NEW TECHNOLOGY AND BUSINESS IN THE CIVIC SECTOR

Enhanced 911 Solutions to Local Governments

Emergency dispatchers have long complained about the lack of information available about the identity of people calling 911 for help-information that is hard to get from the panic-stricken. However, local governments soon will be able to adopt-at no cost-a system designed to add to the personal information that flashes on 911 operators' screens.

"What we've developed is a system and service that allows customers to enter information about themselves, such as medical information or household information, that would help public safety officials answering calls," said Robert Pons, executive vice president and chief operating officer of LifeSafety Solutions Inc., Wynnewood, Pa. The information would be flashed on 911 information screens at no cost to a municipality. Instead, the service would be offered to citizens at a rate of $84 per year, or $7 per month.

Dubbed 911 Plus, the service has just completed a first round of testing in Haverford Township, Pa., which would be the first locality in the nation to adopt it. "We are going through the process of having our governing bodies decide whether to bring it on-line," said Robert Moore, Haverford's 911 supervisor, who compared the system to security alarm agreements now in place between police departments and citizens.To offer the service, LifeSafety would construct a database of detailed subscriber information that would be zapped to dispatchers along with standard subscriber information. The enhanced information might include a subscriber's medical history or the location of children's bedrooms in a dwelling. Dispatchers would be equipped with an Onyx flat-panel touch-screen terminal with simple icons "that takes about five minutes to learn how to use," Pons said.

During initial LifeSafety tests held in Haverford last summer, officials staged calls to dispatchers to monitor the system's capabilities. "The tests proved that information could be taken from a call without interrupting the call itself," Moore said. Haverford will host another round of tests in early spring.

If a deal is struck, LifeSafety and local officials would undertake "a very simple agreement that would give LifeSafety access to the 911 center for installation," said Mary Boyd, managing partner of LifeSafety and an expert on 911 systems. Hardware, software and maintenance would be supplied at no cost. "We do ask for an agreement of five years, but that is also negotiable," Boyd said.

"The 911 folks have been clamoring for this kind of technology for years," Pons said. "They are constantly asking the panicked caller for a lot of information."

- Jennifer Jones

BDM Jockeys in Child Support Enforcement Market

Eyeing an expansion in the market for state welfare systems engineering, BDM International Inc. acquired Advanced Systems Design Inc. and Software Engineering Inc., companies with track records in human services design and development.

The companies-particularly ASD-were chosen as part of a strategy to go after state child support enforcement systems work following the passage of welfare reform legislation last year. "We think the recent legislation will impact possibly every state in the union in terms of the tools they have in place," said William Hoover, a BDM executive vice president.

Last year, state and local government sales accounted for only $55 million of BDM's $1 billion in revenue. But the company expects a big uptick in the market soon. "State legislatures are just beginning to meet and are working out what they will need," said Hoover, who estimated it will be late this year or 1998 before purchases start kicking in.

ASD brings BDM experience in child support enforcement system solutions in about 10 states. "With the acquisition, we are almost doubling the number of states we are engaged with, and that puts us in about 50 percent of all states in the union," Hoover said. Until now, BDM had accounts in 15 states.

As part of the deal, ASD president Chuck Meike will assume the position of senior vice president at BDM and will head the company's state and local systems strategic business unit. "ASD is a relatively small but well-thought-of company which has done a lot of business process re-engineering for the states in places like Wisconsin and Delaware," Hoover said. "They are a very talented group of about 30 or 40 people. Chuck Meike was an individual we were really impressed with, so we made him chief operating executive of the unit.

"We are seeing a lot of interaction between federal and state and local business," Hoover said. That, coupled with the ASD acquisition, puts BDM in a good position to pursue the business as it grows. "From a market point of view, they complement us very effectively." BDM can be reached at www.bdm.com.

- Jennifer Jones

Top-Secret Tech for the Civic Desktop

Once limited to top-secret military and intelligence applications, satellite image processing software is available to state and local government users for more down-to-earth purposes.

"The software is being used by government agencies in a couple of different ways," said Scott Richardson, director of marketing for Paragon Imaging Inc., a Woburn, Mass.-based maker of imaging software products. "One is to make maps, and the other is to help understand the environment and to help make [public] decisions based on geographic factors."

The company is attempting a splash into more mainstream markets after spending years working on clandestine applications. "What has traditionally happened in the U.S. intelligence community is that technology has moved down from national applications, to commands, to the guy in the field," said Mark Stott, Paragon's chief operating officer and vice president of engineering. Field use demands "more simplified imagery annotation" and "robust but simple products," he added.

In February the company debuted two packages to address that demand: ELT/2500 V. 3.3, PC software that contains image viewing, annotation, video capture and communications applications for Microsoft Corp. Windows users; and ELT/Net, software that injects similar features into a Web browser.

The ELT/2500 package runs on Microsoft's Windows NT, Windows 95 and Windows 3.1. It supports the National Imagery Transmission Format (NITF)-the imagery data standard for the Defense Department and U.S. intelligence community-as well as TIFF, JPEG and BMP file formats. The software is priced at $1,895 per license with quantity discounts. Updates can be purchased for $295 per license.

ELT/Net, which also processes NITF images, is a Web-based plug-in for Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Netscape Communications Corp.'s Navigator that helps create Web pages to disseminate imagery. "A basic Web site can only deal with simple, small imagery," Stott said. "What is starting to happen is that people are trying to get high-resolution data but want to continue the model of interacting via a browser."

Specifically designed for large agencies or departments, ELT/Net stores multiple images in a single file. It permits "nondestructive overlay" (image manipulation without changing originals) and includes features necessary to transform static images into multimedia presentations, analyses and reports. The package is priced at $495 per license with quantity discounts. Customer support and bug-fix releases cost $50 annually per license. The Paragon Web site is at www.paragon.com.

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