AWS Public Sector Blog

Smart cities, health and wellbeing, and digital transformation: The latest from AWS Cloud Innovation Centers

The global network of Cloud Innovation Centers (CICs) powered by Amazon Web Services (AWS) aims to empower public sector organizations to quickly create and test new ideas using Amazon’s innovation methodology. The CIC program brings students, researchers, and the technology expertise of AWS together to solve public sector challenges and gives students the opportunity to engage in project-based learning. Check out some of the CIC challenges during the third quarter of 2020:

water tap coming out of brick wallArizona State University (ASU) Smart City CIC: Improving access to water integrity data in South Africa

The eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality, a metropolitan municipality located in South Africa with approximately four million residents, is working with the ASU CIC on the Durban Water Analytics Challenge to aggregate and visualize water utilization rates to help make better community water use decisions for the increasingly scarce water supply due to population growth. The CIC and eThekwini team collaborated to design the SHANA data exchange, a single system where users can log onto a website and access water data, analytics tools, and reporting through a customizable dashboard that uses the AWS Africa (Cape Town) Region and the AWS Data Exchange. The SHANA exchange enables the eThekwini municipality to stay up to date on its water supply analytics and regain confidence in the integrity of the region’s water data.

satellites facing the skyASU Smart City CIC: Speeding access to scientific equipment

Scientists across numerous disciplines use expensive instruments to make new discoveries but often lack access to the equipment. The ASU University Technology Office reached out to the ASU CIC in an effort to democratize remote access to these tools with a new application called the Science Instrument Reservation and Access System (SIRAS). SIRAS is a software portal that catalogues instruments, manages requests, and connects researchers to equipment through authorization and permission-based guidelines. The SIRAS benefits users and equipment owners by automating elements of access management and visualization of specialized, scientific assets. The team recently produced mockups outlining the website functionality for accessing remote scientific instruments.

close up of hands on a cell phoneASU Smart City CIC: Reducing evictions with assistance delivery

The Wildfire Arizona state association worked with the ASU CIC and Prefix Health to simplify the City of Phoenix’s rental and utility assistance process to help people in financial need gain quicker access to financial support. The CIC team designed the Arizona Benefits Portal to help people experiencing financial stress apply for rental or utility benefits online. The self-service portal is accessible in English and Spanish and program eligibility can be determined immediately and funds can be credited to accounts with little or no delay. The portal offers support for the economic impacts of COVID-19 and for people struggling to pay rent and utility bills. The first phase of the portal rolled out in August and includes assistance for water, gas, and electric, as well as rent and mortgage assistance for residents of the City of Phoenix. Solution resources are available via open source.

group meeting on laptopUniversity of British Columbia (UBC) Community Health and Wellbeing CIC: Improving accessibility for students learning online

Accessibility is one of the major areas disrupted by classes moving online during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the request of the UBC Provost’s office, the CIC team developed an Automatic Zoom Transcription Tool to assist students in simultaneous online lectures. The solution enables real-time closed captioning on Zoom lectures and the ability for students to download full, time-stamped transcripts of lectures after they occur. The solution is being used by students today and uses Amazon Transcribe, AWS Amplify, Amazon API Gateway, and AWS Lambda. The code to the solution is available via open source and has been published on GitHub.

MRI imagesUBC Community Health and Wellbeing CIC: Reducing MRI waitlist times

Wait times for MRI exams in British Columbia can vary depending on the priority of the health concern of the patient, and the current intake form process for the MRI Central Intake Office (CIO) requires providers to manually complete a requisition form. The UBC CIC built a prototype for the Vancouver Coastal Health MRI Project “CAN’T WAIT” to decrease current MRI waitlist times and increase the number of patients who receive their exam within the province’s benchmarked wait times. The prototype uses Amazon Comprehend to develop a rules-based algorithm to help the chief intake officer to assign the patient to an MRI site with the fastest turnaround time.

UBC Community Health and Wellbeing CIC: Open source AI model for COVID-19 CT diagnostics and prognosis

The UBC CIC released phase 2 of the Open Source AI Model for COVID-19 CT Diagnostics and Prognosis in July. The model is available for use by the public; from clinical staff who want to learn more about using artificial intelligence (AI) to fight COVID-19 to individuals who want to upload and receive diagnosis on their own CT scans. Users can log in and upload CT scans directly to the AI model to determine opacity patterns and build upon the solution’s growing database.

Cal Poly DxCal Poly Digital Transformation Hub: Securing satellite data communication

Securing data communications between satellites and Earth using encryption is typically an expensive and power-intensive endeavor. While the resource-intensive approach can be managed effectively by military and communications satellites, it’s not feasible for smaller satellites that are growing in popularity. Encryption for small satellites can now be accomplished with an inexpensive, off-the-shelf micro-controller and open source software, created in the Democratizing Cybersecurity in SmallSats with the Teensy Encryption Device challenge. The prototype was designed and developed by the Cal Poly DxHub and funded by a CASCADE Grant from the U.S. Department of Defense through the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research.

NYC first respondersCal Poly DxHub: Working with Iowa City to improve public health services with data access for first responders

When paramedics, emergency room nurses, and other first-line responders encounter someone experiencing a mental health crisis, they need to act quickly while making informed decisions. Iowa City recently collaborated with the Cal Poly DxHub to improve data sharing for when first responders are working with someone experiencing a mental health crisis where timely and accurate information is essential. Without knowing which services someone has accessed, it is difficult to determine the most helpful plan for support and also can require a lot of redundant paperwork completion for families. The DxHub team is working with Open Lattice, a secure, cloud-based data platform, and Iowa City to design a proof of concept for the idea called InterConnect to help bring public health, ambulance service, crisis center, law enforcement, and hospital data together to provide proper services and care. Learn more about the innovation challenge and open source resources.

aerial view of city of MunichMunich University of Applied Sciences (MUAS) Digital Transformation Lab: Addressing COVID-19’s impact on public life

The city of Munich realized the lack of access to community buildings during the pandemic resulted in negative outcomes and/or frustration for community members. In a series of five challenges, the city collaborated with the MUAS CIC to address various social issues that arose from or were reinforced by COVID-19. The Virtual Reality for Munich’s Buildings challenge emerged to make public buildings virtually accessible for architects and IT managers for upcoming work, but also for other citizens needing access to buildings during the pandemic. The MUAS CIC students developed a prototype for a three-dimensional virtual walkthrough of public buildings, making sure to take into consideration Germany’s strict privacy laws and building security. Check out a short video to see how the virtual technology works.

Any public sector organization, including nonprofits, government agencies, healthcare organizations, and those in education who are facing a challenge can apply to work with a Cloud Innovation Center to help identify new approaches to problems, leverage leading-edge technology, and explore opportunities to better deliver on their mission. Send the CIC team a message if you are interested in working on a challenge and check out our latest announcement of a new CIC here.

Ben Butler

Ben Butler

Ben Butler is the global lead for Amazon Web Services (AWS) worldwide public sector cloud innovation programs, focusing on driving digital innovation for societal good in the worldwide public sector. Ben is an U.S. Air Force veteran and holds a B.S. in systems engineering from the University of Virginia, a M.S. in management information systems from Bowie State University, and a M.B.A. at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University. Ben is based in Herndon, Virginia.