“It’s not a revolution, but an evolution of what we’ve already been seeing in the Internet,” said Cisco Systems U.S. public sector engineering and chief technology officer Daniel Kent about today’s newest wave of technology, the ‘Internet of Things.’
Kent was the first speaker in a rapid-fire discussion of the implications of the Internet of Things for the public sector at yesterday’s GovLoop event, “The Internet of Things: Connected Government.” Five other industry and public sector panelists joined Kent in the conversation:
- Steve Fritzinger, Virtualization Alliance Manager, U.S. Public Sector, NetApp
- Rodney Hite, Big Data Solutions Manager, ViON
- Richard McKinney, Chief Information Officer, Department of Transportation
- Dr. Joseph Ronzio, Special Advisor to the Secretary of Health Information Technology, Veterans Health Administration, Department of Veteran Affairs
- Tiffany Sargent, Internet of Things Senior Solutions Architect, Intel Federal
The Internet of Things involves connecting non-IT things to the Internet. Think of your running shoes that communicate with your smartphone to track your steps and routes, or a refrigerator that monitors your groceries and can alert you when your milk is spoiling.
As Fritzinger pointed out, however, these use cases are trivial compared to the way the Internet of Things can transform public policy and government. “The real revolution is going to come in places that we don’t even imagine right now,” said Fritzinger.
Ronzio shared how the Internet of Things is already improving healthcare and services at the Veterans Health Administration. For instance, wearable heart monitors allow patients to track their health at home. This eliminates unnecessary doctor visits, saving both time and money. “More office visits are becoming life-saving office visits,” Ronzio said. “Life-saving is the point, and we don’t have to wait.”
The Department of Transportation (DOT) is also taking giant leaps into the realm of connected devices. “We’ve never been more connected than we are right now,” McKinney said. Vehicles, traffic lights, weather satellites, road sensors and mobile phones – just to name a few – supply DOT with heaps of data regarding traffic flows, road hazards and more.
Both McKinney and Fritzinger spoke of how this data will inform how municipalities plan their roads and cities into the future. “We can’t build cities in the same way that we are currently,” Fritzinger said. “If we don’t want favelas and slums, we are going to have to radically change how we plan urban areas.”
Putting the data from connected devices to good use, however, can be difficult and overwhelming. For example, a jet with two engines generates an average of twenty terabytes of data per hour, per engine. How is one to process such a mass of data! “We view data as a tsunami,” McKinney stated. “We think of it as something that has a lot of energy and we can use it to advance what we are already doing, rather than something that is static.”
In the same way, Hite discussed that the best way to get value out of data is visualization. “If you’re able to put all that data on a single platform, you’re going to get a lot more value from it,” he said. In addition, tying data to locations and patterns with geospatial analytics brings the data to life and informs behavior-based decision-making.
There’s no denying that the Internet of Things is beginning to permeate throughout the public sector. Most agencies, however, are still in the discovery and definition stage of their Internet of Things strategies. Sargent recommended considering the following questions when designing an Internet of Things solution in your agency:
- What problem are you trying to solve?
- What does your internal environment look like, in regards to data and organizational structure? What about your external environment?
- What technology and networks do you currently have?
- Who is going to be using your data? What are they going to be doing with it and where?
- Where and how should you compute in order to get the most out of data analytics?
- How is your large-scale complex system going to support this solution?
“There’s real value to be made by connecting non-IT things to the Internet in the public sector,” Kent said. He cited research that estimates a monetary value of nearly $19 trillion by 2020, $4.7 of that falling within the public sector.
“It’s new, it’s happening now, it’s happening in the public sector,” Kent said. More so, the Internet of Things is expanding exponentially. Economic impetus, the rise of cloud computing, ubiquitous connectivity and sensors and devices make now the opportune time for public sector agencies to dive into the Internet of Things.
View the panelists presentations below. And to learn more about the Internet of Things and how your agency can benefit from the future of technology, check out Govloop’s newest guide.