Updated: 5/31/2008; 10:07:32 PM.
Paul Wormeli's TechNotes
A commentary on disruptive technologies for public safety and criminal justice information systems

Sunday, May 18, 2008

NIEM 2.0 Close to the tipping point

At least 15 states and several federal agencies have projects underway to implement information exchanges in conformance with NIEM 2.0.  The most widespread adoption that probably affects the maximum number of users in the justice community is the use of NIEM 2.0 in the implementation of the FBI's new National Data Exchange (N-DEx) program where the N-DEx IEPD is strictly constructed in conformance with NIEM 2.0. 

5:36:19 PM    comment []

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

NIEM Release 2.0 Issued

One of the most powerful tools to facilitate information sharing across multiple domains or communities of interest has been created with the issuance of Version 2.0 of the National Information Exchange Model.  Thousands of changes and improvements over version 1.0 have been incorporated into version 2.0, including many simplifications.  A major function of this release was to harmonize the data components that have been identified as of value or interest to multiple domains.  Details can be found at www.niem.gov where the new release can be downloaded. 

10:29:03 PM    comment []

Monday, March 19, 2007

Internet Applications for the Desktop

The rapid transformation of web-based applications to employ new and more interactive functions, generally lumped together under the broad heading of Web 2.0, may now be migrating to the desktop.  Developers and users alike have been frustrated by some of the basic limitations of web-based applications, which seem never to be as rich in functionality as the fully developed desktop application, and always require a lot of bandwidth to make the user interface seem truly worthwhile.  New technologies such as AJAX and FLEX have been at the forefront of the latest generation of developer tools supporting the new batch of web applications. 

The concept of rich internet applications is poised to combine the best of the new internet applications with desktop based software applications.  Adobe, a standard bearer for cross-system application development, has today released a public alpha of a whole new application environment using internet technologies to create desktop applications.  In its news release, Adobe said that "Apollo is the code name for a cross-operating system application runtime that allows web developers to leverage their existing skills in HTML, JavaScript and Ajax, as well as Adobe® Flash® and Adobe Flex™ software to build and deploy rich Internet applications (RIAs) on the desktop. Apollo combines the reach of Internet technologies with the richness of desktop applications, working seamlessly across operating systems and outside the browser to deliver a more consistent and engaging user experience. The alpha version of the Apollo application runtime and the Apollo Software Developer’s Kit (SDK) can be downloaded for free from www.adobe.com/go/apollo ."  

The basic capabilities promised for Apollo are described in the press release about the alpha testing. 

The idea of rich internet applications being built for the desktop using the same tools and development approaches originally designed for the web can lead to lower costs and faster development time for desktop applications.  The the justice world, this kind of capability will result in more innovative uses of technology than the conventional programming models and methodologies.  

8:42:02 PM    comment []

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Mashups Proliferate for Crime Mapping

The idea of a mashup is a child of the expanding use of web 2.0 technology implemented by Google, Yahoo, Amazon, eBay and other innovative applications for the web.  A mashup is a combination of 2 or more web services brought together to create a new service based on data already available for other purposes.  The trend in crime mapping probably got started when Adrian Holovaty, a Chicago-based Web developer with a background in journalism and databases, created a mashup of crime data published by the Chicago Police Department with a Google API to display crime data on on the map of the city.  You can search on crime types and other parameters to display the crimes in a particular area of the city.  Holovaty is not affiliated with the Chicago PD, and goes to great lengths to stipulate that this site is not an official site of the PD, but also cites his sources of information.

Other individuals and agencies have followed this model.  ProgrammableWeb, a site that tracks mahups, reports 27 different mashups in place related to crime information, ranging from Berkeley, CA to Dublin, Ireland and including places such as Grand Rapids, MI and Houston.  Mashups have been built to display addresses of sex offenders in an area, and many other crime related parameters.  There's even a national incident listing run by a part-time programmer that allows public safety agencies to publish a national directory of incidents and consumers to subscribe to emergency notifications.

Mashups are all over the web, for a variety of uses including things like finding the closest Starbucks. However, local government CIO's are looking more serioiusly at using this concept to support a lot of other services for the public, such as locationg government facilities (police and fire stations, for example). 

Peter Gibler's article in the Wisconsin Technology Network notes that "Patricia Seybold of the Seybold Group has an excellent review of mashups that attributes their growth to the "emergence of open and human-readable application interfaces (APIs), using protocols like eXtensible Mark Up Language (XML), widespread syndication of information through Really Simple Syndication (RSS), and Internet social etiquette promoting "opening up" applications and information for re-use and re-mixing." In addition to these factors, the increased processing speed of today's computers coupled with increased broadband speed is contributing to the expansion of mashups."

With its orgins in music and video combinations, it is not a stretch to envision other services that can be developed and used directly in the law enforcement enterprise to combine the pervasive video cameras being deployed with such systems as gunshot detection or other sensor systems.  Companies are exploring the use of mashups to create such multi-purpose combinations.  At the last IJIS Institute/NCJA Annual Justice and Technology forum, David Clement, CTO of Visiphor demonstrated a mashup built around the ubiquitous Microsoft EXCEL platform that combined several web services into a single application. 

Microsoft recognizes the potential of Web 2.0 applications.  Ray Ozzie on his blog talks about the potential of mashups and the tools that Microsoft will be developing to support the new concepts of Web 2.0 and its related technology. 

New companies and new applications from existing companies are likely to show up in the justice world, and smart developers from government and industry will also find ways to integrate applications through mashups. 

Other c

9:47:39 PM    comment []

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Police take to Podcasting

Police agencies are recognizing that a good way to reach younger people in the community is through podcasting.  One of the first large city police departments to come on board was the NYPD podcast which is a weekly informational broadcast and offers both a feed for podcast reception and an MP3 version. The Chicago Police Department publishes a podcast which is carried by the local NBC TV station.   Other agencies are using podcasting for recruiting purposes.  The Franklin, Massachusetts Police Department has a podcast integrated into its web site.

Police in the UK are way ahead of the US police in using both podcasting and blogs.  James Richards of Edinburg reports that the Metropolitan Police in London use podcasting for recruiting purposes.  In a separate posting, Richards reveals a list of police blogs attempting to "put a human face on policing" David Copperfield runs The Policeman's Blog which contains a considerable list of British and other blogs run by police agencies and officers. An anonymous blogger in Sussex, England has created a blog covering "A Year in the Life of a Police Dispatcher".

American police agencies generally are having a tough time recruiting, particularly in the more dangerous cities.  Podcasting seems like a good way to reach out to potential officers.


4:40:25 PM    comment []

Monday, May 29, 2006

What a Changing Web We Weave

Less than 2 years ago, O'Reilly Media popularized the term Web 2.0 to characterize a new phase in the development of uses and applications for the Web. Wikipedia, in an extensive article summarizing the characteristics of Web 2.0 gives this definition of the characteristics:

  • The transition of websites from isolated information silos to sources of content and functionality, thus becoming a computing platform serving web applications to end users
  • A social phenomenon referring to an approach to creating and distributing Web content itself, characterized by open communication, decentralization of authority, freedom to share and re-use, and "the market as a conversation"
  • A more organized and categorized content, with a far more developed deeplinking web architecture
  • A shift in economic value of the web, possibly surpassing that of the dot com boom of the late 1990s
  • A marketing term to differentiate new web businesses from those of the dot com boom, which due to the bust now seem discredited
  • The resurgence of excitement around the possibilities of innovative web applications and services that gained a lot of momentum around mid 2005.

Greater personalization, social networking, and new technologies such as AJAX are the features most users see in this new stage of the web development.  It is a little misleading to use the term 2.0, as to many people renumbering something implies some kind of new release that deserves a new version number. 

The truth here is that large number of innovative uses added up sufficiently to suggest that a new phase was in operation, as illustrated by new applications and uses.  Students of the web still disagree over whether this new phase is a discrete new paradigm or just an amalgamation of creative new features and functions. Nevertheless, the innovations have led to rather striking new uses in part based on blog and wiki notions of collaboration, including many rather new and interesting web sites such as CollectiveX that take group collaboration to a new level.

Web 2.0 is more an interim threshold leading eventually to the full implementation of the semantic web.   Sort of like saying that the child status of initial web uses has become the teenager that will soon enough lead to a much more mature and innovative set of solutions. 

There is so much to exploit in the innovations that have been bundled together under the roof of Web 2.0 that according to a Gartner, Inc., news release published by Government Technology, enterprises are not figuring out how to fully take advantage of the features related to social networking in particular. Companies that figure this out will give rise to new solutions for law enforcement and justice as well as the general public.    



9:24:12 PM    comment []

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Social Networking Gets Traction

During the calendar year of 2005, a plethora of social networking sites came alive, experimenting with advanced ways to share information on the internet.  One of the most interesting developments was the introduction of social tagging, in which new and highly innovative sites such as del.icio.us brought forth the concept of posting your tags about sites on the web so they could be shared by any user. 

Social tagging is definitely a disruptive technology, and will make a distinct change in how people think of using internet technology.  Imagine having access to your favorites folder from any computer and sharing the links important to you in a particular topic area with colleagues around the world.  It is a scheme for defining metadata by popular demand, without a formal construct.  It helps make sense of the ever exploding set of resources on the internet, leading to a taxonomy of mutual interest.  Social tagging led to the introduction of the notion of folksonomy to introduce an innovative concept of metadata designed by the people and for the people. 

The innovative work of del.icio.us was not to work in vain for very long, as only a month ago this new introduction to applying the web was gobbled up by Yahoo along with its acquisition of flikr, the photo sharing site that had similar attributes.  Google and Microsoft are not far behind, as the competition for exploiting this interesting technology heats up.  Microsoft has built a feature into its experimental Windows Live service to let you access your favorites folder from any computer that can get you to the internet.

Social tagging has applications in law enforcement and justice enterprises as people tag information of interest to a case or set of cases.  The metadata issue in law enforcement has long puzzled crime analysts who have searched for effectve ways of classifying criminal events so as to facilitate searching across crimes to find suspects. 

The problem with such an unstructured approach is that there is no discipline in defining metadata in a way that helps solve the searching problem, and without concurrence on a taxonomy or ontology the search is not likely to be complete.  But even this problem may fall to the technology embedded in the semantic web which will raise the use of metadata to a new level of sophistication to overcome inexact taxonomies. 

We have not yet seen the applications emerge or common use in law enforcement of these concepts, but clever crime analysts will find ways to use this technology to increase correlations in unstructured data about crimes.

9:50:20 PM    comment []

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