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Customer Spotlight: Alabama Dept. of Transportation Reduces Travel Expenses with Video Solution

One of the biggest issues state governments face in their day-to-day governing is the sheer size of the state itself. Even in average sized states, it can take quite some time to get from place to another, and it’s particularly burdensome for state government workers who live and work in cities far from the state capital. It can be difficult to effectively communicate with other employees in the capital and in other cities, and employees spent precious time and money traveling all across the state.

One such state with this issue is Alabama. The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) manages all forms of transportation in the state, including one of the longest navigable inland waterways in the nation, six commercial airports and a large seaport on the Gulf of Mexico. To ensure these multiple forms of transportation run smoothly, ALDOT has over 5,000 employees spread out across the state. Its large number of employees and their geographic sprawl, however, meant ALDOT was having trouble getting everyone to meet in one location for mandatory training sessions.

While training was the main issue, ALDOT generally needed a more sustainable way to host meetings with employees scattered across the state. Years ago, ALDOT division chiefs from distant corners of the state would have to drive to Montgomery, Alabama, every Monday to attend one meeting, which was not a productive use of time and incurred costly travel expenses. Clearly, it needed a cost-effective solution to make it easier for the department to host trainings and meetings for its far-flung department. Read More »

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#WednesdayWalkabout Series: Digital Public Safety in Action

A New Approach to Public Safety

Lately, constant news coverage has been shining a spotlight on the increasing amounts of pressure that public safety and justice agencies are enduring. Preventing crime is vital to developing vibrant and safe communities. The reality of shrinking budgets and resources in the midst of calls to modernize is creating a challenging paradox, and public safety officials are tasked to deliver mission value in new ways. For example, results from an International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and Major Cities Chiefs Association survey estimated 53 percent of counties in the United States are working with significantly fewer staff today compared to a decade ago. The fact is that law enforcement agencies can’t afford to put more officers on the street.

Public safety leaders are now are turning to digital technologies as force multipliers to compensate for recent reductions in staff, drastic budget cuts, and the evolving cyber and physical threat landscape. A number of emerging technology solutions are helping law enforcement, corrections departments, emergency responders, courts, and national security agencies modernize and cut government costs by streamlining operations while still producing mission-critical outcomes.

Technology on the Leading Edge

First, our digital citizen is honored to spend the week at the IACP annual conference. After attending this week’s sessions, the citizen has picked up on a few trending themes and important issues that our law enforcement officials face. Of particular importance throughout the conference was the focus on body-worn cameras in the forefront of today’s policing conversations. However, an officer cannot just simply slap on a body camera and call it a day. Secure and updated networks and the ability to move data storage to the cloud must first be in place if it isn’t already. One session in particular featured an estimate that body-worn cameras could result in about 1 terabyte of data per officer per year. Statistics seem to and will vary on a community-by-community basis, but it’s relatively easy to agree that with the vast amounts of video data, secure storage is a major technology issue that will need to be addressed. Here, cloud will be key. And not just for body-worn cameras, but for everything in the digital scope, from evidence management to video surveillance footage. Read More »

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Happy National Cyber Security Awareness Month!

Did you know that October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month? Here at Cisco, we understand how important cybersecurity is in today’s interconnected world. Because the Internet touches an increasingly large part of our lives, it’s necessary to engage and educate the public about how to stay protected. While we highlight the importance of cybersecurity in October, at Cisco we have initiatives and programs in place to make sure the education continues throughout the rest of the year as well.

We start from the inside out, making sure that our own employees are fully educated and trained in the latest in cybersecurity. Our Cisco Security Ninja Program, which challenges participants to reach for higher degrees of competency and proficiency in product security, has been a huge success. Employees can earn four distinct belts– white, green, blue, brown and black – that represent their advancing cybersecurity knowledge. Additionally, we offer a program in conjunction with San Jose State University that enables Cisco employees to earn their Master’s degree in Software Engineering with an emphasis in Cybersecurity. Plus, every year we have an internal conference on security – SecCon – that brings together hundreds of engineers from Cisco offices around the globe to share their knowledge and increase the overall security posture of Cisco products. All of these programs help ensure that our own employees are experts at the latest in cyber protection.

Beyond ensuring that our own employees are well-educated, we’re committed to spreading awareness about cybersecurity to the general public as well. One of the programs we’re most proud of is our Cisco Network Academy. Cisco Networking Academy helps one million people each year develop technical skills and prepare for ICT careers. The curriculum – which includes courses on cybersecurity – is offered by more than 9,000 institutions in more than 170 countries. After all, in a world that is increasingly connected, cybersecurity is a global issue, not just a local one. Read More »

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Public Safety Series: EOCs Harness Video to Improve Emergency Response

Last month, I had the opportunity to speak with PoliceOne about how Cisco solutions are helping to improve public safety in an area most people aren’t aware of: emergency operations centers. Emergency operations centers, or EOCs, are the center of disaster response efforts, helping to coordinate the first responders and distribute information to decision-makers in a chaotic emergency situation. EOCs facilitate communication across agencies to allow for coordinated efforts. And in an emergency situation, which is hectic and can be confusing, the clear communication and up-to-date information an EOC providers is vital to helping mitigate the disaster.

Since speed, accuracy and collaboration are all crucial to an EOC’s mission, the centers are constantly investing in new technologies to help them improve in these areas. In more recent years, one of the most effective collaboration technologies EOCs have harnesses is video. Why video? Video improves data gathering, which leads to more increased situational awareness, which ultimately allows for a more coordinated response.

The types of video systems vary. Digital signage, for one example, can be used to display information such as television streams, maps or graphs on a large screen visible by all in the EOC. This type of video system also can function as a display for group videoconference that allows agencies on the local, state and federal level to coordinate quickly and clearly.

A video collaboration tool like Cisco WebEx enables users to share the information on their computer screen while engaging in desktop-quality video chat, and Cisco TelePresence allows for high-quality online face-to-face conferencing. Using these technologies helps build relationships and ensure communication is clearer, as body language can be interpreted and expressions shared.

Read More »

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#WednesdayWalkabout Series: City Leaders Converge to Learn From Each Other

Changing our outlook for a changing world

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve been asked the question ‘what is a smart city really?’ then I’d definitely have enough change to buy a round of drinks. When you hear about smarter, more connected communities, the definition has become varied and often self-serving. However, as someone who dedicates a significant amount of my personal and professional life to sustainable and equitable urban development, I believe in the true importance of the smart city concept. It’s imperative that each city and country define what it means to become smarter, each idea will be different, depending on unique goals and citizen needs.

The apparent common thread is and will continue to be the use of technology. Today, businesses are pivoting toward digital transformation on a massive scale. A trend that governments should take hold of as it’s pressed to find new ways to operate and modernize its services. Whether it is through collaboration initiatives, embracing cloud computing, or driving more informed decisions through data analytics, there are unprecedented opportunities ahead for the evolution of digital government. In the face of uncharted territory and guaranteed disruption in its wake, building deep and lasting best practice sharing alliances will be an essential platform. Through vast sharing and partnership, we can bring together the most brilliant minds of the public, private, non-profit, academic, and philanthropic sectors to identify innovations that can be scaled, replicated and transferred to make a lasting global impact.

Join the world’s most thoughtful industry leaders

This week our citizen has the unique opportunity to join the ranks of global innovators and leaders at the bleeding edge of urban sustainability and digital technology. Meeting of the Minds kicked off yesterday, and more than 400 executives from 25 countries hailing from public and private sector, philanthropy, and academia join our citizen in Richmond, California. The 3-day summit will focus on delivering smarter public services and building better city systems, enabled by forward-looking public policies, intelligent infrastructure, and digital technologies.

Our citizen has heard and will witness a wide range of topics. First on our digital citizen’s agenda is the discussion around urban transportation. There’s no doubt that global communities are rapidly seeing their growing need to develop and implement public transit options and solve the interface between people and mobility systems. Dubai’s initiatives are enticing more people toward using public transportation by offering all services 24/7 via handheld devices and by easing the traveler experience with uniform ticketing and easy payment options, no-stop tollgates, and smart parking meters. Although a one-size-fits-all fix is not the answer, looking at the modes that are successfully serving city dwellers can help your own path become clearer.

Up next, our citizen looks forward to a session on comprehensive and accessible healthcare, and its criticality in economic vitality of communities and nations. Despite increasing expenditures in health, our citizen knows that the US is falling in key indicators of health, underwhelming and under delivering in a variety of health outcomes. Pioneers in the health and wellness industry are focusing on how to improve health, particularly for those in underdeveloped and underserved parts of the world. Sichuan, China is a leading example of breaking new ground through innovative models of cross-industry collaboration. Through integration with upstream determinants of health such as education, economic development, and community organizing, Sichuan has significantly improved access to medical care.


We’re now on to discussing environmental sustainability, a core pillar of the smart city concept. In our increasingly digital world, the quality of air and water, the movement of people and objects, the changes in weather, traffic congestion, CO2 levels, the production and consumption of energy, can be measured, tracked, and interconnected in real time. It is through this connection that we’re seeing smarter and more deliberate solutions for environmental and resource sustainability. This does not mean reinventing the wheel, but innovatively combining what is available with the advantages that technology affords to create high quality living environments. For example, Water for People works closely with local governments and private organizations to create and deliver an open-source smart device application that helps to provide clean water and basic sanitation services to people in disadvantaged communities around the world.

And finally, on to the much-anticipated topic of education and preparing the next generation workforce. Prior to the session, our citizen begins pondering how we can properly prepare a workforce for an ever changing and ever more competitive environment. Academic institutions like San Jose State University are bridging the gap between traditional and innovative methods, using digital technologies to promote anytime, anywhere learning. The very best schools must position themselves as a vital contributor to digital community initiative. Along with it, there is a celebrated movement toward including broader professional readiness, as well as personalized social and emotional learning.

Vigorous smart cities and digital government conversations are underway all over the world. Of the most important themes that have emerged on the Meeting of the Minds agenda, financing challenges are considered among the more profound roadblocks. This year’s Meeting has a pervasive track focused on financing mechanisms and strategies that are working for early adopters. Best practice sharing and idea swapping show that there are clear steps that can be taken, such as getting assistance in leading projects, improving planning, and achieving a better understanding of the cost and benefits of a smart city. As leaders undertake the steps recommended and learned at this forum, they can move beyond the current barriers and start to capitalize on the benefits of a smart, digital community.

Gatherings such as Meeting of the Minds are enabling cities and countries to respond to increasingly complex challenges. It’s important that leaders and innovative thinkers continue to showcase best practices developed inside these living labs, allowing for the proliferation of ideas to help grow a smarter, more sustainable world.

You can watch the full Meeting program, streaming live: And make your voice heard at Meeting of the Minds via Twitter: #MOTM2015.

Next Stop

Stay tuned for next Wednesday’s post to discover more information on keeping digital communities safer and more secure. And be sure to check back each week as we explore new themes, challenges and observations.

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Additionally, you can click here and register now to get your questions answered on how to become the next digital community.Finally, we invite you to be a part of the conversation by using the hashtag #WednesdayWalkabout and by following @CiscoGovt on Twitter.

For more information and additional examples, visit our Smart+Connected Communities page and our Government page on Enjoy the Wednesday walkabout!

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