The Internet of Things (IoT) will change many aspects of our daily lives. Everyday objects are becoming smart assets, seamlessly integrated across a global network and capable of generating and exchanging valuable data without human intervention. For example, right now, you sit in a chair and it supports your weight; but, in the not-too-distant-future, a similar chair might also measure your weight, and monitor your posture through the hours of your workday, alerting you when you slouch for too long.
IoT is already a part of digital transformation for federal agencies and other large organizations seeking to improve citizen and customer experiences. One example: By using sensor technology with cloud computing, IoT transforms existing, disparate IT systems into a connected enterprise of applications. Another example from a blog by my colleague Will LaBar: As part of an EPA Smart City Air Challenge, Lafayette, Louisiana, is demonstrating how communities can leverage emerging IoT technology with a lower barrier to entry.
IoT is evolving, and will have different applicability to each organization. If your agency is considering IoT solutions for its IT strategy, be ready to iterate, because that is how you will ultimately build a real system that makes the most of IoT capabilities. 3 first steps
Since it represents a new way of doing things, here are three strategic steps to take before you start developing a plan for implementing IoT:
- Rethink your user experience. The concept of a connected enterprise is already changing organizational models. Your IoT plan will be most effective if you revise your processes to fully leverage IoT capabilities, which means you can open up new ways for your constituents to interact with your services. How will your constituents and stakeholders communicate with devices? It may be speech, gesture, biometrics, or a combination. Proximity to things matters. So does connectivity.
Connected systems open up a world of potential for new services for constituents and customers. Let’s take the battlefield, for example: The U.S. military is testing connected technologies for use on the battlefield to train soldiers, to improve care for injured troops, and to safeguard military supply chains. Biosensors placed inside clothing can monitor a soldier’s vital signs, activities and sleep quality. Smart clothing can also monitor joint movement and provide targeted support to reduce fatigue and the risk of musculoskeletal injury. While still in the prototype stage, these measures could ultimately allow the military to change the way it plans for and conducts a battle. This kind of connected technology could be applied much more broadly, such as monitoring first responders’ vital signs.
- Prepare for the data onslaught. Sensors are a key component of IoT. But as more information flows in from more devices, the analysis challenge increases proportionally. More and more devices are generating data. Think smart homes, self-driving vehicles or biometric access controls, for example. IoT and data analytics are the digital combo for next generation. Data collection is enabled by IoT and data analytics can transform seemingly meaningless information into valuable insights. IoT will feed data into artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning, to name just a few. What kind of data will your IoT implementation generate? What technologies will it drive? And, what actionable information can you derive from it? Focus on the insights that could impact the organization.
- Anticipate the challenges. IoT will disperse network components far and wide, adding new physical and cyber security, privacy and data ownership worries to the already-challenging environment. Take some time to analyze your planned IoT deployment to identify those points of vulnerability and account for them. Define clear data ownership and privacy rules. Watch out for unintended consequences by devices; they are real, and security through obscurity is not sufficient. Consider how devices will be used. Bottom line: IoT faces many challenges to deployment, but most are surmountable technology or policy issues.
The future is things
Even in its simplest forms, IoT is not simple. Its potential benefits come with risks, but we believe they are well worth addressing and can be mitigated with expertise in your corner. Whatever route you choose, it’s important to set off with open eyes and a well-drawn map.
For more insights on planning an effective IoT implementation, download our flipbook, “Internet of Things: Driving efficiency, agility and digital transformation."
About this author
Tariq is a Director of Consulting, Internet of Things, at CGI Federal. He has 20 years of strategic and practical leadership experience in the government and commercial sectors, and a passion for digital transformation, big data and the Internet of Things.