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Q&A: How the State of Washington is Evolving Its Communications Systems

Government & Politics

While attending the 79th Annual APCO Expo and Conference in Annaheim, California, I had the opportunity to sit down with industry thought leader, Bill Schrier, (@BillSchrier)who is now with the Office of the CIO for the State of Washington. Washington has been a progressive state with technology, and Bill drove much of that Thought Leadership during his tenure there.

FLETCH: Hey, it’s Fletch with the Avaya Podcast Network and we’re here at APCO in Anaheim, California. We’re sitting down with someone that I follow quite a bit on Twitter and the ‘websphere’ and that’s Bill Schrier who is now with the Office of the CIO with the State of Washington.
Welcome to the podcast, Bill.

BILL: Thank you, Fletch. Glad to be here.

FLETCH: It’s absolutely an honor for me to finally sit down with you after all these years. We talk from time-to-time but this is a great opportunity to get some really interesting stuff out there. Next Gen 9-1-1 is happening. The conference at APCO is all about Next Gen 9-1-1 and you and I were just talking about Next Generation 3-1-1 and how those applications might actually be paving the road for what we’re going to be doing in public safety.

BILL: Absolutely right. There’s a ton of exciting stuff that’s going on with 3-1-1 around the country. Of course, 3-1-1 is not universal. There are only larger cities and counties I think have it but nevertheless, 3-1-1 is kind of paving the way for Next Generation 9-1-1 and it’s use of applications, video and images.

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FLETCH: And we’ve talked about Boston for example. They’re using an app to report potholes, right? So that’s taking data from the cellphone, that’s additional data, something that we’re talking about and it’s putting that information into the 3-1-1 center.

BILL: That’s right. I forgot the name of the Boston app actually that actually uses the accelerometer in the iPhone so it knows if you’re going over a pothole and then tries to report it. Boston’s also got something called Citizen Connect and the Citizen Connect interface is directly with their 3-1-1 System. Citizen Connect is where you can, as a citizen in Boston, I take a photograph for example of a missed garbage pickup or downed stop sign or a dead animal on the street or a street light out, send the photograph into a report and it goes right into Boston’s Constituent Relationship Management System and then can be dispatched to city workers. So Citizen Connect is kind of a cool app as well.

Q&A: How the State of Washington is Evolving Its Communications Systems image Boston App

FLETCH: So you could also start tracking metrics, which I think is really important. If you’re going to have an app, you’ve got to track the metrics.

BILL: Absolutely. As a matter of fact, I think we need to get to with things like Citizen Connect with 3-1-1. It’s just like tracking a package for FedEx or UPS where you actually know the date timestamp of when the call came in, when it was triaged, when it was dispatched to a crew, when the crew got there, when the thing was fixed and then you’ve even sent an email or somehow otherwise contact the citizen and say, “Is it really fixed and was it fixed to your satisfaction?”

FLETCH: You were the CTO for the City of Seattle. What do you think was your biggest accomplishment there?

BILL: Well I think one of the biggest accomplishments was open data. We actually have that at Seattle now and Seattle was one of the first cities who actually do this, something called Data.Seattle.Gov and we’ve put out a whole bunch of data sets. We’ve exposed government data, data that the governments are collecting about building permits or crimes or 9-1-1 calls or whole hosts of other things on Data.Seattle.Gov for anyone to see.

FLETCH: That’s what Next Generation is really becoming all about, the big data. We’re looking at lots and lots of big data. One thing that came out just recently right here at Southern California was the big data that they looked at around 9-1-1 calls and the accuracy of the location on that. Did you happen to see that report?

BILL: No. I didn’t actually.

FLETCH: The CalNENA Chapter actually used Public Safety Networks, and what they did was they collected all of the call data from Cellular 9-1-1 calls and whether they received Phase I or Phase II data at the end of the call. And what they showed over the last 2 years a decrease in location accuracy mainly because of the saturation of cellphones and people making calls inside the buildings. The report didn’t cover that, that’s my assumption based on the data. But this is a perfect example where we’ve got to start looking at this big data. It’s more than just, “9-1-1 What is your emergency?”

BILL: Yeah. Absolutely right. Especially when you consider the fact that not only is your iPhone or Smartphone potentially a huge data collector for a number of different data points. But vehicles are getting automated as well. Vehicles already collect a lot of data although it isn’t necessarily stored but what’s going on in the vehicle. But the National Transportation Safety Board just a couple of weeks ago started to publicly push car manufacturers to collect a lot more data and actually create connected vehicle networks where vehicles might talk to each others as they’re driving down the street to help improve traffic safety.

FLETCH: What you have right now is the information the telematics that OnStar can to collect from your vehicle when you overturn in the median. The DeltaV, what occupants were sitting etc., I heard they [the DOT] could predict, based on some studies, with 80% accuracy what the injuries are. Imagine getting that data right through the ESI Network, the Next Gen 9-1-1 Network to the Healthcare System; Fire up the helicopter, and get Dr. Bob off the golf course. That’s one of the use cases that I talk about for Next Gen 9-1-1. Again, all focused on big data.

BILL: Exactly. As a matter of fact, Kevin McGinnis as you might know is on the First Responder Network Authority, a FirstNet Board Member, will describe that in detail when he’s talking. How that could vastly improve EMS especially in rural areas where it might take 20 minutes for the accident to actually be discovered and then 20 minutes or 30 minutes for the ambulance or the medic unit to actually get there.

FLETCH: Yeah. You know rural America really is a problematic area for public safety for those exact reasons. They don’t have the population therefore they don’t have the technology and that just puts people at risks. So now, if you live in a big city here in a high rise, your cellphone doesn’t work for 9-1-1 yet, everybody is dropping their wired landline. So you can see where this is beginning to be a really big problem and we need a little more guidance on it.
What are you doing for the State of Washington now? You are with the Office of the CIO?

BILL: Well, I’m the FirstNet point of contact which means that I will actually work with police and fire chiefs and mayors and utility directors not just in State Agencies but across the state to help prepare for FirstNet construction in the state. Another significant job I’ve got is with Data.WA.Gov, the open data set for Washington State which has got 500 or 600 data sets and I’m trying to evangelize putting more government data out or open that data up. And that actually could be just a grasp for the application developers to develop apps to actually better show citizens what’s happening with their state government.

FLETCH: And there’s a lot going on with data here at APCO too you mentioned?

BILL: Yes. As a matter of fact, tomorrow afternoon, Tuesday afternoon and this isn’t a common knowledge yet but will be by the time the Podcast is broadcast, APCO is going to host the Data Jam. So APCO has actually invited developers and they’ve actually worked with Whitehouse Office of Science and Technology Policy on this. They are inviting developers from around the region here in Southern California to come to a Data Jam and actually look at some of these open data sets from across the country and see what sort of applications they might be able to design or develop. They would better expose public safety information either the responders or the citizens.

FLETCH: Really cool stuff. You know, we’re kind of really lucky. You and I got to watch the Telecommunications Industry grow and explode, we’ve got to watch the internet grow and explode and now we’re watching Next Generation Emergency Services grow and explode. It’s really some exciting times and I’m glad to know you Bill, and I really appreciate you sitting down with me. You always have a great view of the world as its going and I find you very, very interesting.

BILL: Thank you, Fletch. It’s very enjoyable to be with you today.

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