5 IoT Challenges and Solutions

The Internet of Things is paving the way for government to make radical change in areas such as waste management and transportation. But how do agencies actually implement IoT strategies? How do they acquire the right tools and people to execute these big projects?

In the most recent DorobekINSIDER Live, Christopher Dorobek sat down with GovLoop’s Senior Director of Editorial Services and Production, Catherine Andrews, and Associate Director of Cyber Physical Systems at NIST, Sokwoo Rhee, to discuss the top IoT innovations and challenges that state and local governments currently face.

“There are very real challenges in deploying IoT at the federal, state and local level,” Andrews explained. The best way to confront them is to first understand what these challenges are. Here are some of the top challenges and steps for overcoming them.

Challenge 1: Security. “Security is one of the forefront challenges,” Andrews said. The question is how do you keep things safe? With IoT, this question becomes more pressing as the increase in connected devices leads to an increase in endpoint vulnerability. Any platform that is connected — from vending machines to alarm systems — pose the risk of being insecure and open to hackers. With IoT, security measures differ from traditional IT systems.

“IoT is a combination of logical systems with physical systems,” Rhee said. When transportation or utility systems get hacked, the negative impact can be physically devastating, where people can actually get hurt. In order to combat security risks, you have to consider both systems and look at the risks that come from both sides.

Challenge 2: Procurement. “It’s not just about procurement but the whole business model,” Rhee explained. “We have to think about how local and state government can work with the private sector and create win-win situations.” Currently, there are many models for subsidizing public-private partnerships. What’s important is understanding what works specifically for your agency.

“It comes down to best practices,” Rhee said. Don’t just consider the technology side but the business side, too. Have examples of models for cities to choose from. There’s no real cookie cutter formula, but if agencies present a model, cities don't have to go through the trials and errors that previous cities had to go through.

Challenge 3: Regulation. Rhee discussed NIST’s success in its cybersecurity framework that’s not only adopted by government agencies but by private industries as well. “IoT is more complicated than that,” Rhee said about the cyber framework. This is because IoT is connected to real applications like transportation, making it harder to come up with a single guideline.

Regulation is difficult to address when there isn’t a concrete example. “Instead, we have to understand what works and what doesn’t work,” Rhee said. “The question is how can we move on without creating an impact on the general society.” Innovation and regulation need to go hand-in-hand. The people working in both areas have to work together.

Challenge 4: Workforce. While finding people is difficult, the second part of the challenge is changing the mentality of the current workforce — especially those in the upper levels. It can be hard to show them the opportunities of IoT projects. For example, with smart cities, the backing of leadership from mayors and county executives is essential. They play a huge role in enabling the adoption of an IoT project.

In terms of workforce issues, enthusiasm and excitement needs to be a priority, too. Everyone needs to be involved and skills need to intermingled. “If you only have one skill, it will be hard to fit in with IoT. From a workforce and education perspective, there’s always a lot more to learn,” Rhee said.

Challenge 5: Broadband & Infrastructure. In the context of IoT, infrastructure can be a broad term. It can mean roads and bridges, but it also deals with other critical systems. “It’s not just a money issue but an issue of determination,” Rhee said. It’s important to always look ahead. For example, many cities are looking toward public Wi-Fi as the next big project. “IoT isn’t a static topic, and new things surrounding [it] are always happening,” Rhee said.

For people dipping their toes in IoT, it’s less about explaining IoT and more about understanding these challenges that agencies face. Today, ideas and things that run on IoT have become more tangible. From artificial intelligence to data analytics, all future technologies are a part of IoT.

“At the end of the day, IoT is an enabler and all about tangible benefits to everyday life,” Rhee said. IoT helps people and the communities they are a part of by making their lives easier, more secure and safer.

Check out GovLoop's most recent IoT guide here.

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