According to a Gartner study, there will be 26 billion internet-connected devices by 2020 – more than four devices for every human on earth.
This hyper-connected world presents opportunities and challenges for federal agencies, particularly given data security and privacy considerations, and the enormous variety of IoT devices (many of which, unlike a laptop, are difficult to update when we identify vulnerabilities).
I recently moderated a panel on the IoT at MeriTalk’s Cloud Computing Brainstorm. Federal leaders discussed successful IoT implementations and how the cloud can accelerate progress. The consensus was that we need a greater focus on IoT in federal IT, from an application and a security standpoint.
“When you think about the Internet of Things, we’re going to be in a race,” said Greg Capella, deputy director of the National Technical Information Service, Department of Commerce. Panelists discussed how keeping up with the IoT race means agencies need to adopt cloud computing and fully utilize cloud-based networks.
“We can’t do IoT without the cloud,” said Christine Calvosa, deputy CIO of Technology and Resiliency, Federal Communications Commission. “It’s just a network of networks.”
Traditional IT infrastructure can’t handle the surplus of data created by the IoT. Cloud provides the flexibility, scalability, and storage capacity needed to manage all of that information. “The public will demand services much like we demand cellphones in our pockets,” Capella said. “We’re basically facing the fact that there will be more data than we can digest.”
As federal agencies consider IoT initiatives, they need clear frameworks, including the ability to analyze and secure the data, and a path to build IoT systems that allow for future innovation.
The panel did warn against thinking about IoT too narrowly or just in terms of specific use cases. Just as we are using the Internet in ways early developers could not have imagined, the same will certainly be true for future IoT.
To be successful, we need everyone at the table – engineers, cyber security teams, procurement, and the mission owners. Collectively, we need to keep looking forward. Cloud and IoT will help us solve deliver more efficient, more connected, and ultimately smarter government.
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