Here’s an opportunity to help modernize Congress’ legislative call system

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The Architect of the Capitol is looking to commission the creation of a new, modern legislative call system.

The envisaged new system, for which the architect plans to hold an industry day later this month, will work in tandem with the existing system of buzzers and lights used to alert members of Congress to action on the floor.

Despite the fact that the new system will be an add-on, the AOC wants it to be a complete and fully-functioning version — radio frequency transmitter, new clocks and call receiver components all included. But the system shouldn’t just be a replication of what exists. The AOC is looking for modernization here, meaning that the new system needs to be “capable of interfacing with future technologies,” like smartphone applications, for example.

The call for industry responses also includes a brand new component, too — a mobile legislative call system. This system, which will be separate from the traditional one, needs to be “portable, deployable, scalable, and flexible in its use,” and work over encrypted wireless connection as opposed to radio frequency.

The industry day for the project is scheduled for Jan. 24 — interested vendors have until Jan. 17 to register to attend.

The congressional legislative call system has a storied history. The bell system was first put into use in 1890, and lights were added in 1963. Over time, the coded messages purveyed by the bells and lights have become increasingly complex, meaning that lawmakers often rely on cheatsheets, or staffers, to know which sound-and-light combination means what.

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Architect of the Capitol, Capitol Hill, Legislative Branch IT, legislative call system
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