It’s Time For The Government And The Internet Of Things
The Internet of Things or IoT has become quite the well-known term in the past year or two. What started out as a radical concept – connecting everything to everything else and to the Internet! – is now an expected consumer benefit for almost any product or service. But one area that has the reputation for lagging behind in IoT adoption is government.
A 2014 GovLoop report revealed that 49% of surveyed employees had never heard of the Internet of Things. A Politico article in December of 2015 harshly criticized the U.S government for lack of attention to IoT. And while IoT standardization and regulation is something lawmakers have yet to tackle, don’t believe everything you read about those in government agencies being IoT neophytes.
The fact is, the federal government has implemented a variety of IoT technologies that have delivered taxpayer savings, better services and enhanced safety. Further IoT innovations in the private sector will continue to drive the evolution of those in the public sector.
In 1949 the General Services Administration (GSA) was established to consolidate and streamline all of the administrative work of the federal government. Today, the GSA owns nearly 182 million square feet of office space nationwide. Even with that vast footprint, the organization is still dedicated to delivering the best value for their services to the American people. That’s the genesis of their smart buildings program. The GSA monitors thousands of sensors throughout 500 of their properties for water, gas and energy usage to identify opportunities for savings.
And that’s just the beginning. Imagine the possibilities when the government inevitably evolves from monitoring and reporting to automated adjustments. For example, a small, Pennsylvania-based company is poised to change the face of smart buildings by connecting all electrical outlets to the Internet. With the ability to reduce or cut power to certain outlets at non-peak usage times, the company has shown up to 60% in energy savings in pilot tests.
The United Postal Service (USPS) is plugged into the IoT using sensors on their vehicles and on your packages. The data from those sensors is integrated with analytics tools and helps the organization know when they need to increase drivers on routes so your package makes it to where it needs to be on time.
It just stands to reason, that the USPS will eventually tear a page from UPS’s playbook and couple their current sensors and analytics with a robust GPS system. UPS uses a proprietary system called ORION (On-Road Integrated Optimization and Navigation). GPS is a part of ORION, but the system goes beyond just finding the fastest route. Each route has a possible 200,000 options and ORION’s algorithm applies more than 1,000 pages of code to deliver the best route in 3 seconds.
There’s no arguing that U.S. armed forces personnel have some of the most difficult – and dangerous jobs on the planet. That’s why the government has turned to the IoT to develop technology that enhances soldier safety. Wearable sensors in uniforms and protective gear monitor vital signs. Data from intelligence sources, maps and geographic sensors are aggregated to deliver real-time situational awareness to handheld devices on the battlefield.
These innovations that enhance the safety of warfighters are on their way to the local level for our public safety officers. ShotSpotter already helps identify the origin of gunfire. Body cameras are on their way to becoming the standard. Voice activated headset computers might sound sci-fi, but the technology is ready. The real challenge for local governments will be integrating all of these technologies and providing a network capable of supporting their usage.
The Privacy Challenge
As much as we all want the savings, service and safety, we also want to know that our privacy is being respected. That’s where regulation comes in. The government has a huge job in developing industry standards and regulations that restrict what kind of information can and cannot be collected and shared.
The Security Challenge
Beyond privacy, security is the next biggest concern for those exploring opportunities for government in IoT. Fortunately, with the recent launch of Windows10, this problem has a ready-made solution. Windows10 was made with the entire ecosystem of computing in mind – from the largest screen to the tiniest wearable. That means it’s possible to protect every node, every sensor, every endpoint and every network.
The Internet Of Government
Yes, because of regulatory restrictions, privacy concerns and budget constraints, it sometimes appears as if the government is lagging behind in innovation. But the fact is, more government buildings are going green, more cities are becoming smart and states are seeing the benefit of IoT. As private sector adoption drives down the price of sensors and intelligent system software, the government is in a prime position to implement proven technology to save money, streamline services and make everyone safer.