A special edition of GovLoop’s DorobekINSIDER was held Wednesday. We’re LIVE! We host these events once each month this year. The idea is simple: get smart people together and share ideas — because we believe that the real power of information comes when it is shared.
The wearable tech craze has begun. A new Pew Internet report revealed that wearables will have a major impact on our everyday lives over the next decade.
Now government is getting into the wearable game. The NYPD is using an app to help identify and apprehend suspects. And the federal government is looking into wearables too — U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer wants the Department of Justice to create and fund a wearable tech to provide voluntary GPS tracking devices for children who have autism or other developmental disorders.
Though they’re testing them out, when it comes to wearables, government is really just at the starting point. Chris Dorobek and his team of experts talked about how wearables are changing the game.
DorobekINSIDER Panel of Experts:
- David Fletcher, CTO for the state of Utah
- Carmen Medina, specialist leader at Deloitte Consulting, formerly Deputy Director of Intelligence
- Ferhan Hamid, CEO of INADEV
- Ashley Holtz, Senior Associate at KPMG
Wearables also cover mobile technology — you may have heard of FitBits or other devices that track the number of steps a person takes and provides data around health. There are a growing number of futuristic watches or Google Glass, which actually puts a tiny computer screen in a corner of the glasses. They are really cool technologies, but are there applications for the enterprise — for government?
There are already some trend setters who are very excited by the potential — I mean, how many times do you reach for your phone or tablet to get some piece of information to do your job? What if that were hands-free? Just like the transformation that we all went through with the iPhone, some see wearables having a similar kind of impact.
Andrew Sheehy of Generator Research says wearable technologies reimagine how we experience the Internet, how we access information, how we capture information, how we share information, how we communicate with others and he predicts that is just the start of the changes. In fact, he says that in the future, we will look back at devices like the iPhone and wonder how we ever managed.
That being said, there are only a handful of organizations on the cutting edge right now.
A recent survey showed that 85 percent of public sector organizations had no IT plan to include wearable technology, that according to business software provider Ipswitch.
There are a few public sector organizations testing the wearable waters. The state of Utah is credited with creating the first state government application that is enabled for Google Glass — a transit-tracking application. it’s called UT OnTime, and it notifies the person the status of the train or bus they are waiting for. “Wearables are an extension of and work in conjunction with mobile,” said Fletcher. “The great news is that they use the same backend systems. We really look at incorporating wearables into our digital strategy in two ways, first to provide new services to citizens like the the UT OnTime application and second to help increase efficiencies for our employees.” Another possibility? Utah is home to some of the newest oil wells in the country. Fletcher wants to help improve his inspector’s productivity by having them wear a device that can take photos and videos, while the inspector does the actually looks at the regulations simultaneously.
Probably not surprisingly, the Defense Research Projects Agency — DARPA — has several programs devoted to wearable-like technologies. It is working on something it calls Warrior Web, which is a whole uniform that is design to improve the person’s performance. And the Urban Leader Tactical Response, Awareness and Visualization program seeks to improve the safety and performance of soldiers in combat.
Despite the obvious benefits of wearables, there are some major concerns, namely security and privacy. One organization that prizes security very highly is the intelligence community. But even they are dipping their toe in the water, Medina noted. “The Director of the CIA said not advancing with these new technologies could be a threat to the agency because these technologies could make them irrelevant if they don’t adopt them.”
Hamid agreed. “Device security, infrastructure security, application security — these things need to be dealt with, but security should not be an impediment to progress.”
“Government has to move away from an all or nothing approach. The 100% secure solution is a fallacy, government needs to focus on risk management, not risk avoidance,” said Medina.
While the security barrier is high, Holtz said there could be major benefits to performance and accountability by using wearables. “It sounds simple, but wearables are just really things you take with you. So if a field worker has a device on them, they are collecting all sorts of data in real-time, that data can be used to get more information about when things go wrong, where someone is at a certain time with GPS chips etc. This is really an accountability tool, too.”
So which organizations need a wearable device and how soon should we expect them to pop up on the shelves? “The rate of adoption is going to be similar to the cloud,” said Holtz. “Remember when everyone in government was afriad to put things in the cloud? A few of them still are — it was a slow rate of adoption. I think wearables will use the cloud adoption template, slow and steady.”
“In government we are going to need very specific use cases to adopt wearables,” said Medina.
“Those best case scenarios are with field workers who need to have information ‘in context’ while they are working. Also field workers that are required to be hands-free. Think law enforcement, regulators, census workers, those types of jobs.”