can track and rely on to make better decisions,” said Erica Carr, communications consultant for the Oklahoma-based GWPC.
The app updates wellsite inspection information in real time, or once inspectors are in range of a cell signal. But it also better enables first responders — who haven’t always had access to the same data as industry professionals, but can now locate details quickly during an emergency.
“This is part of a continuing effort to put more information into the public’s hands. This will be a work in progress that will continue to yield dividends,” said Dana Murphy, commissioner of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which spearheaded the recent Oklahoma pilot.
Stan Belieu, a steering committee member at the Nebraska Oil and Gas Commission, an early WellFinder adopter and one of the original states to use RBDMS around 25 years ago, agreed that the app’s transparency is notable, but said its empowerment of first responders is significant.
“I think the whole country’s excited. All the RBDMS states and other oil- and gas-producing states are looking at that,” Belieu told Government Technology, noting there’s also anticipation around a partnership between the California Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources and GWPC to create a similar product unique to the state.
The Well Statewide Tracking and Reporting system (WellSTAR), a centralized management system for California wells that leverages RBDMS data, is expected to begin development, testing and training on its first release phase later this summer.
State-level agencies like their county and municipal counterparts are continually asked to do more with less, Belieu said — which makes the inherent connectivity of WellFinder and other online RBDMS products a genuine boon.
“Our Information Technology guy, if he’s got an issue, he can pick up the phone and call the IT guy in Colorado. It’s the networking that matters as much as anything,” Belieu added.
Other offerings from RBDMS have included a desktop app that connects real-time U.S. Geological Survey seismic data with state-level injection well data; and ePermit, its online application process developed in Cold Fusion. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation uses ePermit for oil and gas well permitting, and the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining uses it for oil and gas well permitting, and pre-drilling site evaluations.
An additional data stream that Jehn said may come to WellFinder in the future is an accounting of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” a way of stimulating wells by breaking up rock deposits with pressurized liquids. It’s currently available from the Frac Focus Chemical Disclosure Registry and linked by RBDMS.
Wed, 21 Jun 2017 04:00:00 PDT
Chicago's Procurement Modernization Seeks to Better Collaboration Across 29 City Departments
Procurement is one of those areas of government that doesn’t often get a lot of attention. When it comes to technology, people love talking about data analytics, moving to the cloud and any number of overused catchphrases. But too often the simple stuff gets overlooked.
In Chicago, city officials have rallied behind a plan to adjust how its Department of Procurement Services (DPS) does its job. As it stands — and like so many other procurement departments in the U.S. — Chicago’s system revolves largely around a heavily paper-based process that offers little insight into how and why money is spent the way it is. Mayor Rahm Emanuel aims to change all that.
On June 14, Emanuel announced plans to revamp the outdated system with a new e-procurement solution that will be determined following a request for proposal (RFP) process that begins in early August.
“The establishment of e-procurement demonstrates our commitment to ongoing efficiency and transparency in procurement,” he said in a press release. “We are committed to creating an open and fair government to benefit vendors and potential vendors with new tools that will make it easier to do business with the city.”
Officials say the new tools will allow for better collaboration across 29 city departments, but will also improve the more nuanced parts of the procurement process, such as responding to bids, RFPs and requests for quotation (RFQs); viewing and tracking payments and invoices; invoice submissions; and paying vendors.
Though Catherine Kwiatkowski, communications director for the Department of Procurement, said Chicago is already a national leader in the procurement transparency space, the modernized system will layer onto efforts already underway.
“The Department of Procurement Services posts the equivalent of thousands of pages of vendor, contract and payment information on the city’s website. We livestream bid openings on YouTube to provide a real-time experience and to save vendors a trip downtown,” she told Government Technology via email. “The e-procurement project began with citywide transparency initiatives that continue to evolve; streamlining the procurement process was of equal importance and a key benefit to this undertaking.”
Among the more critical departments relying on DPS for procurement services are police and fire, transportation, public health, planning and development, and family and support services.
“From day one in his administration," Kwiatkowski said, "Mayor Emanuel has prioritized transparency and implementing solutions to make it easier for businesses to participate in the business of city government.”
Wed, 21 Jun 2017 10:35:00 PDT
The Age of Customer.gov: Can the Tech that Drives 311 Help Government Deliver an Amazon-like Experience?
The Digital Communities Special Report, which appears twice a year in Government Technology magazine, offers in-depth coverage for local government leaders and technology professionals. It is part of the Digital Communities program, a network of public- and private-sector IT professionals working to improve local governments’ delivery of public service through the use of technology. The program — a partnership between Government Technology and e.Republic’s Center for Digital Government — consists of task forces that meet online and in person to exchange information on important issues facing local government leaders and technologists.
The June 2017 report explores the idea that the tech that drives 311 can help government deliver an Amazon-like experience.
Part 1: 311: From a Hotline to a Platform for Citizen Engagement
Part 2: Cloud 311 Popularity Grows as Cities of All Sizes Move to Remotely Hosted CRM
Part 3: The Future of CRM and Customer Service: Look to Boston
Part 4: CRM Use Is Gaining Traction in Local Government — Here Are the Numbers to Prove It
Thu, 1 Jun 2017 08:00:00 PDT
NYC Looks to Make Its 911 System Fully Digital
New York City is working to make its 911 system fully digital, which in practical terms means that residents will be able to interact with emergency responders through text messages, photos, videos, social media and other state-of-the-art methods of communication.
The city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications has released a nearly 300-page RFP looking for vendors to help build the underlying infrastructure necessary for the coming upgrades — specifically the IP-based 911 system. The upgrade effort has been dubbed Next Generation 911, and while it is being developed and implemented, the city will also launch an interim system called Text-to-911 in early 2018. This system is exactly what it sounds like — a way to use text messages to contact 911 the way one would with a traditional phone call.
This type of 911 system is becoming increasingly common throughout the country, from New Jersey to Kansas City to Indiana, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has estimated that the tech has been adapted by about 650 dispatch centers nationwide, which constitutes roughly 10 percent of American emergency responders. The Next Generation 911 project seeks to provide greater functionality than these text-based systems.
“We have the nation’s largest, busiest and most complex 911 system, which is why we need to be on the leading edge of emergency communications technology — and that’s exactly where Next Generation 911 will take us,” said Anne Roest, commissioner of the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications. “Early next year, New Yorkers will be able to text 911, with much more to come down the road. Ultimately, our system will do more than give New Yorkers new ways to communicate — it will make it easier for the city to continually upgrade and improve 911 as technology evolves in the coming years, and for generations to come.”
The advantages of text-based communications with 911 services are especially relevant for members of the deaf community, as well as for those who are speech-impaired or hard of hearing. This system is also designed to aid crime victims caught in situations where speaking might put them in danger.
Victor Calise, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, praised the addition of this tech in a release, saying that equity is a key part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration. This project marks the most recent enhancement to New York City’s 911 functionality undertaken by Mayor de Blasio. The administration also recently built a backup answering center, one that is fully redundant and able to provide service in full if there is a failure or problem at the city’s existing response center.
Proposals are due Aug. 8, and work is targeted to begin in December. Officials hope the Next Generation 911 project will be ready to launch for public use in early 2022. The request for proposals can be downloaded at http://www1.nyc.gov/site/doitt/business/next-gen-911-emergency-services.page.
Kate Blumm, assistant commissioner for Communications and External Affairs within the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, stressed the importance of this project in the wake of rapid advancements in the ways citizens use technology.
“Our 911 network needs to accommodate this national revolution in the way people are using personal technology,” Blumm said, “and that’s a big part of what this project is all about.”
Tue, 20 Jun 2017 09:59:00 PDT