Aug 08 2014

Who Will Own the Internet of Things Evolution at Your Agency?

Why IT departments must work collaboratively with non-IT users to make IoT a success.

Remember when employees had to go through the IT department to get a device or access apps that improve workplace efficiencies?

Internal policies haven’t changed that reality, but technology has, and today’s users are becoming more tech savvy. An empowered end user can be a scary thing for IT departments that aren’t searching for secure ways to enable employees, rather than to shut them down.

If you add the Internet of Things to that mix, the thought of non-IT assets being connected to the Internet can be overwhelming. Cisco estimates that 12 billion to 13 billion devices are connected to the Internet today, said Dan Kent, U.S. public sector chief technology officer and director of engineering at Cisco Systems.

That number is projected to reach 50 billion by the year 2020, Kent said at a GovLoop training event this week in Washington, D.C.

What Does this Mean for CIOs?

The IT department probably won’t own this transformation, and non-IT people are going to have their hands on IT assets, Kent explained. The business and mission side need to be more knowledgeable about IT and understand how data from those sensors and connected devices can create value for the agency and citizens.

“There is real value to be made in [the] private sector and in public sector by connecting non-IT devices to the Internet,” Kent said. San Jose, Calif., and Maryland’s Montgomery County are among the growing number of governments using the Internet of Things to improve quality of life for residents.

Kent said the Internet of Things will provide an estimated $19 trillion in value between now and 2020, with $4.6 trillion of that benefiting the public sector through cost savings and productivity enhancements.

“You have an economic impetus to drive this,” he said.

Laying the Foundation for IoT

Tiffany Sargent, Internet of Things senior solutions architect for Intel Federal, offers practical steps for applying IoT to the work your agency is doing. She recommends that agencies consider these points and questions as they get started:

  • What problem are you trying to solve? Many people say they need real-time data, but can data be processed at another time?

  • What does your operational environment — people, processes and business — look like? Analyze what your internal and external environments look like and what skills employees have.

  • What technology do you currently have? If you have an environment with big server farms or existing sensors, it isn’t feasible to rip and replace that technology. How will existing and new technology become interoperable?

  • Where does your data reside? If you want to do IoT, what solutions and strategies are needed to address data challenges?

  • Who is going to be using the data, and what will they do with it? Where will they be using the data? Is it remotely on a handheld device or in a secure location? Sargent recommends that agencies think about the needs of the data consumer.

  • What skill sets do users have to absorb the data? Do you need to take data and turn it into recommendations?

  • Think about analytics and your compute strategy. If you have multiple servers, think about where computing will take place and why.

Vicente Barcel? varona/thinkstock