The Internet of Things (IoT) is the concept of connecting any device to the internet, from home appliances to wearable technology such as watches, to cars. These days, if a device can be turned on, it most likely can be connected to the internet. Because of the IoT, objects to objects, people to people and objects to people can communicate quickly and efficiently.
Imagine a world where your alarm clock notifies your coffee maker to start brewing when you wake up; or your car is communicating with other cars on the road, exchanging information about speed and position to reduce the number of accidents; or your office technology automatically orders supplies when they are low. Seems a little like The Jetsons, but this will soon be our reality – and in some cases, already is.
According to Gartner, there is expected to be nearly 26 billion networked devices on the IoT by 2020, giving any business, no matter the industry, access to endless amounts of vital, real-time data about their company and customers. Inside and outside the workplace, the IoT has the potential to change the way we work and live.
Just like many industries, government agencies are looking for ways to cut costs and become more efficient, and have realized the IoT is one way they can achieve productivity gains. Over the last five years, the federal government has spent more than $300 million on IoT-related research and Cisco estimates that the IoT will be valued at $4.6 trillion for the public sector in the next ten years.
So where are we seeing IoT adoption in the public sector?
An area that has shown promise and growth is public infrastructure and transportation. Opportunities abound within facilities management, grid and energy planning, and environmental impacts like waste management and water meters – with the IoT driving smart cities and smart urban mobility.
For example, smart parking applications are already informing citizens where the open parking spots are in a busy city, video and data analytics are helping cities identify how many passengers are in a vehicle for High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane compliance and cities are able to monitor and manage traffic and congestion.
The Internet of things is also revolutionizing mass transit including buses, subways and trains. The technology can track traffic data, driver performance and gas usage to cut costs and improve traffic routes for better service. Sensors on subways, railroad cars and buses can help monitor systems like temperature and fault warnings for a safer, more comfortable ride and can provide real-time information to passengers to warn them of the estimated arrival time on their mobile device. Buses can also get alerts from citizens to stop at a certain stop, at a certain time, and can cancel the stop when the traveler isn’t there. A truly connected and integrated transportation system made possible from the IoT is making transportation faster and safer for drivers and passengers.
The potential of the IoT for both the public and private sector is undeniable; however companies and agencies need to develop plans and prepare their workers for its implications in order to harness the value of the technology. And here’s the catch – according to a GovLoop survey of 800 public-sector and industry employees, 49 percent said they had never heard of IoT, while 16 percent said that they had heard of it but wasn’t sure what it means.
It’s clear there is more education and research that needs to happen before companies and agencies can develop a plan to implement the IoT for their specific processes, however everyone should begin to design a strategy that will help this revolutionizing technology enhance business processes before it’s too late.
Charles (Chuck) Brooks serves as the Vice President for Government Relations & Marketing for Sutherland Global Services. Chuck is also an Advisor to the Bill and Melinda Gates Technology Partner network, as Chairman of CompTIA’s New and Emerging Technology Committee, as a Fellow at The National Cybersecurity Institute, and serves on Boards to several prominent public and private companies and organizations.