Public sector inventiveness on display at US innovation awards

By on 15/11/2018 | Updated on 24/09/2020
The Arizona Department of Transportation was honoured for its early detection system for dangerous driving.

Machine learning for navy maintenance, technology to identify suspicious drone operators, and a system to prevent drivers from driving the wrong way down motorways are among the winners of the USA’s 2018 Government Innovation Awards.

The awards, by US public sector technology news services GCN news, FCW, and Washington Technology and Defence Systems, aim to show how IT and innovation can improve government. In some cases, winners were picked for developing transformative technology, while in others the projects were chosen for creative use of readily-available tools.

Three public sector innovations and one from industry received special recognition. The Department of Health and Human Services’ “BuySmarter” initiative won the Best in Class award for a system that structures and makes sense of the department’s data on billions of annual purchases, using machine learning, process automation and blockchain ledger technology. Fully replacing the current system – where price variations of more than 300% have been found for the same products purchased under identical terms and conditions – the technology could save up to $720m a year.

Innovation on the ground and in the air

In defence, the Navy Military’s Sealift Command took Best in Class for developing a machine learning tool that ingested nearly 30 years’ worth of maintenance data from Word documents, then produced information that cut millions of dollars from maintenance spending. Technology developers Clarify hope to use the tool to offer recommendations on equipment condition and to predict the potential for failure.

At the state and local government level, the Arizona Department of Transportation was honoured as Best in Class for its Wrong-Way Driver Detection System, which uses thermal cameras, roadside warning signs and real-time notifications to warn errant drivers that they’re entering an interstate highway in the wrong direction.

Finally, CACI International won Best in Class among the Industry Innovators for its SkyTracker technology, which gives airports and other restricted-airspace areas a system to track drones and locate their operators. It includes the ability to take control of another drone, and send it back to its operator.

About Catherine Early

Catherine is a journalist and editor specialising in government policy and regulation. She writes predominantly about environmental issues and has held permanent roles at the Environmentalist (now known as Transform), the ENDS Report, Planning magazine and Windpower Monthly, and has also written for the Guardian, the Ecologist and China Dialogue. She was a finalist in the Guardian’s International Development Journalism competition 2009, and was part of the team that won PPA Business Magazine of the Year 2011 for Windpower Monthly. She also won an outstanding content award at Haymarket Media Group’s employee awards for data-led stories in Planning magazine. She holds a 2:1 honours degree in English language and literature from Birmingham University.

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