Mobility wasn’t the headliner at the recent Igniting Innovation Showcase hosted by ACT-IAC, but it may have stolen the show. Several of the exhibits most popular with attendees focused on providing users with information wherever they are and whatever device they use.
The showcase, intended to highlight government agencies’ pursuit of new and creative ways to streamline operations, deliver services to citizens, or interact with industry, provided a platform for several agencies to demonstrate how they are adapting to using IT in a mobile world.
The overall winner of the showcase was the Environmental Protection Agency, with its “How’s My Waterway” app. Drawing upon geospatial information and water quality reports delivered by states, the app gives users the ability to view a map of waterways – streams, creeks, rivers, etc. – and call up pollution reports in non-technical, plain-language summaries. Douglas Norton, senior environmental scientist in the EPA Office of Water, said the website is platform-neutral and works on all mobile products.
While “How’s My Waterway” has been available to the public for more than a year – it was released in late 2012, as part of the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act – Norton said the agency continues to expand the functionality of the app.
Another IT project that incorporates mobility was the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Customs and Border Protection’s Iris Pilot. The aim of this project is to provide the best possible resources to agents in the field who are trying to identify individuals they have apprehended, using a combination of fingerprints, photos, and iris scans.
“I can catch anybody, but if I can’t ID them,” it doesn’t help, said Paul Good, assistant chief of the CBP enforcement systems branch dedicated to biometrics. Fingerprints have been the standard for identification for more than a century, but they are not foolproof, he said. Many laborers, such as brick masons, actually wear down their fingerprints, making it difficult or impossible to get a clear enough print to compare to a database. The irises in people’s eyes, though, do not change, even when they get older and begin suffering from various eye conditions and diseases.
The Veterans Affairs Department (VA) presented a suite of apps, grouped into “Clinic in a Hand.” The apps are designed to provide both veterans and caregivers with access to health data that they can track and share with their care teams. As part of the pilot program, VA loaned iPads to almost a thousand caregivers of veterans seriously injured since 9/11. The department is now developing HTML versions of the apps and will make them available to the larger community this year.
During the event keynote, federal CIO Steven VanRoekel commended these agencies for setting an example for innovation, even with budget constraints, to move the agency mission forward.