Dan Hoffman

Dan Hoffman
Former Chief Innovation Officer
Montgomery County, Maryland

Editor’s Note: Dan just left this position and as of July 10, will become Assistant City Manager of Gainesville, FL—congrats, Dan!

Favorite Music

U2 and Smashing Pumpkins, e.g., Cherub Rock. Has he been to their concerts? “More times than I can count.”

Challenge

Some years back, Montgomery County (1.1 million residents in suburban DC) started distributing hundreds of free smoke detectors each year. But soon it realized these are only as good as the response they get in emergencies. In hazardous older buildings often occupied by seniors or low income residents, where maintenance can be poor and the need therefore great to detect gas leaks or other air quality issues, there are of course no doormen and often no onsite maintenance employees. Given the desire close the digital gaps among economic classes of citizens, Dan started thinking about a way to connect these alerts to first responders.

Solution

The advent of the cloud and the Internet of Things (Dan calls his office the “Thingstitute”), gave him his opening. Envisioning a “community alert network,” he built a prototype detector in 2014, integrating sensors with the smoke detectors and hooking them into a portal for data that would automatically send notifications. Today they’re being tested at a Rockville senior facility, with development funded by a NIST grant last year. If this phase is successful the County would have the option of testing it in an operational setting in early 2018.

Lesson for other cities

This kind of initiative can be replicated most affordably when it’s based on interoperable, open systems. Dan says the reputation of public sector IT development has suffered because of big, bulky, proprietary software development projects. Better to avoid risky, expensive systems that often fail, and instead just plug into a road-tested open system someone else has already developed. The primary benefit of the project is that it demonstrates the ability for a city of any size to spin up a cloud-based sensor quickly and affordably.

Dan’s Personal Background

From rural South Carolina, Dan came to the DC area 20 years ago as a GW undergrad, then got an MBA at Johns Hopkins. He’s also worked at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and PriceWaterhouse Coopers. However, as of July 10th he’ll be out of DC. He’s about to become the Assistant City Manager of Gainesville, Florida.

Job today

Up until a few weeks ago he ran the county’s R&D lab that pilots prototypes and proofs of concept. He ran a small team including three to five researchers working under government and university grants. In his new role with Gainesville he will help oversee the development of a new smart city program as well as multiple departments, including public works and parks and recreation.

Startling Fact

He was one of a small group of people to come up with the “50 states quarter program,” as a youth advisor to the US mint during high school in 1994.

Contact Dan!

dan@danhoffman.com

Or contact current Montgomery County officials:
David Gottesman, Manager of CountyStat and Dennis Linders, Analyst at CountyStat
countystat@montgomerycountymd.gov
or James Resnick, Program Manager for Senior Outreach
james.resnick@montgomerycountymd.gov

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