One of the more exciting areas of technology innovation today is around the Internet of Things. The buzzword, which has applications in consumer, business-to-business and government environments, is all the rage as people imagine and conceptualize new ways to connect and draw insights in ways that were entirely impossible before.
In the IoT arms race, cities have made significant progress in pushing forward with pilots and prototypes. For example, Kansas City, Mo., is currently in hot pursuit of a $50 million Smart City challenge grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, according to a report from the Kansas City Business Journal.
The imperative for Robbie Makinen, interim CEO of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, is to get started with doing and not just talking about the Internet of Things.
“It's from a community standpoint, economic development ... and safety standpoint. We look at (Prospect Avenue) as a cornerstone of this authority. ... While other (cities and people) are still scribbling stuff on napkins, we’re actually doing stuff,” he said.
In that regard, Makinen and the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) would agree, according to its recent briefing titled, “Value and Vulnerability: The Internet of Things in a Connected State Government.”
States certainly aren’t as far along as cities in their development of an IoT roadmap. We hear about “smart cities” but not so much “smart states.” A 2013 report from Cisco claims that two thirds of global civilian benefits from IoT will come from cities in the next decade.
In some ways city services lend themselves more easily to connection (parking, waste management, public transportation), and cities can often move policy faster than states, but there are still opportunities for states to adopt IoT, and many are. While a state may not have a bus system to connect to an app, states may use sensor data, mobile platforms, or analytics software for healthcare, transportation or public safety.
While it’s true that cities naturally lend themselves more easily to IoT applications, it’s also true that states cannot afford to sit on the sidelines. NASCIO recommends avoiding becoming a “wait-and-see” state as there’s immense value in rolling up your sleeves and getting started now.
So, where to start? First of all, don’t be a “wait-and-see” state. As a GovLab report15 lays out:
“Government agencies that adopt a wait-and-see attitude toward the IoT are unlikely to develop the expertise or engender the trust needed to effectively and efficiently deliver services in this new reality and to reassure citizens concerned about how this new technology will affect them…public sector leaders ready to start tapping into the potential of IoT technology can begin by identifying specific, pressing mission challenges, and then analyze how more or better information, real-time analysis, or automated actions might help address them.”
CIOs can also work at the enterprise level with agency heads or CIOs to develop standardization, avoiding silos and individual systems. Incompatible systems for IoT and data management will slow down the effectiveness and benefits of IoT for state government. CIOs should not understate the dollar value of IoT on the state budget. They can help legislators understand the cost-saving potential of IoT while cautioning against pre-mature legislation.
In other words, in order to build the IoT future, state leaders must pick up the hammer and nails and start now.
How States Could Tap into the Power of IoT
It might be hard for some states to think about where to get started with the Internet of Things. The NASCIO report highlights some key sectors and sample use cases.
Think real-time traffic monitoring, fleet management and driver safety. Here are two state examples worth noting.
Oregon developed a pilot project using installed ports in cars, or an in-vehicle GPS system, to charge citizens for miles driven instead of charging a gas tax.
The Utah Department of Transportation is using Intelligent Transportation Systems to save lives, time and dollars. This includes closed-circuit television, variable message signs, traffic signal coordination, traffic monitoring systems, pavement sensors and weather sensors to provide real-time information to citizens through mobile apps.
Enhanced sensor data can help public safety officials monitor and improve response times, prevent disasters and locate victims. Here are some examples worth noting.
Ohio is working on Next Generation 911, allowing emergency service requests from a variety of communication methods and devices, including text, VoIP and video.
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles uses dashboard cameras to collect footage for evidence in trials. Wi-Fi antennas have been installed around the state to reduce upload times to 20 minutes, saving the department $1.1 million a year in overtime.
Beacon technology in stadiums, museums and parks has started to take hold; it’s a beneficial way to provide enhanced services and a more immersive experience. NASCIO highlights North Carolina as a state leader in this regard.
- North Carolina is testing Bluetooth low energy wireless beacons at the state’s museums, aquariums, historic sites and zoos. The beacons transmit contextual information to Bluetooth enabled smart phones and tablets.
Creating a Plan for IoT
While NASCIO’s report urges state leaders to get into the IoT sandbox now, the organization also advises that states plan and put a policy framework in place to avoid catastrophe.
“If a state invests in sensors in all areas of government without a policy framework for how to use the sensors and collect the data, then at best they are a waste of resources and, at worst, a portal for disaster,” the report states.
Key areas of concern center around security, data management and privacy. Security and privacy around data gathered from the public are intensely sensitive subjects, so it’s important that state IT leadership consider the implications thoroughly beforehand.
While the road to IoT greatness is still largely unpaved, thought leaders in the private sector and federal government abound. State IT leaders shouldn’t be afraid to take their cues on IoT from all walks of life.
“CIOs should craft an IoT roadmap to smooth the way for early adoption. CIOs should also take the time to learn from city, county and federal counterparts who may be further along in their usage of IoT. The time for formal discussion and planning for a connected state, citizenry and world is now,” the report says.