Government officials and private sector representatives met in Washington on Wednesday to discuss potential applications in the public sector for the Internet of Things — technologists term for a connected network of devices and sensors.
Randy Garrett, program manager for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, along with Transportation Department chief information officer Richard McKinney and Veterans Health Administration special advisor Joseph Ronzio, mentioned cyber security defense, traffic management and health monitoring as possible uses for the network, among others.
The representatives met at a conference organized by online government-focused social network GovLoop, and Herndon-based marketing communication firm ConnellyWorks. This is the first GovLoop event dedicated to the Internet of Things, according to founder Steve Ressler.
Some parts of the public sector have been developing connected applications for years — for instance, the Defense Department has been using various sensor networks for situational awareness technology, said Michael Chui, a partner at McKinsey Global Institute, who delivered the conference’s keynote. Some municipal governments are using sensors to monitor water pipes and identify leaks, he added. “At the same time, there's a tremendous amount of work to be done.”
Many public agencies are still in the “definition stage,” Ressler said -- learning what the Internet of Things is, and how it could be used, before actually building the applications.
Ronzio described futuristic wearable sensors that could be used to predict cardiac events before they happen, allowing VA medical systems could dispatch paramedics preemptively. Or perhaps the Transportation Department could deploy a wide network of sensors to monitor traffic patterns, tolls and weather in a vision McKinney termed “vehicle-to-infrastructure” communication. Under such a scheme, sensors in individual cars could signal to sensors in roads and highways to collect more detailed data about traffic and road maintenance issues.
“I think [the Internet of Things] will be evolutionary, and [will] take us into the era where a car will drive itself,” McKinney said. He added that the transportation department hired its first chief data officer two weeks ago, who will work on projects related to the Internet of Things.
Though the term “Internet of Things” often connotes home automation technologies — such as Nest, the thermostat company Google bought in January for $3.2 billion — data from that same network can be used to help people and agencies make sure they’re making full use of existing resources, such as cars and energy, said Steve Fritzinger, public sector manager at data storage company NetApp, who spoke at the conference. The Internet of Things’ greatest potential is in efficiency, he added — “not from having a refrigerator that bothers me about my shopping list.”