Tech: New apps, websites


Staff Reports



GasBuddy Launches Redesigned App, “Yelp for Gas Stations”

We are excited to announce today that GasBuddy has a new brand identity and redesigned app with key new features to improve the “fill-up” experience:

— Enhanced search filters: On top of searching for stations by location and price, now users can filter search results by station brand and amenities. Whether you are looking for a station that sells lottery tickets, has an ATM, or even a restaurant… find exactly what you are looking for.

— Station ratings: Think “yelp for gas stations / c-stores.” You can now share your thoughts about the overall station, the coffee, the customer service and more. On the flip side, you can see the ratings and get a better idea about the location before pulling in.

With seasonal gas prices the lowest they’ve been in over a decade, retailers are investing millions on additional amenities and customer experience in order to improve their bottom line. The new GasBuddy reflects this evolution.

Attorney General DeWine Launches CyberOhio Initiative to Assist Ohio Businesses

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced the launch of CyberOhio, a collection of cybersecurity initiatives aimed at helping Ohio businesses fight back against data security threats. The goal of CyberOhio, which DeWine announced at a news conference, is to help foster a legal, technical, and collaborative cybersecurity environment to help Ohio businesses thrive.

“When Ohio’s businesses are victimized by hackers, they can suffer millions of dollars in damage and place Ohio consumers at risk,” said Attorney General DeWine. “I believe by helping protect Ohio’s businesses, we also help protect the privacy and security of Ohio’s consumers.”

DeWine announced five initiatives the Attorney General’s Office would begin as part of CyberOhio:

  • Creation of a Cybersecurity Advisory Board, composed of industry experts and business leaders. The Board will provide guidance for Attorney General’s Office initiatives on cybersecurity.
  • Exploring draft legislation to improve the legal cybersecurity environment in Ohio for businesses and consumers.
  • Cybersecurity training opportunities including a cybersecurity business summit to be held in the spring of 2017 and cybersecurity trainings for small businesses.
  • Expanding the Ohio Attorney General’s Identity Theft Unit to assist businesses with cybersecurity and data privacy.
  • Encourage more cybersecurity workforce personnel, including through the creation of collaborative internship opportunities between businesses and Ohio colleges and universities.

The Cybersecurity Advisory Board will be chaired by Kirk Herath, Vice-President and Chief Privacy Officer at Nationwide Financial Services. The Board will be holding its first meeting following the news conference announcing the initiatives. Other Board members include:

Karen Chamberlain, Chief Information Officer, Western and Southern Financial Group

Jason DeHaan, Chief Information Officer, Abercrombie & Fitch

Robert Giacalone, Senior VP of Regulatory Affairs, Cardinal Health

Candice Hoke, Co-Director, Center for Cyber Security and Privacy Protection, Cleveland State University College of Law.

John Hrivnak, Director, Rev1 Labs

Kathy Jobes, Chief Information Security Officer, OhioHealth

Shawn Karasarides, VP-Corporate Counsel, The Wendy’s Company

Bob Kozel, Chief Executive Officer, eInformatics

Waylon Krush, Chief Executive Officer, Lunarline

Helen Patton, Chief Information Security Officer, The Ohio State University

Allen Perk, Chief Executive Officer, XLN Systems

Stephen Polenski, Chief Information Security Officer, Battelle Memorial Institute

Harry Raduege, Chairman, Center for Network Innovation, Deloitte

Brian Ray, Co-Director, Center for Cyber Security and Privacy Protection, Cleveland State University College of Law.

Matt Wald, President, Columbus Collaboratory

David White, Chief Information Officer, Battelle Memorial institute

Spence Witten, Director of Federal Sales, Lunarline

Doug Young, System Administrator, United States Department of Energy

OHIO PROUD ANNOUNCES LAUNCH OF NEW WEBSITE

REYNOLDSBURG – Ohio Proud, a marketing program which helps consumers identify food and agricultural products produced in the state, announced the launch of its newly revamped website: www.ohioproud.org. The new, user-friendly, mobile site offers quick and easy access to more than 500 Ohio Proud partners located across the state. The website also features an interactive map that allows consumers to more easily locate Ohio Proud businesses in their area.

“We are very excited to have our new website launch during this year’s holiday season,” said Lori Panda, senior program manager of Ohio Proud. “It’s always our goal to connect shoppers with locally made products because when you shop local, you are supporting our state’s businesses and farmers. Looking for Ohio Proud and other hometown products is a great way to get unique gifts for loved ones this holiday season while giving back to your local community.”

Created in 1993, Ohio Proud is the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s marketing program. Companies that grow, make or process at least 50 percent of their product in Ohio are eligible to join Ohio Proud. Becoming an Ohio Proud member gives businesses another way to market their products, and provides consumers a quick and reliable way to identify local food and agricultural goods. From local fresh meats, fruits and vegetables, to snack foods, wine and baked goods you will find Ohio Proud products at many specialty retailers and in every aisle of your favorite grocery store.

For more information on the program, businesses and shoppers can visit the new Ohio Proud web site at www.ohioproud.org.

Auditor Yost Releases New ‘Fiscal Physical’ Tool

Ohio Auditor of State Dave Yost released a new tool to help cities and counties better assess their financial health and make informed budgetary decisions to avoid potential future fiscal stress.

“This effort has one goal: Help improve the financial health of our communities by providing a ‘fiscal physical’ to pinpoint potential problem areas,” Auditor Yost said. “Not every financial problem can be avoided, but this tool provides an early warning system to help identify those that can.”

Based on research, programming and testing, the Auditor’s office developed the new tool which generates “financial health indicators” (FHI) for all 247 cities and 88 counties in Ohio. The underlying data used to create the indicators comes from the annual financial statements cities and counties submit to the Auditor’s office. The initial release of information is based on data up through 2015.

Using data from a rolling four-year period, up to 17 financial indicators are generated for all counties and cities, each analyzing a significant piece of financial information. Depending on the data, each condition is designated as either having a “critical outlook,” “cautionary outlook” or “positive outlook.” The financial stress of a city or county is higher as the number of critical or cautionary indicators increases. The greater the number of indicators, the greater the risk.

Based on 2015 data, 16 cities and 1 county meet the historical threshold for having high fiscal stress. Another 13 cities and 2 counties are within one “cautionary” or “critical” indicator from meeting that high-stress threshold. In all, 82 percent of counties and 92 percent of cities have at least one “cautionary” or “critical” indicator.

In establishing the benchmarks for the financial indicators, audit staff researched cities and counties that had been in either fiscal caution, fiscal watch or fiscal emergency, studying their financial data in the years leading up to being declared in a state of high fiscal stress. Those data points and trends were used to determine how many “critical” or “cautionary” indicators were indicative of future financial stress.

Historical data indicates that entities with at least six “critical” indicators or a combination of eight “critical” and “cautionary” indicators have ended up in a state of high fiscal stress. (For cities and counties using a cash or modified cash basis of accounting, four critical indicators or a combination of six critical or cautionary indicators is the threshold.)

“Our local leaders have performed well in navigating the financial storms they’ve faced, as only 16 cities and one county currently meet the historical thresholds for having high fiscal stress,” Yost said. “This report suggests to me that the financial condition of our cities and counties isn’t as great as some believe, nor is it as bad as some others believe.”

Collectively, the FHI reveal concerning trends in our state. For instance, cities and counties appear to have not spent heavily on their capital assets and infrastructure in recent years, leaving local leaders to face tough decisions in the near future. Data also show declining year-end balances in general funds, indicating spending is outpacing revenues. In addition, many communities have experienced declines in property tax revenues, an important revenue stream for basic services.

The FHI reports will be generated twice a year for each entity: Once when the city or county submits its financial statements for a preliminary report, and a final time after any adjustments are made following the Auditor’s review. Full reports could not be created for cities and counties that have not filed financial statements or if they have changed the method of accounting they use during the past seven years.

The FHI are the outgrowth of a recognition the Auditor had early during his first term that some communities were in poor health financially and, barring some significant changes, were likely going to become sickly. “I began working with my staff to create a new financial tool that would help city and county officials understand their fiscal vulnerabilities and make prudent, well-informed decisions,” Yost said.

Auditor Yost believes it is important for entities, citizens and policymakers to understand how cities and counties compare with one another and for trends in the data to emerge. To make that comparison easy, reports for both cities and counties can be generated through the Financial Health Indicator webpage (www.ohioauditor.gov/FHI) that lists all indicators side by side.

By their very nature, the work of auditors is retrospective: They analyze and scrutinize information and controls to protect the public’s interest. With the Financial Health Indicators, the Auditor of State’s office is providing a tool that is forward looking through the use of historical trends and current data.

“These indicators and the overall condition of a city or county should not be construed as a criticism of the operating decisions of local officials,” Yost explained. “Rather, these indicators illustrate the financial stress on our cities and counties.”

A handful of other states, including Washington, New York and Michigan, have similar programs and were used to help inform the Auditor’s team as the tool was developed during the past several years.

NOTE: Video of Auditor Yost explaining the Financial Health Indicators can be found at the Ohio Channel’s Auditor of State page. A downloadable version can be found here.

Senate President Announces Expansion of Televised Committee Coverage

Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) announced a plan to expand televised coverage of Senate standing committees.

The Ohio Channel, a service of Ohio’s public broadcasting stations, currently provides coverage of the Senate’s full legislative sessions in addition to meetings of the Senate Finance Committee, which presides over the hearing process for the biennial state budget. The new plan will allow for coverage of up to three additional standing committees as determined by the Senate President.

“This is the people’s house,” said President Obhof. “Technology gives us the opportunity to increase transparency and participation by bringing the legislative process to Ohioans wherever they are. We look forward to using it to provide our constituents with greater access.”

Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) added, “Televising more committees will be a tremendous public service for the citizens of Ohio – many of whom are unable to travel to the Statehouse because of other commitments. I strongly support open government and look forward to the further expansion of public access to the legislative process.”

In addition to the televised broadcasts, all legislative and Supreme Court sessions are streamed live over the Internet as well as archived digitally, providing every Ohio resident the opportunity to witness, first hand, their government in action.

The Buckeye Guard’s digital magazine

COLUMBUS — The Buckeye Guard, a venerable publication of the Adjutant General’s Department from 1976 to 2011, has been relaunched as a digital magazine. The premiere issue is now available on the Ohio National Guard website at: http://ong.ohio.gov/buckeyeguard.html. The launch of the digital magazine follows the premiere earlier this month of a video version of the Buckeye Guard, which began airing on The Ohio Channel, a service of Ohio’s public broadcasting stations.

NASA’s VR headset

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Experience space as only NASA astronauts have before with the new, custom-designed Space Visor virtual reality headset and mobile applications available exclusively at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

Available for purchase at visitor complex gift shops and online at TheSpaceShop.com, the Space Visor transports users to a spacewalk outside the International Space Station (ISS), where they can explore inside and learn about each module, and then to the surface of the moon on a rocky lunar rover ride. Other experiences include visits to restricted areas at the visitor complex such as the Gemini IX and Apollo 14 capsules and more. The headset can be used while at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and then from anywhere else a user might be.

“At Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex we create immersive space experiences for our visitors,” said Therrin Protze, chief operating officer, Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. “The Space Visor is the next step to bring our guests an unparalleled experience at the height of current technology.”

The premium headset allows users to interact with three separate applications:

KSC 360 Expedition encompasses all parts of the visitor complex, and users are prompted to learn facts about each rocket in the Rocket Garden, gaze at space shuttle Atlantis as she floats in orbit, take a ride on the moon in a lunar rover at the Apollo/Saturn V Center and sit in the commander seat of the Mercury-Atlas 8, Gemini IX and Apollo 14 capsules.

Space Dreams explores the room of a space-inspired child to learn facts and figures about the solar system from galactic-themed décor including each planet, a Mars rover and a Mercury spacesuit.

Edge of Home allows guests to see the International Space Station like an astronaut; they will take part in an extravehicular activity, walk around the outside of the ISS while learning facts and figures about each module.

Delaware North, operators of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, worked with Orlando-based VR technology partner, brandVR, to create content that is compelling and approachable for all audiences.

About Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex brings to life the epic story of the U.S. space program, offering a full day or more of fun, inspiration and educational activities, including the Kennedy Space Center Tour featuring the Apollo/Saturn V Center with an actual Saturn V moon rocket, Space Shuttle Atlantis®, Shuttle Launch Experience®, IMAX® A Beautiful Planet 3D and Journey To Space 3D films, Astronaut Encounter, Journey To Mars: Explorers Wanted, Science on a Sphere®, Rocket Garden, Cosmic Quest, and many other exhibits. Its newest attraction, Heroes & Legends, featuring the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame opened November 11, 2016. Only 45 minutes from Orlando, Fla., Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex opens daily at 9 a.m. with closing times varying by season. Admission is $50 + tax for adults and $40 + tax for children ages 3-11. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex offers annual passes starting at $75 + tax for adults and $60 + tax for children ages 3-11. For more information, call 877-313-2610 or visit www.KennedySpaceCenter.com.

DoD Opens Online Exchange Shopping to Veterans

The Defense Department announced that veterans will soon be able to shop online at military exchanges.

The policy change will extend limited online military exchange shopping privileges to all honorably discharged veterans of the military, DoD officials said in a news release.

While shopping privileges exclude the purchase of uniforms, alcohol and tobacco products, it includes the Exchange Services’ dynamic online retail environment known so well to service members and their families, the release said. The change follows careful analysis, coordination and strong public support, officials said in the release.

“We are excited to provide these benefits to honorably discharged veterans to recognize their service and welcome them home to their military family,” said Peter Levine, performing the duties for the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.

“In addition, this initiative represents a low-risk, low-cost opportunity to help fund morale, welfare and recreation programs in support of service members’ and their families’ quality of life. And it’s just the right thing to do,” Levine added.

The online benefit will also strengthen the exchanges’ online businesses to better serve current patrons. Inclusion of honorably discharged veterans would conservatively double the exchanges’ online presence, according to DoD officials, thereby improving the experience for all patrons through improved vendor terms, more competitive merchandise assortments and improved efficiencies.

“As a nation, we are grateful for the contributions of our service members,” Levine said. “Offering this lifetime online benefit is one small, tangible way the nation can say, ‘Thank you’ to those who served with honor.”

Staff Reports

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