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Preparing Government for the Internet of Things

Did you know that your sneakers are on the Internet? So are local city buses. Oh, and TV is one of the biggest web junkies around.

As strange at this sounds, the proliferation of sensors and Internet connections on everyday items – on our ‘things’ – is at the heart of the Internet of Things (IoT) movement. The idea that we can track and collect data on nearly everything in our personal and professional lives can inspire fascination, dollar signs and fear. But before we react, we should first seek to understand.

That’s why on Wednesday, March 19th, GovLoop featured a special live edition of the popular DorobekINSIDER podcast on the subject of the Internet of Things.

Sponsored by Splunk Enterprises and hosted by Chris Dorobek, the virtual event featured the following speakers:

Sokwoo Rhee and Geoff Mulligan, two Presidential Innovation Fellows who are leading NIST’s SmartAmerica Challenge.

David Stephenson of Stephenson Strategies, the author of the book SmartStuff: an introduction to the Internet of Things and a frequent writer on the topic of the Internet of Things and government.

Brian Gilmore, a solution expert on the Internet of Things and Industrial Data at Splunk

Dan Kent, the CTO for U.S. Public Sector at Cisco

You can download the archived webinar here.

Preparing for the Internet of Things in Government

The Internet of Things has a number of significant implications for government, from the protection of privacy to the ability to more efficiency deliver core services to constituents. As such, the panel spent a significant amount of time providing lessons to help public sector professionals prepare for the IoT phenomenon. They are listed below.

Leverage Existing Technology, then Build Up

The technology supporting the capture, storage and analysis of sensor data for widespread use is still relatively new. Therefore, it’s important to use what you currently have to optimize your current operations.

“There are all sorts of interesting things that you can do right now with existing technology,” David Stephenson explained. But, he said, once the technology is fully deployed, you can build up from the work you’ve already done. “Then we will be able to do things we’ve never been able to do before,” Stephenson said.

Focus on Business, not IT

Dan Kent reminded the audience that the IoT movement will not be driven by CIOs; it will be driven by the business side. Kent reasoned that the business owners are the ones who will see the potential use cases in their functional areas, and are in the best position to drive innovation. However, Kent also warned that IT and business need to work closely together, because while the business side knows where the technology should be deployed, the IT side knows how to do it in a way that is secure and sustainable.

Start Small: Find the Low-Hanging Fruit

Brian Gilmore echoed Stephenson’s call for employing a layered approach to deployment. Gilmore suggested looking at the devices and systems that affect your business, whether it is a building, fleet of vehicles or public infrastructure.

“Wherever you have access to data, start generating insights off of it, such as building greater efficiencies [in your operations],” Gilmore suggested. “Once you’ve done that you can reinvest those savings and use them to create a larger strategy for implementation.”

Stay Calm and Focus on the Issues

Sokwoo Rhee sought to alleviate the fears of those wary of the IoT phenomenon. “For the last couple of months, I’ve met so many folks who get freaked out by the concept of IoT,” Rhee said. “But IoT is not exactly new. This has been around for 10 to 20 years.”

The important thing, Rhee reasoned, it to deliberately, persistently work on the security and privacy issues that are the root of public angst. “The point is,” Rhee added, “we have time – so let’s not freak out and instead work on the real issues.”

A Measured Approach: The Government as Steward of the Internet of Things

For Rhee and Geoff Mulligan, Presidential Innovation Fellows working on the government’s Smart America Challenge (a collaborative public-private sector research project designed to show the tangible benefits of IoT activities to the U.S. economy and its citizens), the IoT movement has a different name: Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS).

“The reason we call it [CPS] is that is that we believe it is the government’s role to facilitate and coordinate these efforts, as well as accelerate the adoption of progress of the Internet of Things,” Rhee said. The government may not be able to innovate the IoT itself, but by pursing initiatives like the SmartAmerica Challenge, the government can serve as a steward to ensure we can extract the most value out of these innovations for our companies and citizens.

This was just a small sample of the lively and insightful conversation that took place yesterday. If you’d like to hear more, you can listen to the archived webinar in its entirety. You can also take the Internet of Things survey and register for GovLoop’s IoT event in August.

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