The IoT: Is Your Government Program Ready?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a phenomena that will radically reshape our world. BI Intelligence estimates that the number of smart devices connected to the Internet will triple within just a few years. As sensors and other devices are placed in everything from thermostats to watches to combine harvesters, the amount and quality of data will continue to explode. Very few parts of our world and in particular our government will remain uneffected. As a government leader, you need to understand these trends and adapt your strategy accordingly. Here are few things for you to consider on the plus and minus side. The IoT will create:

  • New efficiencies: The IoT is producing vast amounts of new data and that data will allow for better, cheaper, and more efficient solutions. For example, smart equipment in an ambulance will be able to automatically send data about a patient, determine which hospital is best equipped to deal with the emergency, and help that hospital prepare exactly what they patient needs before she arrives. This capability will lead to better care, more lives saved, and lower costs.
  • More transparency: With new kinds of data and the ability to make sense of that data, the IoT gives us the capability to vastly increase transparency. Data about what goes on inside programs and agencies will shed light on how decisions are made, how effective operations and projects are, and provide new ways to optimize results.
  • More predictive capability: As we gather data about different environments and processes, the ability to make more accurate predictions and recognize significant patterns will increase. For example, this capability could be helpful in predicting floods or structural problems with buildings and infrastructure. That will allow governments to plan for disaster response and maintenance more effectively.

The IoT also has several risks. The government has a dual role to play as a consumer and user of IoT devices and information and in its traditional role as a regulator, standards facilitator, and basic research and science promoter. Some of the frequently cited risks are:

  • Security: As we connect more and more things to the Internet, security becomes an enormous concern. Many of the entities involved with the IoT (public, non-profit, and commercial) have not spent enough on security. Imagine the damage a hacker could do with a self driving car connected to a smart transportation network or to the electric grid. Connecting our infrastructure, ourselves, and most things we interact with to the Internet seems inevitable and creating redundancy, resiliency, and security has to be a priority.
  • Privacy: Most of us are familiar with the concerns about privacy surrounding the Internet. Everything is tracked in a digital world. In fact, one of the key advantages of the IoT is its ability to track on a massive scale. How can individuals and entities protect their information in world in which the speed at which information is connected to the Internet is outstripping our ability to protect it?
  • Standardization: Standards are essential to realizing the full potential of IoT. Proprietary and conflicting standards limit competition and interoperability, increase costs, and will make the overall IoT less effective. There are a number of groups working on standards for IoT: the Open Interconnect Consortium, the Tread Group, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Industrial Internet Consortium, Apple's HomeKit, and Google Brillo. The plethora of groups involved in IoT standards and the confusion that creates is a significant risk going forward.
  • Governance: How data produced and consumed by the IoT are governed is one of the key questions governments, citizens, companies, and other interested parties must answer. The answer will also be an international one. European countries have traditionally set more restrictive and more centralized controls on data privacy while the US has pursued a more decentralized and looser approach. Asia and other parts of the world will have an increasing voice in how these issues play out as well. Government managers will need to be mindful of data governance while still harvesting the insights necessary to remain relevant.

As a government leader it is important to know the key issues and questions surrounding the IoT. Its momentum is mounting and will impact every area of government. Get educated, get ahead of the curve, and learn about how the IoT might impact your government program or agency.


Guide to the Internet of Things

Data Strategy: 3 Tips for Building Yours

In a recent GovExec article titled “Can Transparency by Legislated,” Paul Eder makes the case that the availability of data in government is not enough to ensure transparency. Eder writes, “One can draw any potential number of conclusions from data in its raw form.” The question for government leaders then is how to provide that context? How do you justify the decisions you make based on the data available? Government leaders are under scrutiny to show that they are correctly investing their limited resources (time and money), but simply providing the data is not enough. They have to be able to justify these investments to their managers and stakeholders. And if your stakeholders or those beneath you do not understand why the decision was made, your efforts may not be as successful as they could be.

So how do government leaders go about justifying their investments?

Collect and Understand the Data – There is an explosion of data available today to government leaders. It provides a fertile field from which to begin your planning effort. But you also need to understand the limitations of that data. Know how it was collected and for what purpose. Those factors will shape your understanding of it. In other cases, you won’t have access to large data sets. As we’ve written before, not all data needs to be big data. There are many ways to interact with your stakeholders and customers to collect data points that are low cost, effective, and do not violate Paperwork Reduction Act or the Federal Advisory Committee Act. 

Involve Customers and Stakeholders in the Data Analysis Process – Once you’ve collected your data, use your customers and stakeholders to help you provide context and meaning for it. Start by theming your data or consider visualizing it to uncover connections and relationships. This will help your customers and stakeholders better understand the data and provide input on what conclusions can be draw from and ultimately what actions can be taken based on it. In this phase, you want to cast a wide net and get all the input you can.

Use Weighted Criteria to Prioritize – Now that you have broad input on what kinds of conclusions, hypotheses, and actions you can take based on your data, these need to be judged against a set of criteria. What are the most likely factors to affect the prioritization of your range of actions? This can include many factors:potential rewards, how big are the potential benefits of this action; feasibility, how easily can this action be achieved; impact, how far reaching will this action be, and many more. After you land on a given set of criteria, give each of them a weight. Then you can judge all available options against the weighted criteria and score your options.

Once a government leader has used his or her stakeholders to gather data, thought about all possible actions based on the data, and weighted them against a determined set of criteria, you’ve taken a large step to justifying the investments and decisions you are making.