The emerging technology of cognitive services teaches computers to understand the world as we humans do. Last night’s #AzureGovMeetup in DC focused on exactly how the exciting and powerful capabilities of cognitive services can help government agencies better meet their unique missions and improve citizen services and engagement.

Our speakers included Justin “Doc” Herman, program lead of Emerging Citizen Technology, Technology Transformation Service, General Services Administration, who shared how government is advancing the use of emerging technologies. The night also featured compelling presentations and demos on Microsoft Cognitive Services by Steve Michelotti, senior program manager, Azure Government; and Ken Hausman, data platform solution architect of Microsoft.

In case you missed it, AIS livestreamed a few portions of the event on Twitter. Watch the videos below and be sure to follow us @AISTeam. (And check out the #AzureGovMeetup hashtag for more photos and insights from the outstanding lineup of experts.) For future DC AzureGov Meetup dates and details, go here. We hope to see you next month! Read More…

When you read about the Internet of Things, you often hear about connected cars, connected kitchen appliances, small devices that let you order things quickly, or other consumer-grade applications. In this post, I will quickly describe a recent IoT project I worked on where the devices are not small consumer-grade sensors…they are large industrial manufacturing machines.

In this case, machines arranged on a shop floor are responsible for cutting metal into various shapes. These machines must be both very powerful and very precise, and they have robotic arms that are programmed to grip specialized tools for this activity. These machines use the MT Connect protocol as the language for communicating their operational status and the results of any action taken. On collection, the data is streamed to a collection point for analysis. In older machines, adapters are installed to stream the machine’s data using the common language.

Our work on this project helped the engineers identify optimal cut times by analyzing the machine activity data. First, we needed to enhance the collection process so that all data was readily available, then apply the appropriate business rules to identify cut time, and finally provide quick, actionable feedback on the outcome. Read More…

The recent #AWS and #Azure outages over the past two weeks are a good reminder of how seemingly simple problems (failure of power source or incorrect script parameter) can have a wide impact on application availability.

Look, the cloud debate is largely over and customers (commercial, government agencies, and startups) are moving the majority of their systems to the cloud. These recent outages are not going to slow that momentum down.

That said, all the talk of 3-4-5 9s of availability and financial-backed SLAs has lulled many customers into expecting a utility-grade availability for their cloud-hosted applications out of the box. This expectation is unrealistic given the complexity of the ever-growing moving parts in a connected global infrastructure, dependence on third-party applications, multi-tenancy, commodity hardware, transient faults due to a shared infrastructure, and so on.

Unfortunately, we cannot eliminate such cloud failures. So what can we do to protect our apps from failures? The answer is to conduct a systematic analysis of the different failure modes, and have a recovery action for each failure type. This is exactly the technique (FMEA) that other engineering disciplines (like civil engineering) have used to deal with failure planning. FMEA is a systematic, proactive method for evaluating a process to identify where and how it might fail and to assess the relative impact of different failures, in order to identify the parts of the process that are most in need of change. Read More…

 

AIS recently completed work on a complete revamp of the Texas Workforce Commission’s “Texas Reality Check” website. Texas Reality Check is an Internet-available, fully accessible, responsive, mobile-first and browser-agnostic design. This website was tested for accessibility, performance, vulnerability scans, and usability.

Background

Texas Reality Check (TRC) is targeted at students on a statewide basis, ranging from middle school to high school (with some colleges and universities making use of the tool for “life skills” classes). The goal is to inspire students to think about occupations, and prepare for educational requirements so they can achieve the income level that meets their lifestyle expectations.

This tool walks students through different areas of life, on a step-by step-basis, identifying budgets associated with living essentials such as housing, transportation, food, clothing, etc. Students make selections and then calculate a corresponding monthly income that would afford the selections they make. From here, the students are directed to another page and connected to a database on careers and associated salaries.

However, the existing site was dated and in need of improvements in three core areas: UX, Accessibility, and overall performance. Here’s how AIS delivered:

Read More…

While it isn’t quite as good as having complete control of your CSS, Dynamics CRM (2015 Online Update 1, and On-Prem 2016) now offers a feature called Themes. Themes enable the organization to customize their CRM Web interface to some degree, although we still don’t have complete control of the styling.

There are plenty of good blogs on Dynamics CRM themes, but I’ve yet to find one that includes good tips on determining the hex values for the colors you need. This blog will help you determine these values, including using a color picker to pull a color’s hex value from an image. Read More…