Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Former Utah CIO Steve Fletcher Joins NTIA

Former Utah CIO Stephen Fletcher has taken a position with the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA), heading-up the newly created Office of Public Safety Communications (OPSC).

The OPSC will oversee the state and local public safety grant program established by the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012. The office will also assist FirstNet (First Responder Network Authority) — which is charged with rolling out the National Public Safety Broadband Network — with procurement and other activities.

Fletcher has been on the job as associate administrator of the OPSC since Nov. 5, 2012. In an email with Government Technology, he said that he’s followed the activities of the public safety community for years and was excited to see legislation passed to establish FirstNet.

“I am intrigued by the idea that this will be a start-up venture under the umbrella of government,” Fletcher wrote. “It is a big, complex project — a nationwide project — and this is very appealing to me. This project will also allow me to continue to interact with all of the state and local relationships I have built up over the years.”

FirstNet will build and deploy the new nationwide emergency broadband network based on a single, national, network architecture. It will enable true interoperability among first responders and public safety officials across the country.

Fletcher’s diverse background should lend itself nicely to his new role. He served as CIO both for Utah and the U.S. Department of Education, developing knowledge about the procurement and grant-making process. He was responsible for the communications-related functions of Utah’s statewide public safety network.

Appointed Utah’s CIO in 2005, Fletcher was noted for his leadership with regard to the state’s enterprisewide IT consolidation and centralization. He also is a past president of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers, and in 2008 was named one of Government Technology’s Top 25 Doers, Dreamers and Drivers.

Fletcher resigned as CIO of Utah last May, after a huge security breach in the Utah Department of Health. Discovered on April 2, the March 30 breach was believed to compromise 280,000 Social Security numbers and the personal information of approximately 500,000 people, including names, addresses, birth dates and some details contained in patient health records.

Despite his less-than-celebrated exit from Utah, Fletcher said he believes the experience is something he can apply to FirstNet as it comes to fruition. He felt the biggest lesson learned from the Utah data breach is that in projects of that size — or in an emergency — it’s critical to increase the level of communication among stakeholders.
“The best way to do that is to plan for it and build it from inception,” Fletcher said. “So when an emergency happens you will … be able to react to the problem rather than first having to define the process. This will be useful as the network unfolds.”
Photo courtesy of the National Telecommunications & Information Administration

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

5 in 5

We think of the five senses as exclusive to living things

Processing sights and sounds requires eyes, ears and, most important, a brain—right? But what if your hardware shared your senses?

In the era of cognitive computing, systems learn instead of passively relying on programming. As a result, emerging technologies will continue to push the boundaries of human limitations to enhance and augment our senses with machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), advanced speech recognition and more. No need to call for Superman when we have real super senses at hand.

This year IBM presents The 5 in 5 in five sensory categories, through innovations that will touch our lives and see us into the future.

From IBM's Chief Innovation Officer
Read what he says about The 5 in 5 

Poll results

Touch: You will be able to touch through your phone

In the 1970s, when a telephone company encouraged us to "reach out and touch someone," it had no idea that a few decades later that could be more than a metaphor. Infrared and haptic technologies will enable a smart phone's touchscreen technology and vibration capabilities to simulate the physical sensation of touching something. So you could experience the silkiness of that catalog's Egyptian cotton sheets instead of just relying on some copywriter to convince you.

Hearing: Computers will hear what matters

Before the tree fell in the forest, did anyone hear it? Sensors that pick up sound patterns and frequency changes will be able to predict weakness in a bridge before it buckles, the deeper meaning of your baby's cry or, yes, a tree breaking down internally before it falls. By analyzing verbal traits and including multi-sensory information, machine hearing and speech recognition could even be sensitive enough to advance dialogue across languages and cultures.

Taste: Digital taste buds will help you eat smarter

The challenge of providing food—whether it's for impoverished populations, people on restricted diets or picky kids—is in finding a way to meet both nutritional needs and personal preferences. In the works: a way to compute "perfect" meals using an algorithmic recipe of favorite flavors and optimal nutrition. No more need for substitute foods when you can have a personalized menu that satisfies both the calorie count and the palate.

Smell: Computers will have a sense of smell

When you call a friend to say how you're doing, your phone will know on the full story. Soon, sensors will detect and distinguish odors: a chemical, a biomarker, even molecules in the breath that affect personal health. The same smell technology, combined with deep learning systems, could troubleshoot operating-room hygiene, crops' soil conditions or a city's sanitation system before the human nose knows there's a problem.