5 Takeaways on the Internet of Things and Government

The Internet of Things — you may have heard about it — maybe — but what is it really… and what does it mean for government?

GovLoop and ConnellyWorks sponsored the first forum focused on the Internet of Things and government… and I was thrilled to moderate the panels.

Today, most people think of the Internet of Things as interconnected machines — the Nest thinking thermostat that will adjust the temperature in your home automatically… or your refrigerator telling you if the milk has gone bad or a soda machine saying if it is almost empty and needs to be refilled. But that isn’t the revolutionary part of the Internet of Things, noted Steve Fritzinger, public sector manager at NetApp, one of the speakers during the forum. In some ways, we don’t know how this will grow and evolve.

Richard McKinney, the Transportation Department’s chief information officer, noted that in Boston was using an app called StreetBump, which collects data on a driver’s smart phone and measures road condition data while they drive. Therefore, if there are sudden jolts, it marks that as an indication of a potential pot hole. McKinney noted that Boston officials discovered that many of the bumps were coming from manhole covers — and, as a result, the city is redesigning the manholes to smooth the roads.

Some DorobekINSIDER take aways from the Internet of Things forum:

1. This is just the beginning: We are still early. While there is more discussion about the Internet of Things and there is much anticipation about the realm of the possible, this feels early. During our discussion, there was much talk about what is coming, but most organizations are really just dipping their toes in the IoT waters.

2. There is much anticipation about what is possible… There was discussion about gear for military warfighters or firefights that gets outfitted with sensors that can help detect health issues — overheating, for example. The general sense is this is bigger than what we are seeing today, but we aren’t sure what it will be. Dr. Joseph Ronzio, a special advisor at the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Veterans Health Administration, discussed the way the Internet of Things could really transform the world of health. We are already seeing that to a certain degree with FitBits and other exercise monitors that track how much people move, but — again, that theme — this feels like just the beginning.

3. You can’t sit back and wait for everything to get sorted out: McKinney noted that the technology learning curve is just too fast these days and organizations need to constantly learn and evolve or they will just be left behind. The days of waiting have passed.

4. Data matters: There is an alignment of technologies that make the Internet of Things possible — and underlying many of them are data. To that end, McKinney said that Transportation is the first cabinet level agency to hire a chief data officer. Dan Morgan, who just started, will be focusing, in part, on these kinds of data issues.

5. There are challenges, not the least of which are security and privacy: Both are big issues. In just the examples mentioned above, there are potential issues. With Boston’s StreetBump app, yes, the city is measuring bumps, but what if they also decided to measure speed? What if insurance companies decided to use your car GPS as, essentially, a ‘black box’ for a car? What if your health insurance company could tap into your exercise tracker and would determine rates based on your actual health? Who owns these data. And there have been widely publicized hack attacks. There was discussion about the Target attack during the holiday season where criminals got in through an HVAC system. As the world becomes increasingly connected and we come to depend on these machines, as we often do, there can be real implications. Randy Garrett, the Program Manager of the Information Innovation Office at Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, noted that most cars these days are layered with technology. What if a hacker got into your vehicle and essentially stole it… from the other side of the world. Fritzinger send me a note about crackers who are encrypting the data on a particular brand of home storage systems, then demand $350 for the decryption key. (Editor’s note: Fritzinger stressed that it is NOT a NetApp system that was being attacked.) Security becomes mission critical… and privacy become something more real that what Facebook is doing with our posts.

We all came away thinking that life is complex… but the possibilities are amazing… and what amazing times we live in.

Some resources:

The SEVEN stories that impact your life

  1. Washington Post: DHS contractor suffers major computer breach, officials say- “A major U.S. contractor that conducts background checks for the Department of Homeland Security has suffered a computer breach that probably resulted in the theft of employees’ personal information, officials said Wednesday. The company, USIS, said in a statement that the intrusion “has all the markings of a state-sponsored attack.”

  2. Government Executive: Defense Could Save Millions in Health Care Costs If Congress Would Let It- “Congress should scrap an outdated and unnecessary health care program that is costing the Defense Department billions in contracts, according to a new report from the government’s watchdog. A decades-old program within the military health system known as the U.S. Family Health Plan (USFHP) has outlived its usefulness, the Government Accountability Office concluded, and duplicates many of the benefits and services provided under TRICARE — the department’s main health care program that covers 9.6 million active-duty service members, reservists, retirees and their dependents.”

  3. Federal News Radio: OPM releases final rule on phased retirement- “The Office of Personnel Management released the final rule on phased retirement Thursday morning. The rule comes more than two years after President Barack Obama signed the provision into law on July 6, 2012. Under the final rule, eligible employees can work part time while drawing on part of their earned retirement benefits. Phased retirees must also spend at least 20 percent of their time mentoring other employees. Employees must have at least 20 years of service in the federal government to qualify for phased retirement.”

  4. Washington Post: Commerce inspector general places two officials on leave after call for firings- “The Commerce Department inspector general’s office has removed two officials who allegedly threatened subordinates with negative performance reviews if they did not sign gag agreements before moving to new jobs. In April, the House committee that oversees the agency unanimously called on Commerce Department Inspector General Todd Zinser to fire the two employees, special counsel Wade Green and senior special agent Rick Beitel, who was previously the top assistant inspector general for investigations.”

  5. NPR: As Ebola Spreads in Nigeria, Debate About Experimental Drugs Grows- “As the Ebola virus continues its deadly march through West Africa, keeping track of developments can be a challenge. The World Health Organization released updated figures Wednesday. The total number of cases — including those considered confirmed, probable or suspected — now stands at 1,711. This includes 932 deaths. To put that into perspective: Until this year, the world had recorded 1,640 deaths from Ebola since the virus was discovered in 1976. Now more than a third of all people known to have died from the Ebola virus, in history, have died in the current outbreak.”

  6. FCW: Clock is running out on procurement reform- “The policy prescriptions in IT procurement reform legislation look promising, but the chances of Congress acting don’t, according to a top executive at the Information Technology Industry Council. The Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act “is at an impasse” on Capitol Hill, said Trey Hodgkins, senior vice president of ITI’s Information Technology Alliance for Public Sector, during an Aug. 6 briefing for reporters.”

  7. Washington Post: The CIA isn’t reporting any data to federal transparency site- “Among the revelations in a new Government Accountability Office report on the completeness, or lack thereof, of the federal transparency site USASpending.gov is that the CIA not only doesn’t disclose contracting data on its classified programs, which isn’t so surprising. But the agency also doesn’t share data with the site on its unclassified programs, despite the fact that, as GAO notes, “[the White House Office of Management and Budget] does not have guidance that clearly exempts agencies from doing that.”

DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder… yes, we’re trying to help you make your water-cooler time better too…

Read the data: Pew Research Internet Project: Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and the Future of Jobs

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