Ed Parkinson, FirstNet Director of Government Affairs, shared his thoughts on a recent iCERT-NG911 Showcase on the FirstNet blog:

Today I had the opportunity to speak at the Industry Council for Emergency Response Technologies (iCERT)-NG911 Institute Capitol Hill Technology Showcase. The event brought together industry experts and government leaders in emergency communications.

I enjoyed the opportunity to highlight a number of recent developments at FirstNet – including our recent move to our headquarters in Reston, VA, the appointment of Sue Swenson to the position of Chairwoman of the board, the developments in state consultation, and progress with outreach efforts. Great strides have been made but a lot of work remains, especially with regard to our goal of releasing a draft comprehensive network solution RFP later this year.

The topic of 911 is an issue that I’ve been involved with for the better part of a decade. It was clear to me when I began working with the 911 community that it’s one that’s dedicated and passionate about its mission and in helping others.

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Companies that were startups a few years ago — Dropbox, Pinterest, Spotify, Airbnb, foursquare, Reddit — are now global businesses. All of them have one thing in common: they built their business using cloud computing services. Successful startups are growing their user base in minutes and monetising services at a phenomenal pace, all the while disrupting traditional enterprise business models. These are happy storm clouds destroying the lull.

Enterprises need to seek new ways of using technology to drive business growth. An increasing number of chief information officers (CIO) are moving away from the traditional tasks of keeping the lights on for onpremises data centres or negotiating long-term contracts. Instead, they are now embracing cloud computing and challenging their IT teams to think differently. There are seven broad IT approaches in cloud adoption:


Enterprises are moving their development and test environments to the cloud to reduce deployment time and cost. TakeInMobi. The company delivers rich media ads, text and banners to over 570 million customers worldwide. InMobi runs test and development, performs quality checks, serves production advertisement workloads — all on the cloud. Using cloud services has enabled InMobi to develop and launch six products in six months.

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According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), the US government will spend $1.7 billion on private clouds in 2014, with a projected estimate of $7.7 billion for the year 2017. This is not surprising based on the government’s keen interest in the cloud space dating back to the Nebula cloud computing project from NASA in 2008. A string of government bodies such as the US Army, Air Force, Navy, USDA, Department of Justice, Department of Education and more have now joined in.

While the US government may have been a pioneer in the cloud space, other governments have been quick to recognize and embrace the benefits of this new technological paradigm for conducting business.

Among those now utilizing the cloud is the government of Singapore, with its G-Cloud initiative, which is designed to take advantage of cost-competitive public cloud offerings and resources while also providing increased security and compliance. In subsequent phases, Singapore plans to take advantage of big data and to explore software as a service options for business analytics and web content management.

The United Kingdom has also come up with an initiative dubbed G-Cloud that is designed to provide a range of cloud services for government bodies and to facilitate the procurement process.

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Emergency dispatchers who handle 911 calls are often the first to hear of unfolding disasters, even horrors, as panicked or terrified callers try to explain what’s happening and where they are. After getting police, fire or medical vehicles racing to the scene, the phones keep ringing and must be answered, leaving dispatchers with little chance to digest what just occurred or even know how it ended. It is a stressful job that can take a psychological and emotional toll on dispatchers.

Here is a sample of the stress — and satisfaction — experienced by 911 operators.

Brooklyn Mundo

Age: 24

Location: Casselberry, Florida

Years in the profession: 3.5

Brooklyn Mundo was the dispatcher on duty when four people were gunned down inside of a Casselberry hair salon in October 2012.

“There are maybe four or five calls that are ingrained in my memory that I will never forget and the salon shooting is one of them. The calls that I found to be most difficult are the calls where both the victim and the operator feel helpless.

“In that situation, there’s a partial language barrier, there was a delay. You always think to yourself, if I could have done this a few seconds faster, if I could have done this a little sooner, maybe that person’s life would have been saved. And you really can’t think about that or else you’ll destroy yourself.

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Six-year-old Claire Sullivan’s grandmother was babysitting her at her Arlington apartment when a 20 minute, life-or-death drama began to unfold.

“I heard a little cry and I went to check over here [sic] what it was. And then I saw my Mimi laying down on the couch,” Claire recalled.

The Arlington Fire Department released the recording of the 9-1-1 call Tuesday.

“Hello,” Claire said with an urgent but controlled voice. “My MiMi! It’s like she’s dead. “What’s your address, honey?” the dispatcher asked. “One,” Claire paused as she tried to think. “It says 112 on the door.”

Claire Sullivan, 6, is recognized for her bravery by the City of Arlington, after calling 911 to try and get help for her grandmother. (credit: CBSDFW.COM)

Claire knew the apartment number but not the rest of the address. “You mean like the address for my street?” Claire asked the dispatcher. The lifeline on the other end of the phone said, “The address for your street, yes ma’am.”

Still unsuccessful with locating an address Claire asked, “Do you want me to go outside to see the street name?” The dispatcher first asked her if there were any adults outside or neighbors she knew. “I don’t see anybody outside my door but my street. I think it says Arbor Town,” Claire said.

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If the government is to realize its goal of running an agile, largely cloud-based technology operation, it will require buy-in from all corners of the agency, senior technology executives said at a government IT conference on Wednesday.

Barry West, CIO of the Pension Benefits Guaranty Corporation, describes that process as “socializing cloud on the business side,” and it can be a lonely fight without support at the highest reaches of the agency.

“You have to really have a sponsor in your organization that believes in cloud and is willing to take some risk into new areas that they may not have been in before,” West says. That executive sponsor should sit at the CIO level or higher (director, administrator, secretary, deputy secretary, chief management officer or the like), he adds.

“You have to have somebody that’s really partnered with that CIO that’s going to take some of the risk and challenges and be willing to work with some of the other folks in the organization that may be not so comfortable with cloud or not being able to see their data in their own data center,” West says.

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Cloud computing has achieved mainstream deployment in the UK according to the latest research from the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF), with some 78% of organizations formally adopting at least one cloud-based service.

The research, conducted in June 2014, polling 250 senior IT and business decision-makers, indicated a nine-point increase or 15% growth over the last research project conducted in September 2013. This suggests an annualised growth rate of nearer 20% by the end of September 2014. Since the first research was conducted in 2010, UK Cloud adoption has grown by 61.5%.

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At least 102 public-safety answering points (PSAPs) in 17 states were accepting text messages as of the end of June, an official from the Federal Communications Commission said during a recent National 911 Program webinar.

“We’ve seen a steady increase in the number of jurisdictions adopting Text-to-911 and taking advantage of the readiness of the four major carriers to deliver text,” said Tim May, E911/NG911 projects manager for the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau.

So far, a web-browser-based solution has proven the most popular method for text-to-911 service, followed by direct IP connection, May said. Eleven PSAPs are using their legacy TTY capability.

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Virtualizing physical computers is the backbone of public and private cloud computing from desktops to data centers, enabling organizations to optimize hardware utilization, enhance security, support multitenancy, and more.

Early virtualization methods were rooted in emulating CPUs, such as the x86 on a PowerPC-based Mac, enabling users to run DOS and Windows. Not only did the CPU need to be emulated, but so did the rest of the hardware environment, including graphics adapters, hard disks, network adapters, memory, and interfaces.

In the late 1990s, VMware introduced a major breakthrough in virtualization, a technology that let the majority of the code execute directly on the CPU without needing to be translated or emulated.

Prior to VMware, two or more operating systems running on the same hardware would simply corrupt each other as they vied for physical resources and attempted to execute privileged instructions. VMware intelligently intercepted these types of instructions, dynamically rewriting the code and storing the new translation for reuse and fast execution.

In combination, these techniques ran much faster than previous emulators and helped define x86 virtualization as we know it today — including the old mainframe concept of the “hypervisor,” a platform built to enable IT to create and run virtual machines.

The pivotal change

For years, VMware and its patents ruled the realm of virtualization. On the server side, running on bare metal, VMware’s ESX became the leading Type 1 (or native) hypervisor. On the client side, running within an existing desktop operating system, VMware Workstation was among the top “Type 2″ (or hosted) hypervisors.

No longer a technology just for developers or cross-platform software usage, virtualization proved itself as a powerful tool to improve efficiency and manageability in data centers by putting servers in fungible virtualized containers.

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Drivers in the Cloud

A new survey of IT professionals, reported by CloudTweaks and conducted by Gigaom Research and North Bridge Partners, cited the latest trends, including the drivers and inhibitors to cloud use. The fourth annual “Future of Cloud Computing” study revealed several trends: Almost 75 percent of firms are using SaaS, a fivefold increase; more than 50 percent of sales and marketing teams and more than 40 percent of customer service and analytics teams are adopting SaaS; and PaaS, used to prototype and develop new apps, has seen a sixfold increase with adoption at 40 percent. Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) is also reaching new levels of use: More than 55 percent of firms are employing IaaS to gain more flexibility.

The overall results point to the fact that cloud computing adoption is a strategic part of IT today. Half of the firms surveyed are using the cloud to create revenue or new products, while 45 percent are running their organization from the cloud. The results also show that most respondents believe that their corporate data will increasingly live in the cloud within the next two years.

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