Oct 03 2016

Illinois's Quest to Become the Nation's First Smart State

The Internet of Things offers so much potential for states willing to take the leap and make the investments.

The Internet of Things, ­unquestionably, is gaining momentum, moving from ­concept to reality all over the globe in only a few short years.

In 2013, research firms put IoT at the top of the hype cycle, predicting that it will continue to grow in applications and acceptance as it becomes a mainstream initiative. We have certainly found that to be the case in Illinois.

Accelerated adoption is driven by the same factors driving other technologies into the mainstream: falling costs, rising technology capabilities and applications, and ubiquitous mobility, cloud and bandwidth.

A relatively new game changer is the growing power of analytics to use the oceans of data created by IoT.

Deploying sensors makes good business sense when it creates value. It is not unlike harnessing wild horses (widely scattered, high velocity, overwhelming and underutilized data) and having them pull forward together to reach your business goals. That is data-driven decision-making.

Making Sure IoT Is Done Right

IoT is an ecosystem play. A smart lighting solution, for example, requires ­vendors who provide light poles, energy, light bulbs, sensors, edge network, transport and core network, data center, analytics and applications.

Government’s role here is key as smart lighting must also connect seamlessly with other municipal services such as traffic lights and parking management. That makes multistakeholder engagement and government’s ­leadership extremely critical. Illinois has successfully created and managed multistakeholder groups to bring the benefits of IoT to its ­citizens, and we look to other states to ­follow.

Lining Up Stakeholder Alignment Across the State

Illinois’s vision as a first-in-the-nation smart state was recognized in early 2016 through a case study from research firm IDC. Given our focus as a state rather than a city, the emphasis on engaging and aligning a holistic spectrum of stakeholders across the IoT ecosystem has been our approach from the start. I want to share how we’ve made it work, and why we think other states should bother.

Working from the inside out, Illinois’s IoT Center of Excellence is a working group of 11 agency CIOs, business owners, information security pros, data analytics gurus, marketing whizzes and key chief experience officers. The group drives our state’s overall IoT strategy and implementation.

While engaging internal stakeholders,we’ve adopted an outside-in approach, which includes a strategic advisory board that comprises business leaders from key IoT companies, research firms and academia, all of whom advise the state as we build a comprehensive strategy and identify policy and regulatory bottlenecks, explore options for creative financing, and design curricula to ­educate our next-generation workforce. We also work with key thought leaders, such as the IoT Talent consortium, the IoT Midwest Council and the UI Labs, an innovation accelerator for manufacturers and smart cities.

Who Else Should Engaged in IoT Transformation?

We have worked very closely with the federal government to clearly define the most appropriate role of government in IoT initiatives, which we believe is threefold: as customer, enabler and aggregator. Illinois, so far, represents the only state responder to a federal call for input on this highly important role, and our teams have since been engaged as advisers and advocates.

It’s important as a state to work alongside our municipal governments and school districts to ensure uniform deployment of IoT solutions through statewide fiber and joint statewide procurement of smart state solutions. Being the nation’s first officially ­designated smart state is an ambitious goal. It requires and inspires participation throughout the state.

Who your state should engage, and how, should be an exercise in strategic thinking, executive leadership and energetic execution. Here in Illinois, we have found everyone we work with eager to embrace and enact the vision of an even smarter state.


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