Despite the fact connecting devices to the internet has been occurring for years, with many studies dedicated to the concept of the “Internet of Things (IoT)”, the true power of this increased connectivity and its repercussions for the average consumer, military and broader federal IT space is still unknown. Government and commercial organizations are pushing like never before to be at the forefront of all IoT innovation and progress.
Bill Annibell, Chief Technology Officer of Sapient Government Services, has worked side-by-side with the biggest government organizations to deliver and integrate secure applications and devices with online infrastructure. We discussed with Annibell the complications that may hinder the adoption of IoT and some of the amazing potential that these services can offer.
More often than not, the federal government is seen as an institution that is behind the times, clinging to outdated technology and obsolete practices out of the latent fear of change. Annibell argues that when it comes to IoT, the federal government has been tracking that technology and its impact for a while and would even go as far to say that the public sector is leading potential IoT innovations and understanding opportunities for interconnectivity. As Bill Annibell explains:
“There are change makers across the government historically, such as DARPA or NASA, pushing to deliver the types of innovations that change the way we do business or change the way the world works. Without these agencies, consumers would not benefit from the development of satellites, smartphones, GPS, or, most notably, the internet. I think these different outlooks on innovation have to be taken into consideration when looking at IoT and how it will evolve to impact lives,” said Annibell.
Government Adoption of the IoT-enabled Applications
IoT and all of its potential, is a hot topic among many government organizations as they struggle to leverage the technology to provide services to their constituents. As Annibell points out:
“IoT devices collect large amounts of data of all types; some personal in nature and others less so. Securing this data and ensuring privacy is a significant challenge for any organization. I believe the biggest challenge for the government is that people need to trust the fact that their data can be stored, analyzed and used to provide a range of services in a secure manner. Compounding matters, there are still many citizens that do not have access to broadband. The government will not only need to provide a secure IoT-enabled solution, but also allow for those without connectivity and/or are uncomfortable with the collection of IoT data options. There must be a means for opting out of the service entirely or providing a similar service without the use of IoT or the need for a citizen to access a smart phone or broadband connection”.
Annibell noted that although in its infancy, momentum is growing in certain public sector agencies particularly those engaged in “smart city” initiatives. Annibell continued: “There are some public sector smart city initiatives that are successfully leveraging IoT technologies to improve the quality and efficiency of citizen services. These technologies are allowing cities to save tax dollars by driving down operational costs and enabling efficient use of government resources. Cities are deploying vast networks of interconnected sensors. Just a few examples are pollution detectors, water quality meters, noise indicators, traffic sensors and power grid controllers. These tools are allowing smart cities to proactively monitor these services and deploy limited resources to address concerns in a far more efficient manner than ever before.”
The Competitive Data of IoT
As governmental use of the IoT increases, more and more companies are competing to be the neural net of the IoT. As Annibell points out:
“IoT devices are data collectors. To be collecting infinite amounts of data we need to know what we want to use that data for, how we intend to secure that data both at rest and in transit, and where we will store it and then how we will make it useful.”
It is impossible to tell what the true potential of IoT will be, but companies are very eager to be the first to monetize it on a larger scale. As Annibell argues, the competition is not about who could implement IoT first, but rather who could be the first to develop a system to turn IoT into an equally distributed two-way data-driven conversation between agencies and citizens. A two-way system like this would allow for more confidence in the data’s security and allow for deeper, more complex understanding of how that data is being used. Companies are competing to create the best means to secure the data from potential threats and while allowing for providing a peace of mind for the consumer. Once that goal is achieve, only then can IoT’s true potential be unlocked.
IoT Consumer Use
Bill Annibell is a self-identified early adopter of IoT devices. In fact, he made a point of stressing his acceptance of both Apple and Android products, despite the two systems’ war for dominance.
“I do one to two year cycles of technologies when it comes to smart phones so I’m now in my android cycle which ends later this year when I will go back to Apple. Every year I switch between the platforms to see what each of the platforms are doing.”
Annibell was an early-adopter of wearable technology, including the Nike Fuel Band in 2012. He even sported the Samsung Gear 2 watch, an early predecessor to the Apple Watch. Annibell is very comfortable with keeping up with new technology and believes, from his own admission, the biggest downfall for most consumer based IoT devices is the reliance of cell phones and other well-established internet connected devices in order to provide any useful data analysis. For this reason, most IoT devices, such as the Gear 2, could be a hindrance, rather than a benefit for consumers. If a device needs to be tethered to a superior device to even work, why bother using it?
That being said, Annibell recognizes IoT’s place in the consumer market and future opportunities within the public sector. IoT can drastically improve even the most mundane tasks and offer a means to greatly improve one’s own efficiency, providing more relevancy, every-day interactivity and empowerment.