This article is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent guide, “Emerging Tech in Government: What It Means for Your Career.” Download the full guide here.
An interview with Michael Corcoran, Chief Marketing Officer, Information Builders
One of the greatest assets agencies possess is the data they create, collect and analyze.
When that data is combined across systems, it provides actionable insights for improving efficiencies to better achieve the mission, serve citizens and preemptively avert issues. The data also empowers agencies to tackle national issues including cybersecurity and the opioid epidemic.
Today, an increasing amount of this data is generated from internet-connected devices, outfitted with sensor technology that can collect specific details on a range of issues. But as the volume and variety of data that agencies collect increases, the challenge becomes how best to extract that data from sensors and use it in a meaningful way.
“If I asked government managers about their biggest challenge, 10 years ago they would have said, ‘I don’t have the information that I need to do my job,” Michael Corcoran, Chief Marketing Officer at Information Builders said during an interview with GovLoop. “Today if you ask them what’s your biggest challenge in terms of information, they say, ‘I need to look at too many different dashboards to figure out what’s going on.’”
Corcoran explained the benefits and challenges agencies grapple with as they invest in emerging technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) and how his team at Information Builders is partnering with agencies to make the most of data collected from IoT systems.
Despite the promise of having real-time data from IoT devices, this technology alone will not solve government’s most complex issues, whether that’s tackling air pollution or improving healthcare. What agencies need is context with the data that can add value. Some of that pertinent data may even be in other emerging technology formats, such as blockchain, which can be mastered with other data for a comprehensive understanding.
To truly reap the benefits of IoT data, it must be integrated, cleansed and combined with other relevant data in a format that people can use.
“It’s about being able to correlate that data on the fly, to add value to it,” Corcoran said. “That context from other data sources is really what adds the value.”
Working in partnership with agencies, Information Builders’ technology helps transform big data from IoT into insights that are useful. By breaking down data silos, cleansing the data, and integrating it with their existing data, agencies can share those insights with stakeholders in real time.
When it comes to making IoT data accessible and available in formats that people can use, agencies must consider potential consumers of the data both inside and outside of their organization. For example, citizens are also using data to better understand environmental conditions, crime trends and other issues that affect their lives, Corcoran said.
Historically, government has lagged behind in adopting emerging technologies and new capabilities, but that hasn’t been the case with IoT, he said. “I’m seeing some really interesting creativity on the government side, which in some cases is more advanced than what’s happening in the private sector.”
To further enhance the benefits that IoT data can offer, the next step agencies should consider is combining that data with advanced analytics to drive better outcomes. The goal is to use data and analytics to predict what is likely to happen. Adding a predictive component to the IoT data helps to complete the solution.
For instance, several customers are using their machine sensor data to proactively predict equipment and component failures. This allows the organization to make repairs on a recommended schedule and avoid the downtime and critical impact of having a plane out of service, a ship in dock for weeks without the needed repair component, or refrigeration units for medication storage malfunctioning.
Corcoran advised that agencies invest in capabilities that offer an analytics platform, data integration tools and the ability to correlate the data to find trends and future insights. Not only that but agencies must ensure information from various sources can be delivered in real time and displayed in a way that makes sense to decision-makers.
As the demand for actionable data increases, agencies can no longer rely on dated back-office functions that only provide a historical view of what has happened in the past. Government is under pressure to optimize their operations and reduce costs, and the combination of IoT and advanced analytics is charting a path for agencies to meet those goals.