Technology Is Essential for Achieving State Priorities

By Rachel Eckert, SLED Manager

It’s that time of the year, when governors make proclamations about budget priorities for the upcoming year. These speeches provide insight into areas where state agencies will be spending their money. These speeches rarely spell out overt technology priorities, but this year’s priorities of developing the workforce, improving physical infrastructure, increasing education funding and security — and not raising taxes cry out for technology.

Workforce Development
Many governors have spoken about increasing efforts to develop a more robust workforce. The discussion usually centers around training, especially technical training. Training today relies heavily on technology for its delivery of the curriculum and the subject material itself features a heavy dose of technology as well. In Massachusetts, for example, Governor Baker is advocating for training on advanced manufacturing, robotics and smart materials.

In California, the new governor stated a need for a comprehensive statewide strategy to uplift and upskill workers “to ensure technological advancements in AI, blockchain, big data…” State departments of labor and industry throughout the country will be looking for technology that will help match individuals to appropriate training programs, deliver education materials and track their progress.

Public Infrastructure
Another common theme is improving roadway infrastructure. Michigan struggles with an abundance of crumbling roads and bridges. In addition to repairing a multitude of unsafe roads and bridges, traffic congestion was also a problem cited by many other states, not just Michigan. State budgets do not have adequate funding to address this problem. With the help of public-private partnerships (P3s), though, many states are investigating new technology to help address infrastructure challenges, including traffic congestion. Read more of this post

NCPA Contracts Offer Access to a Wider Swath of SLED Marketplace

By Rachel Eckert, SLED Manager

The subject of contracts piques the interest of vendors – seasoned and new. Contracts are that tricky piece of the sales puzzle that can push a great opportunity just out of reach – if your products and services are not on the right contract!

immixGroup was recently awarded two additional IT-related contracts, for a total of three, with the National Cooperative Purchasing Alliance (NCPA) that will make it easier and more efficient to sell into the SLED marketplace – across all 50 states.

Contract categories are:

  • 01-75 Systems and Information Management Software
  • 01-83 Data Storage, Cloud, Converged and Data Protection
  • 01-88 Software Products and Services

NCPA, based in Texas, competitively solicits master contracts that are awarded based on quality, performance, and most importantly, pricing. The best part: NCPA contracts are written to be accessible nationally to public agencies in states whose laws allow for intergovernmental contract use – also known as “piggybacking” or “adopting.”

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Are E-Scooters the Future of City Transportation?

By Rachel Eckert, SLED Consultant

Electronic scooters seem to be just about everywhere these days, having appeared almost overnight. Companies such as Bird and Lime have placed these dockless e-scooters in cities around the country, in some cases successfully, in others with much resistance.

E-scooters can offer cities a way to meet environmental goals and reduce city congestion by reducing the number of cars on the roads — if incorporated into an integrated smart transportation plan in combination with other transit options. The apps these e-scooters leverage and the GPS signals they track can easily be integrated into existing traffic monitoring systems to provide a more complete picture of real-time traffic.

This new transportation option has not been met with open arms in every city. In fact, some cities have confiscated and impounded e-scooters after they have been deployed without city permission. Other cities have made pre-emptive actions banning the e-scooters. E-scooters appear to be facing similar city regulatory problems that ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft faced in the past.

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What is a Smart City?

By Rachel Eckert, SLED consultant

Most of us who have been in and around the state, local and education space (SLED) have seen the term “smart city” more times than we can count. A simple search for “what is a smart city” returns dozens of examples, definitions and solution sheets that explain specific implementations being done under the heading of “smart city.” In a nutshell, a smart city is one that aims to improve the delivery of services to its citizens using technology.

That’s a simple definition and easy enough to understand, but, how does a city become smart? What technologies do they use to be smart? How does a vendor approach a city to make it smarter? And when you add in the typical SLED wrinkle with each city being its own fiefdom, finding a common definition and a strategy to target a smart city is understandably difficult.

Let’s dive into that definition a bit deeper. Cities provide all sorts of services to their citizens including public safety, transportation, health care and more. Each year, cities see their populations grow, thus increasing the number of people to whom they must now provide those public safety, transportation or health care services. The problem is that most cities aren’t seeing the same increase in budgets, leaving them with taxed resources and an ever-growing mission.

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Smart Governments Get Smarter with AI

By Rachel Eckert, SLED consultant

It’s no secret that state and local governments are getting smarter, rolling out smart city pilots that range from smart street lights to entire smart transportation corridors. The deployment of Internet of Things technologies is enabling governments to become smarter and faster, but can they do more?

In one word, yes!

Artificial Intelligence is that tool, the tool that can enable state and local governments to connect seamlessly with citizens, speed processing time and facilitate a more connected government. In the consumer world, AI is being used for marketing in technologies like virtual assistants that learn our lifestyle, preferences, schedule, etc. and recommend products and services tailored to us.

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Opportunity for Vendors to Shape IoT Standards in State Government

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By Rachel Eckert, SLED consultant

Like many other states, Ohio has a multitude of smart, connected projects that include a drone detection system, autonomous and connected vehicle corridors, and a federally funded smart city project in Columbus. You can now find another project underway: the development of a new common framework for the state’s digital transportation technologies.

A contract to create this framework was awarded to AECOM Technical Services and is pending state legislative approval. AECOM has been tasked with developing strategies to ensure device interoperability, proper data management and effective government-industry partnerships. The goal of this exercise is to make sure that all of the technology developments that go into creating autonomous vehicles can be implemented on standardized technology platforms that will enable an autonomous vehicle to traverse the entire state without problems.

To understand the magnitude of an endeavor like this, you must understand how the typical IoT or “smart” project is developed. Typically, governments develop ideas and pilots in a vacuum, each embarking on their own “from scratch” initiative. Each initiative requires the development of infrastructure and networking, selection of devices, deployment of technology, and collection of data and analysis. For governments like the City of Columbus, this doesn’t present an insurmountable task as many of the necessary pieces already exist. However, where this becomes a barrier is at smaller local governments who don’t have the staff, resources or funding to plan and implement each of those steps.

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Law enforcement needs a boost—here’s how tech can help

By Rachel Eckert, SLED consultant

Never far from any state and local discussion is a lack of resources and when it comes to law enforcement and public safety, there is no exception.

Organizations need to find alternative methods of financing upgrades to technology, equipment and resources in order to continue modernizing and improving the sense of community.

I recently covered this challenge in my webinar titled, “Law Enforcement Needs a Boost–Here’s How Technology Can Help“.

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