Maryland Comptroller seeks RFP for $100M tax system

Maryland– The Maryland Office of the Comptroller is seeking proposals for a $100-million-dollar job to replace the 25-year-old tax processing system. The office released a request for proposals (RFP) with bids due by June 1. The goal is to have a contract before the state’s Board of Public Works in September. The plan is to replace the office tax processing system as well as its collection system.

 

There was an incident in 2016 where the comptroller’s office discovered that $21 million of local income tax had been misdirected going back to 2010. The comptroller’s office collected the proper amount of revenue, but some taxpayers were not classified in the correct taxing districts causing tax revenue to be distributed to the wrong municipalities. The RFP requires that vendors have contracts in at least six other states to qualify.

DOE releases RFP for $1.8B exascale supercomputers

Washington D.C.– U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry has announced a request for proposals (RFP), potentially worth up to $1.8 billion, for the development of two new exascale supercomputers for the United States Department of Energy (DOE) National Laboratories. The timeframe is between 2021 and 2023 to complete the computers. The new supercomputers funded through this RFP will be follow-on systems to the first U.S. exascale system named Aurora, which is currently under development at the Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) and scheduled to come online in 2021. The RFP also envisions the possibility of upgrades or even a follow-on system to the Aurora supercomputer in 2022-2023.

 

The new systems will provide 50 to 100 times greater performance than the current, fastest U.S. supercomputer. Funding for the RFP is being provided jointly by the DOE Office of Science and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). The Office of Science and NNSA are also partners in the Department’s Exascale Computing Project. The plan is to deploy one of the systems to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and the other at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif.

Cyber threats impact everyone! Is it time for citizens and taxpayers to get more involved?

Cyber stalkers present serious threats to businesses, governmental entities and organizations of all types. The ever-present danger is said to be increasing at an alarming pace, and because the aftermath of any cyberattack is so devastating and costly, technology changes are occurring at a dizzying pace. In spite of that, most citizens do not believe that current cyber security efforts are adequate.

According to a recent study, 50 percent of state and local governments experienced six to 25 breaches in the prior 24 months, and 12 percent experienced more than 25 breaches. The federal government will spend approximately $17 billion to enhance cyber security in 2017 but state and local governments are being forced to address the same threats with much less when it comes to funding and resources. In a recent survey, 80 percent of state chief information officers (CIOs) indicated that the lack of funding for cyber security is their top challenge.

In spite of restrained resources, public officials at the state levels of government are currently involved in, or discussing and planning, cyber security enhancement projects. The National Governors Association (NGA) is trying to help and has issued recommendations for a number of basic actions that should be initiated.

The organization is urging governors and state legislators to analyze the cost and benefits of cyber security and to move beyond reliance on regulatory processes, the most common ways states have addressed cyber threats in the past.  The suggestions for immediate action are interesting and helpful, but cyber security experts urge government leaders to do much more.

For instance, many states are investing in more data security training for state employees. And, it’s obvious that employees cannot perform well as the first line of defense if they are not painfully aware of the dangers of neglect or haste or inattention when dealing with critical information and network security. Security protocols should be standardized and monitored continually but old networks and legacy technology are almost like sitting ducks on a pond for cyber stalkers.

Private-sector firms own and operate 85 percent of critical infrastructure in the United States and some, but not all, rely on world-class technology experts to keep their data networks safe. State officials don’t have the funding to attract and retain world-class cyber security talent.  As a result, almost all engage private-sector firms to help them address cyber threats. Interestingly enough, though, private-sector firms may be less interested in contracting with governmental entities. Demand for technology talent is so great that many companies are making their greatest efforts in the commercial sector.

Government procurement for goods and services has always been a lengthy process but that must change. Some public entities are addressing streamlining the acquisition process and that is particularly encouraging. Changes must occur or private-sector firms will lose interest in providing the best talent and technology advances to government.

Government leaders are particularly focusing on power grids, utility cooperatives, transportation and water security. Governors have been urged to ensure adequate protection to even the smallest communities because so many are vulnerable. Cyber stalkers with even low levels of expertise are attracted to susceptible targets.

Taxpayers and citizens realize the risks but few individuals feel the need to reach out to elected officials and express their concerns. If ever there was a time for individuals to let their elected officials know of their concern for cyber security, surely it is now.

Smart Cities – again, making huge changes to benefit citizens, taxpayers

Here’s something shocking… A recent report revealed that smart traffic management could save 4.2 billion man hours worldwide annually by 2021. If that happened, it would mean that every motorist in a crowded city would save roughly one full working day per year.

Transportation data, the focus of most smart city initiatives, is helping city leaders use technology to alleviate traffic congestion, improve mobility and create safer roads. That’s a good thing and motorists in traffic congested cities hope that relief is on the way soon.

Cities used transportation data in the past for planning and decision-making but the data that was collected was usually outdated by the time planners received it. The technology was not there to collect traffic data in real time.

All that has changed and traffic data is now collected in real time and the Internet of Things (IoT) is changing cities so rapidly that most citizens are not even aware of the changes.

The IoT enables the collection, storage, analysis and use of real time data. For example, one city project in Ontario, Canada, is using real time traffic data to create algorithms that regulate traffic lights.

Another city – Columbus, Ohio – is about to install an IoT-connected transportation network that will respond to sensors deployed along 50 miles of roadway, at 175 traffic signals and on 3,000 vehicles. When complete, the project will allow emergency vehicles to have priority at all intersections.  The real time data received from the sensors will signal traffic light changes as emergency vehicles approach.  Pedestrians and motorists will be protected at intersections.

Cities are also launching innovative technology solutions to provide better circulation routes on roadways with high truck traffic. Oregon Metro in Portland hopes to deliver freight priority at signalized intersections on Columbia Boulevard, which is a freight corridor and a vital link between North Portland and I-5.

In 2018, the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission plans to experiment with variable highway speed limits based on road and traffic conditions detected by computer sensors. Many motorists will support that concept.

Cities are even using transportation data to make infrastructure repairs more effective. Digital monitoring of streets uses real time data collection to assess infrastructure quality and prioritize needs. Some cities are doing it through vehicle-monitoring systems, and here’s how that works. Street data is collected from city-owned vehicles that have sensors and other technology attached to them so that they can transmit road data to a central location. The vehicles have GPS technology, tire pressure sensors, cameras, radar and microphones which gather road data cheaply and effectively. Cincinnati turned to this form of digital monitoring to monitor and prioritize repairs to streets that had fallen in disrepair.

From monitoring traffic congestion to planning and prioritizing future infrastructure projects, the IoT (which really means the collection of massive amounts of real time data) is changing cities like nothing has in the last few decades. Smart cities are evolving and citizens and taxpayers will reap the benefits for generations to come.