New Technology and Business in the Civic Sector

HP PRC Target States for Weather Justice `Repeatable' Tech

Capitalizing on years of joint development and delivery in the federal government market, Hewlett-Packard Co. and Litton/PRC Inc. have announced plans to market jointly criminal justice and meteorological systems to state and local governments.

The two companies are offering commercial versions of software originally developed under contracts with the FBI and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But the software-developed by PRC (www.prc.com) to run on HP (www.hp.com) computer platforms-has been scaled down to fit both the requirements and budgets of state and local customers, the companies said.

Carolyn Campbell, director of state marketing at PRC, said the key to this strategy is the concept of repeatable technology. "It really lessens the cost [if] you don't have to develop from scratch for state agencies," Campbell said. "It is because we are able to reuse a lot of the core technology that makes it affordable to the states."

For law enforcement customers, the companies are marketing a commercial version of the FBI Identification, Tasking and Networking software for fingerprint identification. In repackaging the software, HP and PRC were able to trim away a number of expensive federal requirements that do not apply to other customers. Also, the system did not need to support the quantity of data the FBI required.

"The beauty of it is that it talks back to the FBI systems," so state and local customers can exchange data with the federal fingerprint systems, said Mark Milford, general manager of HP's Government Business Unit. Other jointly developed criminal justice applications include case-history, case-tracking and computer-aided dispatch systems.

HP and PRC are taking a similar approach to weather systems. The two companies have developed commercial programs using software developed as part of NOAA's Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System

(AWIPS), which integrates weather data from satellites, radar and weather-prediction models.

Because customers in smaller markets have much less data and fewer data sources, PRC was able to develop weather tools that-unlike the supercomputer-based AWIPS-could run on a single workstation, depending on the customer, Milford said.

The product set includes Advanced McIDAS (Man Computer Interactive Data Access System), a set of advanced tools for pulling in, analyzing and displaying environmental data.

Because of the alliance, PRC is able to offer good prices on the HP hardware and solid technical support, Campbell said. "Each company brings very different perspectives and solutions, and we can draw on the resources from all three of the companies," she said. HP and PRC also are working closely with database vendor Oracle Corp.

- John Stein Monroe

EC Potpourri Contract AvailablePublic Technology Inc., a government technology research organization, and the National Institute of Government Purchasing have joined forces to sponsor an omnibus contract that would provide state, county and local governments with a menu of products and services to help build up their electronic commerce (EC) technical foundation.

"This contract is going to offer a potpourri of technical products and services," said D'Arcy Roper, manager of technical services for NIGP (www.nigp.org), a nonprofit organization of government purchasing officials. "It will accommodate simple applications being used by someone doing business on a 486 up to the sophisticated automated purchasing systems designed to do extensive [electronic data interchange] and EC business."

"In some agencies and government, EC initiatives are sophisticated and automated," added Cindy Kahan, a vice president of PTI (pti.nw.dc.us), which is affiliated with the National League of Cities, the National Association of Counties and the International City/County Management Association. "In others, things are still manual. So we hope to come out with a menu of offerings to meet all of the needs."

The contract will be open to all government agencies not legally prohibited from participating in cooperative purchasing programs. It should be in place by August 1997, when NIGP holds its annual meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The bids are being evaluated by representatives of both associations and an advisory panel that includes state and local officials. "Our job is to negotiate, promote and disseminate contracts and then provide some quality control," Kahan said.

Since its founding in 1971, PTI has sponsored cooperative purchasing programs to help state and local governments streamline buying. Now about $240 million in products and services are bought annually by 8,000 agencies. "Up until now, our programs have been primarily commodity programs, offering products like microcomputers, software and telecommunications," Kahan said.

This is at least the second time an omnibus EC contract has been attempted. Four years ago, NIGP set up an open contract for EC technology but canceled it for lack of use. "Our board of directors four years ago recognized that electronic commerce and electronic data interchange were going to be a major means of performing purchasing services, and we then made a decision to develop a contract to provide those services and made that contract available to our membership," NIGP's Roper said. "We were successful, but we were too far ahead of governments and agencies."

Today the two organizations believe the market is ripe for a new vehicle, in part because economic pressures are pushing state and local governments to seek technology solutions to streamline their procurement processes. "A big part of procurement reform nationwide involves an effort to exploit technology. That is why it is important for us to have a vehicle like this," Roper said. "Everyone is beginning to use the Internet and bulletin boards to conduct the business of purchasing. It is being done that way across the board by all sizes of government agencies."

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