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Leading-edge technology, such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and machine learning, has the power to transform public and private sectors alike. Always curious to learn more, I jumped at the chance to hear Bruce Sinclair of Iot-Inc discuss his latest book, IoT Inc: How Your Company Can Use the Internet of Things to Win in the Outcome Economy at an event hosted by Washington Technology.

According to Sinclair, “IoT isn’t a new business trend. It’s the new way of business.” Sensors and devices are everywhere – in vehicles, home appliances, smartphones, and clothes – producing continuous streams of data. To drive outcomes, we need to understand what data we need and its value. Data science, therefore, is critical to the Internet of Things.

How is the Internet of Things being used in public sector to drive outcomes?

The second speaker, Landon C. Van Dyke of the US Department of State shared concrete examples. His first example of smart meters is a simple showcase with a positive return on investment. With 22,000 facilities and residential units in 274 cities in 190 countries worldwide, the US Department of State spends a lot on electricity, water and fuel. By installing smart meters, power quality meters, and meters on tanks, the US Department of State saved taxpayers a lot. For example, replacing one broken US$ 8 thermometer saved about US$ 50 million per year.

The second example shared by Van Dyke, centered around the US Department of State monitoring air quality in various cities. Particulate Matter 2.5 (PM2.5) are tiny particles in the air that reduce visibility and cause the air to appear hazy when levels are elevated. These fine particles are a health hazard because they can travel deeply into the respiratory tract, reaching the lungs and can cause short-term health effects such as eye, nose, throat and lung irritation, coughing, sneezing, runny nose and shortness of breath. Exposure to fine particles can also affect lung function and worsen medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease. This project started at the American Embassy in Beijing, China, due to concern about the health of American athletes during the 2008 Summer Olympics. The US Department of State installed air quality monitors on the Embassy roof in Beijing – and other locations - to gather data. This PM2.5 data is shared with the World Health Organization, the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the broader scientific and technology community through RSS feeds. This information is supplying 3rd Party applications and being used to develop internet of things applications.

How can public sector organizations get started with the Internet of Things?

 The speakers had some great tips which SAP public sector customers can use to begin their IoT journeys:

  • Start with a business case – Find IoT use cases which can improve operating efficiencies, reduce costs, or reduce fraud, waste and abuse. For example, remote monitoring may allow for reduced audit expenses, increased efficiencies from better maintenance, and less opportunity for fraud.

  • Work with key stakeholders – Identify who needs to be involved and work across organizational silos to bring a team together to make the IoT project a success. In public sector, this could be operations, facilities management, procurement, IT, HR, or others.

  • Pay attention to data quality – Data can be messy. Invest time and resources to cleanse, harmonize, and integrate data.

  • Have a data strategy – To achieve your outcomes and balance costs, figure out what data can be processed at the edge and remain in a data lake and what needs to be in the core for greater insights.

  • Focus relentlessly on security   – IoT devices and sensors on the edge create a greater potential for security risks by exponentially increasing the potential attack surface. Consider a new security layer.

  • Be agnostic to devices and sensors – Use an interoperable platform with open application programming interfaces (APIs) and which supports many protocols.

  • Form a multi-functional team – Experts are needed for the IoT device or sensor, cybersecurity, cloud, analytics, machine learning, visualizations and user experience, to name just a few.

  • Follow the guidelines –The Internet of Things guidelines published by New York City are embraced by over 30 cities worldwide.

Embrace the trend, and be transformed.

Good luck!

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