In a few years, the average person will come into contact with more than 5,000 connected devices on a daily basis.
That assertion by Marty Trevino, Organizational Architect and Senior Strategist for the National Security Agency, drew a collective “Whoa” from the attendees at NextGov Prime 2015 in Washington, D.C. this month.
While the Internet of Things (IoT) has become arguably the hottest trend in consumer technology, the public sector has been slow to catch the wave. That point was illustrated by U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, who was the event’s first keynote speaker and jokingly asked, “The Internet of Things – what the hell is that?”
You are likely very familiar with what IoT means to your life as a consumer. The best example is a FitBit, which you wear on your wrist and collects personal fitness data during the day such as calories burned, steps taken or resting heart rate. The device captures this information continuously and provides it to the use to inform their fitness decisions.
What will IoT look like for the public sector?
“IoT is a good buzzword,” said Gregory Crabb, Acting Chief Information Security Officer and Digital Solutions Vice President for the United States Postal Service (USPS). “At the Postal Service, we’ve been looking at connected devices for over 20 years. Our goal is to take these connected device and make our business more efficient and effective.”
As part of a NextGov Prime session entitled, “Managing and Securing the Data from the Internet of Things,” Crabb outlined the different ways USPS will use IoT devices to improve their services.
In particular, Crabb shared that the Postal Service is in the process of deploying more than 200,000 mobile delivery devices to mail carriers that will track customer experience. These devices will record a wealth of information related to delivery, from best time of day to deliver packages to how long deliveries are taking.
“IoT is going to open up so many possibilities for our value proposition to customers,” explained Crabb. “With our mobile devices, we will have real-time data that can be used to make decisions that will only improve our services.”
More data will mean more opportunities
The main reason why IoT is bound to be the hottest trend in Federal IT is based on one word – data. The amount of information these devices will collect for government and Department of Defense agencies will be staggering in scope. It will also lead to a new set of challenges, from networks to security to the very foundation of how organizations operate.
“There is going to be so much data collected that no one fully understands just what it’s going to mean,” said NSA’s Trevino. “The amount of data an organization can pull in with IoT is going to grow exponentially and we need to be prepared.”
Both Trevino and Crabb agreed that securing personal data gleaned from IoT devices must be a top priority for any government agency because current measures will be ineffective or, soon, obsolete.
“Our current security models are going to break down,” said Trevino. “Your home is easily secured because you only have three or four or five devices in the homes. With IoT expanding, there’s a big difference between securing four or five and securing 750.”
Looking inward at what IoT means for agencies, Trevino shared that how business is conducted on a daily basis must change to be successful and there is no alternative.
“An organization will not be successful unless they can make decisions quickly,” said Trevino. “If your company needs six months, or even six weeks, to make an important decision, it is simply not going to work. IoT is going to redefine how companies are structured.”
Trevino left the crowd of government IT leaders with a closing thought that clearly resonated – “If you’re not thinking about IoT, then you’re not thinking about your future.”
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