Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

WSDOT seeks “toll educational” consultant for $2.3M

by Matt Rosenberg August 5th, 2013

The Washington State Department of Transportation is advertising for a contractor to conduct “statewide toll educational services” focused on the fourth of five Puget Sound highways currently designated for electronic tolling, I-405. The $2.3 million sought in “educational marketing” services will be for three years with up to two two-year renewals at an additional premium. Meanwhile, the state continues to explore a more sweeping “vehicle mileage tax” – with an update presented last week to the transportation commission outlining possible technologies and current study timelines.

UW scores DARPA grant add-on to boost soldier health

by Matt Rosenberg February 28th, 2013

According to an announcement this week by the U.S. Department of Defense the University of Washington has won a $9.6 million modification to a “cooperative agreement” with a high-tech DoD special projects unit to advance its work on a system to let soldiers in the field self-collect biomarker-bearing substances such as semen, urine, saliva and hair, and swipe them onto cards sent to labs where they will be used to help diagnose possible health problems which can then be treated on the fly if needed with other advanced tools in development. Meanwhile, other U.S. military contracts sent the way of Washington state in this month alone are worth up to another $293 million. They are for unmanned drone support, a tactical equipment facility, food and radiology systems.

WA advisors give preliminary green light to mileage tax

by Matt Rosenberg December 4th, 2012

In a report released today, an advisory committee to Washington state transportation officials pronounced as “feasible” an envisioned and sure to be controversial working concept for charging drivers by the mile, to fund future surface transportation system needs in the state. In a draft feasibility assessment, work plan and budget reviewed today during a meeting in SeaTac of the Washington State Road User Charge Assessment Steering Committee, the body found the proposed mileage tax – which it prefers to call a road user charge – “is feasible in Washington” and warrants further study detailed in the report. Next steps would cost at least $3.5 million and present the state legislature with enough information to decide whether the mileage tax is desirable, and if so, exactly how it would be implemented. Lawmakers will decide in the coming 2013 session whether to proceed with more study.

Global vehicle penetration, sliced three different ways

by Matt Rosenberg October 28th, 2012

Data visualizations derived from the World Bank’s World Development Indicators show that while North America far outpaces other major global regions in vehicles per 1,000 people, that gap compared to the developing world is declining. And perhaps more revealing: several developing global regions have more vehicles per kilometers of roadway than North America. Surface transportation of course is just one sector of the energy economy. Growing global energy demands in coming decades for surface transportation, plus other consumer, commercial and institutional uses, and manufacturing, accent the bracing challenge of developing competitively-priced green energy on a vast scale in order to limit climate change.

The World Bank has posted a wide array of World Development Indicators to Google Public Data Explorer, so that users can easily build their own charts, graphs and visualizations. Picking just three among dozens of data depictions across different World Development Indicators, let’s look at global vehicle penetration, by global region, and measured three different ways. The first is passenger vehicles per 1,000 people (not including two-wheelers). North America has almost 2.5 times more than the next closest competitor, but has been declining in recent years; while on the rise are the Europe/Central Asia region, Latin America/Caribbean, and East Asia/Pacific. This chart will likely look quite different in 2020, and even more so in 2030, as the gap between North America and the rest of the world continues to narrow.

Adding in buses and freight vehicles, this next graph looks at motor vehicles per 1,000 people. The gap between North America and other continents is even wider.

However, the measurement of motor vehicles (no two-wheelers) per kilometer of built roads is quite different. Though the data set has a few gaps, it is fairly striking that in the one year so far in which data exists for the Middle East and North Africa (2008), it leads the pack. By this metric, North America ranks third among the major global regions used in the World Development Indicators, behind Middle East/North Africa, and Europe/Central Asia. Data for Latin America/Caribbean is limited to only 2004, so can’t really be factored in. East Asia and Pacific is sharply rising. Europe/Central Asia and South Asia are also rising, North America is declining.

As more road infrastructure is built in developing nations, motor vehicles per kilometer of roadway will likely continue to grow in the developing world. This in turn has a strong probability of increasing greenhouse gas emissions from the surface transportation sector, unless net-green alternative fuels can be produced and sold on a wide scale. North America of course, with its huge number of vehicles overall, faces a related environmental challenge.

Against a backdrop of strong global concern about climate change, the data suggest we can expect even more effort will be focused on developing affordable green vehicles powered by electricity or biofuels; and that scrutiny will intensify of how electricity is produced for transportation and other purposes. In the developing world especially, will coal continue to dominate, or will cleaner, greener alternative energy sources actually gain a substantial foothold?

RELATED: “Global Energy Use and Carbon Emissions, 2005-2035,” Public Data Ferret.


Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.

University of Washington video highlights apps for students

by Matt Rosenberg October 1st, 2012

Recently at Public Data Ferret we reported on a number of digital initiatives to enhance the student experience at the University of Washington.

Today we came across a newly-posted video by UW on some of those apps. It gives quick profiles of tools to find study space according to desired criteria; know when buses will really arrive; find courses quickly; be notified when openings in popular courses occur; and navigate Dawg Daze. The video also suggests some key Twitter news feeds for UW students.


Here’s an auxiliary link to the video in case the embed above is acting balky.

Public Data Ferret’s University of Washington archive


Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.

Video: UW info school aids SF Zen Center in digital archiving

by Matt Rosenberg September 27th, 2012

Information and library science experts from the University of Washington feature in a new video segment for UWTV’s UW/360 magazine show. It’s about their work helping the San Francisco Zen Center archive 50 years worth of historical materials. UW Assistant Professor of Library and Information Science Joe Tennis says that to deal with the daily pressures of life he found himself drawn to Buddhism and then to the Zen Center, where when he mentioned his vocation, a staff member’s eyes lit up. They needed help, not knowing how best to preserve and organize decades worth of important historical materials including documents, photos, art and textiles, and cassettes. The video segment describes how Tennis and six UW students in the Master of Library and Information Science program at UW’s Information School have volunteered over the three past summers to help the 50-year-old center organize its materials for analog and digital storage. The UW team lived on site at the center and awoke each morning at 5:00 a.m. for 40 minutes of meditation. Tennis says the meditation underscored the relevance to their archiving work of the Buddhist saying, “Use both hands,” or doing one thing at a time, with mindfulness and intention.

In an email interview, Tennis said it’s not precisely clear when the first digitally archived materials will appear at the Center’s related gateway. “We are discussing ways that more of the currently digitized material can go live. We want to have quality meta-deta associated with it, so it is part of a process.” Meta-data, or data descriptors including key words incorporated by Web masters into items published online, help both information providers and information seekers find what they are looking for.

A valuable lesson for the UW students who participated in the project, says Tennis in the video, was that library and information science studies need not result in work only in traditional public library or university settings, because non-profits and a wide range of other organizations have growing information management needs.

RELATED: Public Data Ferret’s Education+Technology archive; and our Video archive.


Public Data Ferret is a news knowledge base program of the 501c3 public charity, Public Eye Northwest. Ferret In The News. Donate; subscribe (free)/volunteer.

Big learning curve ahead on U.S. automated weapons, intel

by Matt Rosenberg September 22nd, 2012

U.S. national security and military cost-efficiency will increasingly depend on automated weapons and automated information gathering systems on land, air and sea, but as procurement and deployment grow, coordinating and improving that effort will be a challenge, according to a recent report to top military brass from the U.S. Defense Science Board. As part of a broad re-make of U.S. military might the Department of Defense is increasingly moving away from reliance on humans and deeper into unmanned systems. But the report to the Office of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and DoD Under Secretary for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall, issues a warning in a cover memo that “autonomy technology is being underutilized” because of “obstacles within the Department” including poor design, ineffective R&D coordination across military branches, and the rush to deploy some systems without sufficient funding or time to develop the right approaches for training and actual usage.

The board also notes that past studies funded by DoD on improving autonomous systems have focused too much on the types and depths of their technical capabilities but not enough on design and performance enhancements to human-machine collaboration.

Doing biz with Washington State too tricky, audit says

by John Stang September 18th, 2012

Getting permits and licenses from Washington’s government is nowhere as simple as it could be, according to a recent Washington State performance audit. A longtime state government goal has been to allow people and businesses who must comply with regulations to go to central Web sites to get all the information they need to meet their legal obligations under the law. That goal is still a long way away. “Doing business in Washington today means sifting through a complex maze of state and local laws and regulations. At the state level alone, someone wanting to open a small convenience store, with a gas pump for example, would have to get regulatory approval from up to a dozen different agencies, in addition to approvals from local jurisdictions. … The challenge is especially difficult for small businesses, usually lacking the resources that enable larger companies to hire attorneys and other specialists to help them comply. When businesses fail to fully comply with regulations, they face fines and penalties,” the audit report said.