Cities and local governments take on big challenges

REDMOND, Wash. — Nov. 14, 2013 — In the midst of rapid technology advances, cities and local government organizations, ever challenged to deliver more services with fewer resources, are emerging as the drivers of the national and global economy. Thursday at the National League of Cities Congress of Cities event, Microsoft Corp. highlighted the work of a number of cities that are on the leading edge of transformation in core areas of citizen safety and security, the life of the mobile government worker, and intelligent building and infrastructure systems. This is all part of Microsoft’s CityNext project, a global, people-first initiative to enable governments, businesses and citizens to create more sustainable, prosperous and economically competitive cities.

“As cities take on a leading role in driving economic expansion and facilitating job creation and civic engagement, technology can facilitate their role in this expanded mission,” said Michael Donlan, vice president, U.S. State and Local Government, Microsoft. “It is inspiring to showcase what cities are doing to harness the power of technology to accelerate change, innovate, and better serve citizens and advance issues of social and economic development.”

Safer cities and communities

Law enforcement departments, like all government agencies, are being tasked to do more with less while also facing new threats to citizen safety. With the power of technology, smart departments are deploying technology such as big data and the cloud to improve the safety of its cities by increasing operational effectiveness and efficiency. These solutions provide first-responder agencies with the real-time communications, visualization and data management tools they need to receive and analyze inbound, incident-based information and make vital decisions based on shared information. All of this makes citizens safer in the long run.

• The Pennsylvania Criminal Justice System is represented by several separate departments, all running disparate case management systems that required redundant data entry, making it difficult to share information among departments. The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, representing 67 counties, implemented a Unified Case Management application built on Microsoft Dynamics CRM to provide a common platform and enable information exchange among several departments in the Criminal Justice System. This will provide streamlined, up-to-the-minute data, resulting in better insight, more efficiency and, ultimately, improved public safety. Now case workers, probation officers and jail guards have access to the same information at their fingertips, eliminating the need to call the probation office or search files for individual warrants, helping ensure the safety of officers and citizens.

• The New York City Police Department and Microsoft developed the Domain Awareness System (DAS) by merging Microsoft’s technical expertise with NYPD officers’ day-to-day experiences. It’s a sophisticated law enforcement technology solution that aggregates and analyzes public safety data in real time, providing NYPD investigators and analysts with a comprehensive view of potential threats and criminal activity. The result is a solution that is uniquely tailored for the Big Apple, but which has broad applicability for other cities around the world.

Moving to the cloud has frequently been a unique challenge for law enforcement because of unique security requirements. However, California is helping its law enforcement personnel make this transition. The state of California, the California Department of Justice and Microsoft jointly signed an agreement recently that confirms Microsoft Office 365 has implemented technologies and processes that will enable California agencies to use the cloud productivity, communication and collaboration solution and still comply with the latest FBI Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Security Policy requirements (CJIS Security Policy version 5.2). California cities such as San Jose, Oakland and San Diego, as they move to Office 365, are the beneficiaries of this progress.

Mobile city worker

To keep an engaged and mobile workforce, cities are also modernizing and upgrading to allow on-the-go responsiveness, productivity and flexibility among staff. City employees are becoming more mobile and need the ability to work from anywhere across multiple devices in real time. Windows 8 devices that are connected to the cloud allow these employees to work from anywhere, removing the time-consuming task of taking notes in the field and heading back to the office to decipher and input those notes into the agency database. This improved efficiency and mobility for city employees benefits citizens also, with the potential for faster, more responsive citizen engagement, while creating more time to focus on addressing the needs and managing the cases that matter most to citizens. Here are a few recent examples of how cities are leveraging mobile advances:

• The City of Philadelphia just this week concluded a successful pilot that resulted in improved communication and efficiency with field building inspectors and in-office managers through the use of Microsoft Surface Pro devices with an Office 365 cloud solution. This solution allows field inspectors to conduct more inspections weekly, eliminate paper, and more efficiently route and reschedule resources.

• Fairfax County, Va., is currently in the process of deploying 400 seats of Windows To Go, a version of Windows 8.1 that enables workers to plug a USB stick into any computer and have their desktop with them. “With Windows To Go, I can hand my mobile workers a USB stick and a headset, and that becomes their workstation,” said Jeff Porter, IT infrastructure director, Fairfax County.

• The City of Charlotte, N.C., deployed Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online to meet its demands for an event permitting solution while hosting the Democratic National Convention in 2012. This allowed Charlotte to streamline manual and time-consuming application processes with a cloud-based solution that has a familiar user interface and interoperates well with Windows devices and a citizen-facing portal running on Windows Azure. This nimble solution also scales to other uses, long past the end of the convention, where keeping employees connected to functions such as permit payment processing and code enforcement is critical, whether in the office or in the field.

Infrastructure and smart buildings

Transforming government efficiency starts from the ground up and in many cases can involve the development of intelligent infrastructure and building systems. Many cities have the potential to build a smart infrastructure and smart buildings that are full of sensors collecting enormous amounts of data every moment, but many of these systems are unable to communicate with each other and the data has not been analyzed in a way that enables timely action. With Microsoft solutions, technology can bring together disparate systems and help them communicate with each other to drive efficiencies, detect problems and fix problems automatically.

• Microsoft’s own data-driven software solution helped it develop the city of the future and is saving the company millions of dollars every year. When Microsoft first looked into managing its buildings smartly, the cost was estimated to be upward of $60 million to replace old and varying hardware. That wasn’t a realistic option, so the team developed software that helped the disparate systems talk to each other. Now, software collects 500 million data transactions every 24 hours and presents engineers with prioritized lists of misbehaving equipment, and algorithms can balance out the cost of a fix in terms of money and energy being wasted with other factors such as how much impact fixing it will have on employees who work in that building.

• The City of Seattle has joined with Microsoft, Accenture, Seattle 2030 District and Seattle City Light to implement smart software similar to Microsoft’s. It is designed to increase energy efficiency in large commercial buildings across Seattle’s downtown corridor for an initial set of buildings totaling approximately 2 million square feet. The goal is to reduce downtown energy use by 25 percent, with the intention to expand the pilot over the next year. The cloud solution will collect data from the myriad systems already installed in those buildings and use data analytics to provide a prescriptive approach to how the building management systems can be tuned to improve energy efficiency. This program looks to reduce energy usage, improve customer service for Seattle City Light customers and open new areas of economic opportunity in energy conservation.

These new IT solutions promise to change the way buildings are operated and managed, yielding new efficiencies for both building owners and utilities. In addition, smart building solutions can be delivered with no physical retrofit of existing systems or infrastructure, and they can yield a rapid return on investment.

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

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