Brad Antle, CEO of Salient Federal Solutions marks our second interview of WashingtonExec‘s Internet of Things (IoT)/Internet of Everything (IoE) Summer Series. Antle discussed why he sees IoT as a disruptive technology and how he thinks IoT personal and professional devices might lead to potential complications on secure networks.
Antle also talked about what wearable devices he is a fan of, as well as what he might hesitate to use due to the type and amount of data collected. You will also find today’s examples of applied IoT devices by the U.S. military and civilian agencies below.
WashingtonExec: What do you think of the term the ‘Internet of Things’? What does it mean to you and how do we prevent it from becoming a buzzword?
Brad Antle: To me the Internet of Things is a term that is being used to try to excite the imagination of the community; certainly of developers, those responsible for the mission, and alike. Where you try to envision a world in which everything is linked together, interconnected; where the internet actually ties everything of any value together and all of that data becomes accessible. That’s sort of the buzzword of the Internet of Everything, right? It’s a futuristic look at the art of the possible. Absent stronger privacy laws, the IoT will continue to evolve over a long time horizon.
WashingtonExec: How do you plan to properly prepare and integrate IoT with your company and with your current customers?
Brad Antle: The application of the concept of IoT really depends on the customer, the mission of that customer and the application. Certainly the access to more data, about how your products and/or services are being used, could be customized for greater effectively would be very useful. It was probably 10 years ago or so that shippers started putting tracking devices and GPS on containers so that they could keep better track of shipments as they moved across the country or wherever the containers happened to go. Even to the point where some have put RFID tags onto pieces of paper so that they could monitor paper as it moves throughout a facility. I think folks have already started to find ways to leverage this connectivity, this Internet of Things to advance their business applications but the benefits are really still up to the imagination. Having all the appliances in the home able to communicate with each other sounds interesting, but the benefits need to be developed. I think value creation is going to be based on creative application of this ability to connect disparate devices for a greater purpose.
Some parts of the government are rapid adopters, while some are fairly risk averse, and others are just slow adopters of technology. There’s not going to be an even adoption across the federal government of something as different as the Internet of Things. I think we will see some adoption in small ways, it may not be called IoT but it in fact will be taking advantage of these capabilities as they start to leverage advances in autonomous sensors, self-aware networks, mobility, etc.
I’ve talked a little bit about location data but location data used for the wrong reasons can be damaging and yet it is very common. Geolocation services is enabled by most users. We use so many connected devices and apps indiscriminately because we want that convenience. More secure connections are definitely going to be necessary so that items on the network can’t be used for their informational value unintentionally. More and more agencies and customers are using BYOD where you bring your own device to the workplace and BYOD usage on a network can create vulnerabilities if not locked down properly. It is going to make the environment more interesting and the transition between work and personal life more challenging.
WashingtonExec: What questions do you think the government should be asking now in order to better prepare and scope future contract awards that will take into account the pace of IoT?
Brad Antle: We are certainly leveraging an aspect of the Internet of Things in some of the things that we do. We have a mobile platform called VoyagerTM where we can build apps that leverage connected devices to include things like beacons and micro locations. We also have a Voyager CommandTRACKER product that leverages GPS data for things like geofencing or even for first responders. We can tell you how many firefighters went into a building and how many firefighters came out of the building which is valuable for a fire chief to know where his team is in a structure fire. In terms of the military, we can help them to clear ranges to make sure there is no one on a range before they start live fire. The ability to connect devices and share geolocation data can be used in a very effective way as well.
More prevalent use of IPv6 would provide better protection because of it’s encryption at the packing level. If we, as the United States, were stronger adopters of IPv6 that would certainly be helpful. It doesn’t provide total protection because there are a lot more connections than just IPv6 traffic. Knowing all this, my question would be,“How can we provide better support to our missions by leveraging greater connectivity of resources we depend upon.” For the warfighter, having better awareness of tactical logistics in realtime would be extremely beneficial. For an agency that interacts directly with the individual citizen, the ability to service them more directly through mobile applications would be a start. Commercial companies are making these moves. All that needs to be balanced with bulk data collection and privacy concerns.
As an example, grocery stores are looking to connect to your device, know who you are, then present coupons to entice you to buy something off the shelf. Mobile apps already leverage geolocation services to tell you what deals are available right around you. I’ve seen individuals who are so protective of their data, yet they are willing to share all of this information about what they are doing, what they are buying, and where they are going.
WashingtonExec: Some technologists believe that innovation comes in waves…in the 1990s the internet became available for public use, the early 2000s brought the first PCs and today we are being introduced to the Internet of Things. Do you see the internet of things as a progression of mobility or do you think it is a disruptive technology?
Brad Antle: I believe applications of IoT will be disruptive. I think it is going to continue to evolve over time and people are going to realize that they are so interconnected that we have created this whole raft of vulnerabilities. On one hand everybody is worried about the protection of their private information, but then they start using informal networks in a personal capacity, with abandon. Individuals are walking around and checking into places and all of a sudden everyone knows exactly where they are and what they are doing. As an example, grocery stores are looking to connect to your device, know who you are, then present coupons to entice you to buy something off the shelf. Mobile apps already leverage geolocation services to tell you what deals are available right around you. I’ve seen individuals who are so protective of their data, yet they are willing to share all of this information about what they are doing, what they are buying, and where they are going.
I think people are going to wake up one day and realize they’ve given away too much. People want a connected car, to have the internet available to them at all times. Now airlines are going to mobile devices for entertainment on an airplane. Now they are worried that you can potentially hack the airplane from inside the airplane while you are flying across the country. With this technology comes added vulnerabilities which need to be managed. However, we are heading to be connected at all time, everywhere we are.
WashingtonExec: Are there any IoT applications that you have seen that you might hesitate to use personally?
Brad Antle: I went to CES Government in Las Vegas which is associated with the Consumer Electronics Show put on by CEA, and there were a number of healthcare applications and devices in the “wearables” category that consumers and vendors are starting to look at. Most seemed very useful but I’m not so sure I want everybody knowing my heartrate, my percent body fat, my resting heartrate, when I exercise, and for how long, and so on. There is a certain amount of data that is great to have but I would be concerned where that data goes.
WashingtonExec: What do you currently use that could be considered a part of the Internet of Things tool?
Brad Antle: I was an early adopter of Fit Bit. I have many Bluetooth connected devices which I consider a part of the Internet of Things. I have gone to wireless keyboards, connected thermostats, lights and electrical outlets that are connected over the home network. We are becoming very reliant and dependent on things that connect over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to your iPhone or remote apps. If each person took an inventory of their connected devices, I think they might be surprised at how connected we all are even today. To enhance the customer experience or in the name of better customer support, everything is getting connected to the internet whether we notice it or not.