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Census Bureau’s API Continues Commitment to Innovation

Census Bureau’s API Continues Commitment to Innovation

By Lisa Wolfisch, U.S. Census Bureau

In July 2012, the U.S. Census Bureau launched its first-ever application programming interface, allowing developers to design Web and mobile apps to explore or learn more about America's changing population and economy. The API allows developers more direct access to statistics and easier customization of their applications.

The API serves data from across the decades from the 1990 Census through the 2012 American Community Survey.  These programs offer statistics for every neighborhood in the U.S. and delivers on the Census Bureau’s commitment to create a platform for innovation by “opening up its data.”  Just last month, the Census Bureau updated the API with 13 monthly and quarterly economic indicators.

This information-centric approach promises to be the new default for all public data. Users of all varieties will benefit by creating new ways and tools to explore the data they want, rather than through restrictive PDFs and impossible to download formats.

Developers can use the statistics available through the API to create a variety of apps and tools, such as ones that allow homebuyers to find the latest new residential construction statistics. By combining Census Bureau statistics with other data sets, developers can create tools for researchers to look at topics such as school quality, toxic waste or restaurant locations and how they affect a community.

The Census Bureau not only created the API but is using it to create tools for you to access statistics, such as Easy Stats, a Census Bureau data access program, and dwellr, a mobile app released last November and since refreshed with the latest data.  Both of these tools offer easier access to American Community Survey statistics.

Over 6 Months, NIST Zero-Energy House Gives Back to the Grid

Over 6 Months, NIST Zero-Energy House Gives Back to the Grid

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology recently announced results from the first six months of a virtual family of four living in an energy efficient home and how the house has performed.  During the first six months, a prototypical family of four earned about $40 by exporting 328 kilowatt hours of electricity into the local grid, while meeting all of their varied energy needs. The goal of this experiment is to demonstrate that a net-zero energy house—one that produces as much energy as it consumes over the course of a year—can fit into any neighborhood. Following the year-long experiment, the facility will be used to test existing and new energy efficient technologies and develop methods of test that better reflect how those technologies will perform in a real home, rather than a laboratory.  

To date, these virtual residents of the Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility (NZERTF) located on the campus of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), about 20 miles north of Washington, D.C., didn't have to skimp even a bit on any of the creature comforts of 21st century living. Their amenities ranged from indoor temperatures maintained between 21.1 and 23.8 degrees Celsius (70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit) to a complete array of modern-day kitchen and laundry appliances, and from personal computers, a video gaming system, and two TVs to a pair of stereos, a hairdryer, and curling and clothes irons.

Both a laboratory and a home, the 2,700-square-foot (252-square-meter) NZERTF is a two-story, four-bedroom, three-bath house that incorporates energy-efficient construction and appliances, as well as energy-generating technologies such as solar water heating and solar photovoltaic systems. There, NIST scientists and engineers and their collaborators will develop and validate measurement and test methods for evaluating energy-efficient designs, materials and technologies.

Breaking Down Silos to Foster Innovation

Regional Innovation Strategies Map

Communities understand what their needs are better than any outside organization. They understand that in order to affect real change, they need to work collaboratively with businesses, non-profits, and other government agencies. The Obama administration has been utilizing public-private partnerships in numerous initiatives, as well as promoting interagency groups and supporting collaboration across agencies. EDA is one of the agencies leading this charge, and, since fiscal year 2010, has invested in 65 collaborative investments throughout the country.

EDA has teamed with ARC, the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development, and the Delta Region Authority on the Rural Jobs and Accelerator Challenge, which has resulted in $9 million in coordinated investments to support 13 partnership and innovation clusters across rural America. Today, the winners of the competition are providing entrepreneurs and businesses with research and development support to foster innovation, build supply chains, and hire and train workers here in the United States.

In 2012, EDA led the Advanced Manufacturing Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge, a partnership among several federal agencies, to support initiatives that strengthen advanced manufacturing and accelerate innovation in technology at the local level. Challenge winners like AMP! – The Advanced Manufacturing & Prototype Center of East Tennessee – are creating a collaborative environment where manufacturers work together with economic development resources, workforce development organizations, and research institutions. Read more about AMP! in NIST’s Manufacturing Innovation Blog.

NOAA Data Supports Coastal Resilience and Preparedness Efforts; White House to Announce Launch of Climate Data Initiative

Coastal Intelligence takes many NOAA resources

As part of the United States government’s efforts to make its data more accessible to the public, entrepreneurs, researchers and others as fuel for innovation and economic growth, today, NOAA Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan will  help announce the launch of the President’s Climate Data Initiative climate.data.gov. A new climate-focused section of Data.gov, climate.data.gov will make federal data about our climate more open, accessible, and useful to citizens, decision-makers, researchers, entrepreneurs, and innovators.  It will initially focus on coastal flooding and sea level rise and aims to strengthen preparedness and resilience to the effects of climate change through new products and services.

NOAA, part of the Department of Commerce, which has also made supporting a data-enabled economy a priority, is the quintessential big data agency.  Each day, NOAA gathers billions of observations about the health of our planet and then analyzes this data to predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and our coasts. 

NOAA’s National Ocean Service is one prime example.  Whether it is the nation's nautical charts, environmental monitoring and assessment, or socioeconomic tools, NOAA’s Ocean Service turns data into actionable information. NOAA’s goal is to increase environmental intelligence that many times relates to our coasts. This term refers to the information that is used by governments, businesses, and citizens to make decisions that support healthy ecosystems, strong economies, and resilient communities along our coasts. NOAA’s Ocean Service goes beyond collecting observations, analyzing data, and conducting research to translating that science into information to support good decisions.

Views of the Trade Mission: A Learning Experience and Wealth of Opportunity

Kurt Bergman, Chief Executive Officer, Michael Baker International

Guest blog post by Kurt Bergman, Chief Executive Officer, Michael Baker International

As the CEO of Michael Baker International, I was honored when we were selected to accompany U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker on an infrastructure related trade mission to the UAE, Qatar and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. After eight whirlwind days, I look back and reflect on what I learned and felt about the trip and the wealth of opportunity in our future: 

  1. The Middle East continues to be one of the most exciting infrastructure markets on the planet, with well thought, visionary initiatives across the infrastructure spectrum of water, power, surface transportation, aviation and others as well as developments of incredible forethought about the environment, including how we will live and work in the future.
  2. The U.S. and Middle East relations continue to be strong and there is a distinct desire for American companies to participate in this market.
  3. As a global company, the U.S. Embassy Commercial office staff are an incredible asset to assist you.
  4. No matter how long you have worked in the global market, there is always something new to learn.

As we traveled from Abu Dhabi to Dubai, Riyadh and Doha, I was in awe of the size, scope and magnitude of the projects that were being conceived, planned, designed and constructed. The projects we were briefed on included the Qatari Supreme Council for Legacy's FIFA World Cup 2022 program investing over $100 Billion USD to create a fan experience based on sustainability, access and enjoyment with an eye to the future. Another program was the Saudi Arabian metro initiatives in Riyadh and Jeddah where 100 of kilometers of innovative, futuristic public light rail valued at over $50 Billion USD are being installed with a four year completion goal. The Emirati Al Satiyya island development was a wonder to contemplate with over 148 square kilometers of environmentally sensitive towns centered around a world class school, entertainment and culture containing three museums being designed by different work class Pritzker prize winning architects. Nowhere else in the world is there such a desire and drive across an entire region for sustainability, cultural and environmental stewardship and quality. Michael Baker International is excited to continue our  legacy of support in the region that goes back to the 1950s and our support to the Saudi Royal Family and to supporting the U.S. State and Defense missions throughout the region today.

US Department of Commerce Middle East Trade Mission 2014 - a Startup's Perspective

Paul Doherty, President and Chief Executive Officer, the digit group, inc.

Guest blog post by Paul Doherty, President and Chief Executive Officer, the digit group, inc.

We read that the Middle East market was exploring Smart Cities as part of their strategic growth and knew our Smart Cities solutions would be a good fit there, but being a small startup technology company from Silicon Valley, we knew we needed assistance to enter the dynamic Middle East market. Being chosen to be a delegate for the 2014 Middle East Infrastructure Trade Mission led by Secretary Penny Pritzker, gave us an opportunity to showcase American innovation, explore a dynamic market and discover opportunities.

Upon arriving in the United Arab Emirates, the digit group was immediately immersed into a journey of discovery that did not stop. Secretary Pritzker and her talented staff created the environment for us to succeed by getting to know what we do, who we wanted to meet and then making it happen. The dynamic “Lightning Rounds” of meetings with decision makers and influencers for Smart City projects was thrilling and effective (including the Dubai World Expo 2020), the keynote speeches engaging and direct while the presentations and Q&A with government agencies and officials brought transparency, frank talk and paths forward for the entire delegation to consider. Both in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the digit group was met with genuine interest and desire by government agencies and private companies, to not only learn what we do, but to immediately engage in pilot projects that showcase our Smart City solutions.

In Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, our delegation was treated to clear and frank discussions on government strategy on large scale infrastructure projects and private sector aspirations, including the world’s tallest building, the Kingdom Tower in Jeddah. In fact, the digit group verbally agreed to 3D model the entire Kingdom Tower complex in our gaming engine, Orbi, during the Lightening Round in Riyadh. It was about this time during this mission that the camaraderie between the delegates roared into full swing as opportunities were shared, ideas exchanged and the mission became bigger than itself.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Wraps Up Successful Trade Mission with Visit to Qatar

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and Business Delegation Wraps Up Successful Trade Mission with Visit to Qatar

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker wrapped up her Middle East trade mission in Qatar, where there are many opportunities for U.S. businesses due to the country’s growing economy as well as investments in infrastructure and transportation. As part of the National Vision 2030, Qatar’s broad strategy for growth and development, the country is focused on making meaningful advances in education, sustainability, and economic diversification. Qatar is currently preparing to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and is therefore undertaking numerous new construction projects, renovations and upgrades to prepare for the games and the influx of visitors they will bring. With more than $150 billion in infrastructure investments needed before 2022, U.S. companies are well-positioned to help Qatar meet its development goals. 

Twenty-one such companies are accompanying Secretary Pritzker on her trade mission to the Middle East, and they have been meeting with Qatari leaders to explore business opportunities. On Thursday, Secretary Pritzker and the business delegation met with His Excellency Eng. Essa Bin Hilal Al-Kuwari, President of the General Water and Electricity Corporation (Kahramaa). They discussed how U.S. companies can get more involved in future Kahramaa water, power, and smart grid projects. They also met with Nasser Al Mawlawi, President of the Public Works Authority (Ashghal), which is leading publically-funded road projects in advance of the 2022 World Cup. Ashgal has already selected several U.S. engineering and construction firms, including AECOM Technology Corporation, a member of the trade mission’s business delegation, to lead major projects. 

Secretary Pritzker also met with Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, who is in charge of preparations for the World Cup. Secretary Pritzker congratulated Al Thawadi on the successful bid to host the World Cup and highlighted the close collaboration between U.S. and Qatari companies on major infrastructure projects related to the event. 

Attracting Qatari investment to the U.S. was also a big focus of the visit. On Thursday, Secretary Pritzker met with Ahmed Al Sayed, CEO of the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), founded by the Qatari government to diversify the country’s economy. She talked about the United States as an investment destination and highlighted SelectUSA, a Commerce-led federal initiative to promote business investment, as a resource for Qatar as the country seeks to expand its investment portfolio. 

Secretary Pritzker reached out to government leaders on her visit as well, notably His Highness Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, Emir of Qatar, as well as Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al Thani, Prime Minister and Minister of Interior. She emphasized the strong bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Qatar and the Commerce Department’s commitment to enhance our commercial relationship. 

Also on Thursday, Secretary Pritzker participated in an armchair discussion hosted by AmCham Doha and the National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce (NUSACC). During the discussion, Secretary Pritzker expressed the Commerce Department’s strong support for U.S. companies working to help Qatar reach its development goals. 

This week’s trade mission has been a successful effort to connect U.S. businesses with export opportunities in the United Arab Emirates, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. It demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a sustained economic partnership in the Gulf region.

Secretary Penny Pritzker Meets with Saudi Entrepreneurs About Challenges and Opportunities in the Region

On Tuesday night, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker met with a dozen Saudi entrepreneurs in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as part of her trade mission to the Middle East. The entrepreneurs work in a variety of sectors, including retail, real estate, food services, and more.

Secretary Pritzker briefly discussed her experiences as an entrepreneur with more than 27 years in business. Then, the male and female participants shared their own stories of entrepreneurship, and discussed challenges and opportunities for entrepreneurs in the region.

The attendees ranged from: a hamburger chain owner who built his first restaurant in 2009 with four employees and now has 17 franchises and 130 employees across the country; an entrepreneur who created a new real-estate-development division at his family’s business; and, a serial entrepreneur who launched an electronic recycling facility, an investment company, and a design school.

The group discussed the importance of education and skills training for entrepreneurs. Secretary Pritzker highlighted the success of the King Abdullah Scholarship Program, which sends tens of thousands of students to study at U.S. universities each year.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Tours Solar Park in Dubai

Secretary Pritzker speaks to the Dubai Chamber of Commerce

On Monday in Dubai, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker toured the Mohammed bin Rashid Solar Park by helicopter, getting a firsthand look at how cooperation between the U.S. and Dubai can lead to tremendous opportunities for businesses in both countries.

The solar park was built by First Solar, a company based in Tempe, Arizona that is currently accompanying Secretary Pritzker as part of her trade mission to the Middle East. Completed in October of 2013, the solar park is a 13 megawatt power plant and the largest solar facility of its kind in the Middle East.This solar park proves U.S. businesses can serve as strong business partners to the Gulf region as UAE invests in its infrastructure and transportation systems.

After the tour, Secretary Pritzker and the business delegation met with Dubai Electricity and Water Authority  (DEWA) project specialists and DEWA CEO Al Tayer to further discuss DEWA’s investments in water, electricity and renewable energy projects, all of which offer additional opportunities for American companies to serve as partners.

In addition to her tour of the solar park, Secretary Pritzker held several meetings on Monday to support U.S. companies as they explore business opportunities in Dubai’s infrastructure expansion. She met with Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) officials and World Expo 2020 committee members to congratulate Dubai on winning the World Expo 2020 bid and to offer the Commerce Department’s support in preparation for the Expo. Held every five years, the World Expo attracts millions of visitors to the six-month long exhibition of trade, innovation and products from around the world. Dubai Expo 2020 will focus on sustainability, mobility, and opportunity, and will be a platform for connectivity to help pioneer new partnerships for growth and sustainability for the future.    

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Kicks Off Middle East Trade Mission in Abu Dhabi

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Kicks Off Middle East Trade Mission in Abu Dhabi

With rapidly growing economies and an expanding middle class driving demand for U.S. products and services, countries in the Gulf region are ramping up investments in transportation, renewable energy, and other infrastructure projects. That is why U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker is leading a trade mission to the region this week, her second since being sworn in last June. Along with a delegation of 21 export-ready U.S. companies, Secretary Pritzker started her trip in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, a country with which the U.S. has a growing trade relationship. As the UAE undertakes major investment in its infrastructure and transportation systems, there are tremendous opportunities for U.S. firms to serve as strong partners. 

On Sunday morning, Secretary Pritzker led the trade mission’s business delegation on visits to two government-established entities that are making investments in infrastructure, in order to help these U.S. companies explore possible export or investment opportunities in the UAE. First they met with Khaldoon Mubarak, the CEO of Mubadala, a development company that is investing in renewable energy, educational facilities, transportation, and logistics. Mubadala has already partnered with a number of U.S. companies, including General Electric, Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The delegation also visited the Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority, which currently serves approximately 40 percent of the UAE’s population and is working to expand its capacity.
 
Secretary Pritzker then delivered remarks to business and government officials at a luncheon hosted by the United States–United Arab Emirates Business Council, the United States Chamber of Commerce, AmCham Abu Dhabi, and the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce & Industry. In her remarks, she highlighted the growing U.S.-UAE bilateral trade relationship, noting that U.S. exports to the UAE have more than doubled since 2009. Secretary Pritzker underscored that the companies on the trade mission are eager to do business in the UAE, and to serve as partners on a number of infrastructure projects the country has undertaken in areas such as renewable energy and transportation.