GovTech Business Watch: Using Cloud-Based Analytics to Manage Stormwater Runoff, Oracle’s Cloud Business Grows

Plus, Boston is on the hunt for smart city ideas.

by / December 16, 2016
Bioswale is a sloped grassy area that slows down rainwater as it runs off of a paved area. Shutterstock

GovTech Business Watch is a weekly roundup of news in the government technology market.

City Digital Launches Platform for Monitoring Stormwater Runoff, Green Infrastructure

Chicago’s City Digital consortium has created a cloud-based analytics tool to help the city with one of its larger concerns: stormwater.

The platform assesses the performance of the city’s “green infrastructure” — that is, projects designed specifically to soak up or otherwise slow down water on its way to the storm drain. Pulling data from on-site sensors, the tool offers information that city officials can use to inform policy and infrastructure investments.

Chicago, and indeed regions near the city, deal often with rain and storm-borne flooding. The nearby Calumet region experienced nearly $90 million in damage from flooding in 2008. Property damage claims in the Chicago area reach above $700 million in a five-year period. The city maintains a “Basement Flooding Partnership” to help homeowners avoid storm damage.

“Flooding is local, but its causes are systemwide,” City Digital Director of Program Management David Leopold said in a statement. “Through targeted deployment of green infrastructure across the larger system, cities can help address the flooding happening now and remain resilient in the face of future changes to climate and weather patterns.”

City Digital is a government-business-academic collaboration in Chicago that seeks to develop technologies addressing selected focus areas. It’s a part of UI Labs.

Oracle’s Cloud Business Grows, but Traditional Tech Still Reigns

Oracle’s net income may have declined 7.5 percent in its last fiscal quarter, but the company’s executives are still excited.

It might help that CEO Safra Catz was just named to the transition team of the U.S. president-elect. But the executives’ focus during a conference call with investors on Dec. 15 was directed to its growing cloud business.

Oracle’s revenues from cloud software-as-a-service, platform-as-a-service and infrastructure rose 62 percent from $649 million in the second fiscal quarter of 2016 to $1 billion in the second fiscal quarter of 2017. The company’s cloud offerings now bring in 12 percent of its revenue, up from 7 percent a year ago.

The numbers have a long way to go before they compare with Oracle’s traditional business in software, which encompasses a broad range of systems from enterprise resource planning to database management. On-premise software made up 68 percent of Oracle’s revenue during the quarter.

That line of revenue is, however, declining. It fell 4 percent from $6.4 billion to $6.1 billion during the reporting period.

Larry Ellison, chief technology officer and co-founder of the company, noted during the call that with Oracle’s shift to the cloud comes a shift in competition as well.

“Historically, I’d measured Oracle performance by comparing our technology and our market share to our two primary competitors, SAP and application, and IBM and infrastructure and database,” he said during the investor call. “That changes as we move to the cloud. In the cloud, we measure Oracle against Salesforce.com and application, and Amazon Web Services and infrastructure and database.”

Boston Explores Smart City Tech with Broad RFI

Boston doesn’t want to become a smart city — yet.

For now, it just wants to figure out what a smart city even is.

The city has released a broad request for information asking vendors to submit ideas rather than products or services.

“We are identifying (1) which improved services can be delivered with (2) what smart technology that is deployed on (3) which city assets, (4) funded by what business models,” the RFI reads.

The RFI — for which submissions are due Jan. 29 — gives vendors an idea of what infrastructure the city has that might be made “smart” with connectivity or extra controls, as well as some focus areas Boston might be interested in working on. Those include transportation improvements, increased digital access and better constituent engagement.

The Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics has released a “playbook” on GitHub to go along with the RFI. The playbook clues vendors into how to approach the RFI. It advises potential partners, for instance, to talk with city employees about their everyday problems and seek to solve those instead of offering a platform for a vision the city doesn’t have yet.

“So far, every ‘smart city’ pilot project that we’ve undertaken here in Boston has ended with a glossy presentation and a collective shrug,” the playbook reads. “Nobody’s really known what to do next, or how the technology and data might lead to new or improved services.”

Ben Miller Staff Writer

Ben Miller is the business beat staff writer for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes breaking news, business, community features and technical subjects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Sacramento, Calif.