by Khaled AlSaleh
The Internet of Things (IoT) is finally here, and it’s the stuff of dreams. Cheap sensors and smarter computers have disrupted the simplest of activities, such as the way we heat our homes or listen to music. In 2015, we will see governments ramp up their use of sensors to enhance citizen services, improve efficiency, and boost productivity.
The possibilities that IoT opens in the public sector are tremendous. In the past decade or so, most governments around the world have embarked on e-government initiatives that have led to the digitization of a great deal of information and the automation of processes. However, the benefits that governments can now reap from traditional e-government initiatives are incremental at best. The major benefits have already been achieved.
eGovernment initiatives were also reflective of what’s now referred to as the “second wave” of IT-driven transformation, during which governments around the world leveraged the Internet to streamline processes beyond a single government organization, increasing efficiencies and simplifying the delivery of services to citizens.
During the current “third wave” of IT-driven transformation, the objects we interact with are fundamentally different, since they are now able to gather information through sensors, and they can either process that information locally or relay that information back to a product cloud for processing. This enables data-driven policies, but also allows for near real-time decisions that can enhance services.
Preparing for the Internet of Things is no small undertaking, and public sector CIOs need to start today.”
For example, governments can now, in real-time, monitor pollution levels around the city and possibly direct traffic or transport (through incentives) to reduce pollution within certain parts of the city. They can use weather data to see the impact of rain on the demand for a certain bus route and increase or decrease the service accordingly. In certain cities where parking covers up to a third of the full land-area of the downtown, cities are able to use sensors to allocate parking more efficiently and price spots based on demand. This also reduces the carbon footprint caused by cars as they look for an empty parking space, with some research estimating that, at any given time, 30 percent of cars circling a city are looking for parking.
The economic benefits of IoT for cities will be significant: New industries will likely emerge to serve this nascent technology, spurring economic development and employment, not to mention the social and economic benefits inherent in efficiency, and so public sector CIOs need to prepare for the inevitable.
There are several components in IoT:
Things: The objects will hold sensors, connectivity, and some compute power to run the software.
Network: The network will allow the sensors to communicate either with each other or with the product cloud.
Product cloud: The product cloud is where public sector CIOs will need to focus their attention. They will need to build a cloud that includes a database to hold structured and unstructured data, an applications platform that allows for agile and fast development, an analytics platform to allow analysis across different types of data and which may have to run autonomously, and the intelligent application platform which will enable the monitoring, control, optimization, and autonomous operation of the things.
Identity and security management: Many of these objects may be operating within some of the cities’ critical infrastructure, e.g. utilities, so it will be important to build a security layer that will manage connectivity and access to the things.
Integration layer: Some of the information may reside outside the product cloud (e.g. weather data, or information from internal enterprise resource planning systems), and some of the actions may need to be triggers on current legacy systems. The integration layer will enable this type of communication.
Preparing for the Internet of Things is no small undertaking, and public sector CIOs need to start today. It’s best to begin by prioritizing the initiatives based on the perceived value to the citizen, ease of implementation, and maturity of technology so that CIOs can quickly illustrate the impact of this initiative as they seek further funding from the public.
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