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GCN : June 2015
14 GCN JUNE 2015 • GCN.COM Intelligence at the edge: 4 tips to begin exploring IoT BY TIFFANY SARGENT INDUSTRY INSIGHT THE INTERNET OF THINGS is a relatively new term in government, though the concept has been around for decades. Data can be collected through edge devices, such as sensors, wearable tech- nology or mobile phones. IoT makes those devices smarter because data is computed in real time where it’s first collected and then transferred to a user’s device or a server for additional processing. For devices that don’t have the ability to translate data into information, IoT gateways can be added. IoT can give government managers actionable infor- mation more quickly, which allows them to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively. Other benefits include reduced infrastruc- ture investments, increased quality and security of information, and new ap- proaches to data transmis- sion with limited network bandwidth. Agency IT and operations managers are adopting IoT thoughtfully in a crawl- walk-run evolution. Most are not ripping out whole systems; rather, they are testing bits and pieces of IoT by adding sensors or gateways to their existing solutions. If you’re thinking about trying IoT technologies, make sure you: 1. Ask yourself what problems you’re trying to solve. For example, if you have sensors that send a signal every five seconds in- dicating that a room’s tem- perature has not changed, you’re wasting money. Instead, insert a gateway appliance that would make the current sensors send a signal only if a change in the environment crosses a specific threshold of concern. Or install a smart sensor that would do that automatically. That in- stantly reduces the amount of data going through the communications system — and it cuts costs. 2. Work with a solutions architect who’s familiar with IoT. Agencies need someone who can suggest the right elements of IoT so that you only transfer the data you need. A solu- tions architect can help an agency determine where data should be collected and computed. Note that some IoT com- munications are two-way. For example, if someone at the U.S. Forest Service is conducting tests on soil moisture levels, a gateway in the ground could send an alert when the soil is too dry. That, in turn, could generate a command to turn on sprinklers or even notify a command center that there is a potential increase in fire hazards. 3. Consider where the users are. Just as you want to translate only the data you need, you want to send the data only where you need it to go. In the Forest Service example, you might want information to go to rangers’ mobile phones so they know the sprinklers are about to turn on. First responders, on the other hand, might want the information sent to local gateways for two-way processing in their vehicles and to a local or national command center. 4. Understand the four principles of IoT. Underly- ing the entire IoT system architecture are connectiv- ity, manageability, secu- rity and interoperability of systems and data. To understand those elements, ask yourself the following questions: • Is the security model robust and adaptable to support myriad use cases and models across different infrastructures? • What’s the policy on shared data? • How manageable are the edge endpoints? • Does data move seam- lessly and securely through the systems? • Does data exchange or fusion happen across domains rather than under specific standards within one domain? • Can users view and interact with the data on many platforms, including smartphones, gateways, tablets, dashboards and control centers? • How will the system inte- grate with the agency’s new and existing technology? IoT holds great potential not only for cost savings and productivity, but also future innovation. Those are advantages agencies cannot afford to ignore. • — Tiffany Sargent is IoT senior solutions architect and principal engineer at Intel Federal. The Internet of Things holds great potential not only for cost savings and productivity, but also future innovation. 0615gcn_014.indd 14 6/1/15 9:45 AM