Beyond the Census: New opportunities at Commerce

With the 2020 Census currently underway, it’s easy to get caught up in the business potential surrounding all that upcoming post-census data at the U.S. Department of Commerce. Nonetheless, needs around data analytics are also driving procurement initiatives at two other agencies in the Department of Commerce – the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

While these organizations have different missions, they both have pressing demands to process, manage and analyze large amounts of data. Let’s take a closer look at two major upcoming opportunities at USPTO and NOAA, and how you can help these agencies achieve their goals.

USPTO – Records Management and Data Capture

In February, USPTO released a draft RFP to digitize paper records and pull data from patent applications. This draft RFP was intended to “test the waters;” an official solicitation has yet to be released. Consequently, there is still time for vendors or systems integrators to come forward with innovative solutions.

The technical requirements for this records-capture initiative are extensive, but in general, USPTO is looking at data cleanup and capture, as well as the ability to search patent records.

This is consistent with the agency’s public position for at least the past six months. At a November 2019 AFCEA event on digital transformation, USPTO CIO Jamie Holcombe stated that “Data is king.” The agency, Holcombe believes, needs to strike a balance between protecting intellectual property while also making data available for use.

For USPTO, this means that users must be granted different levels of “trust” with a solution that makes room for machine learning and automation, to save time and ensure accuracy when searching massive amounts of data. A viable solution for the agency should also include the ability to search unstructured data in digitized documents.

NOAA – Application Development for a Sea Turtle Atlas

NOAA has had several exciting initiatives in the headlines lately, and it’s easy to see why. With their mission covering everything from weather to sea life and fisheries, the bureau is always looking to advance its methods of gaining and disseminating crucial scientific data.

One large project for 2020 will be the development of a sea turtle atlas to bring together multiple data sources on sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico – and will require visualization capabilities.

This is a new contract, estimated to be valued at between $1 million and $2 million. As a new contract currently labeled as a competitive and unrestricted solicitation, there is no incumbent. Based on NOAA’s acquisition forecast, the solicitation is anticipated to be released in Q3 of FY2020.

While the solicitation is expected to be focused primarily on services, the sea turtle atlas initiative will be a large and continuing project anticipated to span several years. The likely ongoing opportunities include data integration, capture, management, visualization and cleanup.

Beyond Census

The Census Bureau is currently collecting population data on millions of Americans, and it may seem as though you should focus your efforts here for data tools and analysis. Keep in mind, however, that the Department of Commerce houses an eclectic group of agencies. USPTO and NOAA, in particular, are two examples of such agencies that are embarking on projects to make better sense of their data.

Rather than focusing only on what’s grabbing headlines, a better sales strategy would be to consider how your analytics and data management tools can help USPTO and NOAA achieve robust data capabilities for their critical work.

About the Author

Jessica Parks is a market intelligence analyst for immixGroup, an Arrow company. She can be reached at

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