Buzz of the Week: Wowed by Virtual Alabama

It is difficult these days to be really wowed by an application. We have seen so much, we often expect the unexpected.

Then along comes Virtual Alabama.

We had read some stories about this system, which the Alabama Department of Homeland Security created in 2007, but when we saw it for ourselves last week, we realized words don’t do it justice.

Virtual Alabama, at its heart, is a mash-up — a program that pulls data from various places and presents it in a very user-friendly display. In this case, the system is based on Google Earth. It starts with a map and then it overlays the map with all types of data.

So when tornadoes struck Alabama earlier this year, officials used the system to view the damage, even comparing before and after images. Officials also were able to pull in data that showed the location of potentially hazardous materials that might have been disturbed by the tornadoes.

Consider how the system might help in an event such as the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings. Were that to happen at the University of Alabama, state officials could draw from one database to get schematics on the buildings and then another for class schedules so that they would know which classrooms were in use. Finally, they could use Virtual Alabama to tap into images from cameras in the building.

Sound like something out of the TV show “24”? Well, actually it is — and it is real and being used today. Better yet, it did not cost a fortune. Virtual Alabama was developed in less than two years for less than $1 million by a team of four people.

Essentially, the Alabama Department of Homeland Security has a homeland security version of Facebook — a platform that individuals can use to create their own applications depending on what the users need.

Talk about collaboration magic — and incredibly empowering. 

BUZZ CONTENDERS


#2: Nonperforming contracts
Years after performance-based contracting became a significant issue, it’s still a problem.

At a hearing last week, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said the Homeland Security Department does not have enough experienced procurement employees to properly handle those contracts.

Thompson pointed to the Coast Guard’s Deepwater fleet modernization program as an example of a DHS performance-based program gone wrong. The Coast Guard, a component of DHS, spent more
than $1 billion and still has sub-standard vessels, he said.

Heckuva job.

#3: Preventing e-jihad
Extremist groups are using the Internet to recruit, communicate with and train terrorists, yet the government lacks a coordinated communications strategy to combat it, according to a report by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

“Violent Islamist Extremism, the Internet and the Homegrown Terrorist Threat” states that “immense caches of information and propaganda are available online” and raises questions about what an appropriate plan to deal with the threat should entail.

The long-term goal of the strategy should be to discredit extremist ideology, said Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) in a statement. “Federal, state and local officials, as well as Muslim American community and religious leaders and other private-sector actors, must all play a prominent role in discrediting the terrorist message,” they wrote.

#4: What price clearances?
Uncertain funding might be the biggest hurdle to reforming the government’s security clearance system, said Clay Johnson, the Office of Management and Budget’s deputy director for management
There are plans to accelerate the processing of clearance applications, but they can’t make a difference if there’s no budget to implement them. Johnson said the planners — and he is one of them — can help by planning wisely to minimize costs.

The proposed clearance reform plan, which OMB sent to President Bush April 30, leans heavily on information technology solutions such as online applications and automated records checks and scoring systems.

NEXT STORY: DHS touts intell advances

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.