DorobekINSIDER LIVE: The Internet of Things for Government

A special edition of GovLoop’s DorobekINSIDER today. We're LIVE! We are doing this at least once each month this year. The idea is simple: get smart people together and share ideas because we believe that the real power of information comes when it is shared.

For March's DorobekINSIDER LIVE we are talking about the Internet of Things! It sounds so mysterious, doesn’t it? We're operating under the belief that most of us have HEARD about the Internet of Things, but that we aren’t REALLY sure what it is and we aren’t REALLY sure what it means to us, and that we may be afraid to ask because it seems like we should know, right?

Christopher Dorobek, host of the DorobekINISIDER Live, and a panel of experts laid the groundwork to define the Internet of Things- what it is and why it matters. 

DorobekINSIDER's Panel Of Innovation Experts:

  • Sokwoo Rhee and Geoff Mulligan, two Presidential Innovation Fellows who are leading NIST’s SmartAmerica Challenge.
  • David Stephenson of Stephenson Strategies, the author of the book SmartStuff: an introduction to the Internet of Things and a frequent writer on the topic of the Internet of Things and government.
  • Brian Gilmore, a solution expert on the Internet of Things and Industrial Data at Splunk
  • Dan Kent the CTO for U.S. Public Sector at Cisco

What in the world is the Internet of Things?

Stephenson: "The IoT is not just linking people to the internet, but devices. This application can be used for everything including trees in the Amazon that are linked to the network by sensors."

Gilmore: "There are enormous amount of devices that are already online. Billions in fact. So what we are talking about now is the degree of implementation."

Mulligan: "The IoT could be anything that is attached to an IP address.IPV6 allows everything, including trees in the amazon to have an IP address. When you have devices that don't have an IP address you get translation problems. If everything is connected to an IP you reduce the challenges to one domain."

Rhee: "The way you consume and generate data is very different. The IoT is data done by devices. The real question is what are you going to do with all the data these devices generate? What is the impact on human life?

Some early looks at how this is -- or may -- work

Mulligan: "The IoT is taking the data the devices are generating and pushing it back into the control systems to make an impact. For example, if you have ever been on a deserted street at four in the morning and annoyed you are sitting at a red light, the IoT could change that process. The car's GPS could not only tell the device your location, but it could connect with the traffic lights to make your path smooth because there are no other cars in the roadway."

Stephenson: "The trees in the amazon with their sensors are able to catch people trying to poach them illegally. The key is to look for disruptions in the data. If you sit and watch a tree's sensor all day you are going to be overwhelmed by data. You have to look for the interruptions, like when the tree is cut down. The IoT would not be possible without big data or the cloud."

Kent: "Wireless internet and low cost sensors have also enabled the IoT. There are real-life tangible examples at all levels and all verticals. You could have a plant that has a sensor so you know when it needs to be watered, or a train that runs on a track regulated by sensors. All these 'devices' are enabled by wireless."

Gilmore: "The IoT is all about taking data to drive efficiencies. It is a pragmatic approach, you can harness and adopt its power. There were IoT applications ten years ago, but they were siloed. Now these devices are starting to work together and across spectrums. For example, in manufacturing a company could lease a forklift and charge on the services used rather than the time. So if you rent a forklift it would charge you for the weight it moved, the IoT is all about understanding the business process to drive efficiencies."

Stephenson: "The example that is ripped from the headlines now is jet engines. If you have sensors on the engines in airplanes, you could lease out the engines based on time, could have the engines do predictive maintenance and could track their location. So even after the tower lost voice communication with the Malaysian airplane that went down last week, they still could have tracked the engine based on the location and time. This sort of real-time data analytics could be revolutionary."

Smart America Challenge:

Rhee: "Smart America Challenge was conceived by Geoff and me when we first came into the Presidential Innovation role last June. What we realized is that there has been a lot of investment that has gone into developing new technologies and making specific applications more beneficial. The government has invested hundreds of millions of dollars on basic research for cyber physical systems, but what we realized is that they are very sector specific. For example, there is a medical CPS that is making tremendous progress, but it is all about medical stuff. There are tons of investments going in to make transportation systems applicable to CPS. There are 2,800 cars running right now in south Michigan, it is a test bed of the future of cyber physical systems based cars, but what we realized is all of these projects are not talking to each other. A lot of these sector specific systems can be interconnected or federated. We believe that one plus one can be more than two."

What does all of this mean for government?

Stephenson: "I am glad NIST is taking a hard look at setting some regulations. For a long time in government the most vocal proponent of IoT was David Petraeus. He was happy about the evolution of IoT because it meant that he didn't need a warrant to add sensors to your house, he could tap into the sensors already present. Like your phone or computer, that made me really nervous. We don't want to discredit IoT because it can easily get confabulated with NSA's phone hacking. We can't back into looking at these privacy and security concerns, they need to be a priority."

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