Progress: How can government get IoT right?
In a contributed article for Internet of Business, Mark Armstrong, managing director, international at Progress, discusses the various challenges that government bodies face when it comes to IoT deployment.
Government and IT projects – not a great track record. In the UK, while government IT projects are improving, a recent report from the Infrastructure and Projects Authority shows that eight out of 39 IT projects currently being tracked are rated amber or red, meaning that successful delivery is in doubt.
However, despite the difficulties associated with delivering a successful IT project, new technologies including IoT create far more opportunities for the government to get it right.
To put it simply, the potential for IoT to help deliver public sector efficiencies is enormous. By approaching IoT correctly, it can revolutionize government services – everything from everyday transportation to disaster response in times of crisis.
In the UK public sector, IoT is already being looked at by the National Grid to predictably maintain the electricity network. Think, for example, about the National Grid’s new smart meter business, the goal of which is to introduce IoT ready smart meters into UK homes. The solution that the National Grid has chosen supports the procurement, scheduling, and installation of smart new meters.
In the NHS, meanwhile, IoT and machine learning is being trialled to reduce the risk of infection, dehydration and unnecessary hospital admission in people with dementia. Smart IoT connected devices are installed in a patient’s home, allowing clinicians to remotely monitor their health, well-being and environment, around the clock and in real time.
Government’s got challenges
Implementing a wider, successful IoT strategy, however, will be difficult for Whitehall. There are a number of challenges, including the government’s poor track record when it comes to IT projects, the complexity of IoT adoption, and dealing with the massive amounts of data that will be generated.
To understand the challenge for a less-agile, and less well-funded, public sector, you only have to look at the private sector. Despite being better funded on the whole, companies still struggle with IoT projects. Evidence of this can be seen with Cisco recently reporting that as many as three out of four IoT pilot projects fail. The same will be true, if not more so, in the public sector.
However, steps are being taken to embrace IoT. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has recognized that smart technologyes will play a crucial role in the development of smart cities. In a step to address this, he has appointed London’s first chief digital officer, Theo Blackwell, with the remit of helping London’s tech hub transform the way that public services are designed and delivered.
It’s clear the future of smart cities relies on interconnected devices to streamline and improve city services based on rich, real-time data. However, for the public sector, this cannot be achieved without a smarter IoT strategy.
What would a smarter strategy look like?
Enter ‘cognitive IoT’, the next leap in improving the accuracy and efficiency of complex, sensor-driven systems, emulating the evolution of the human brain with its different interconnections and complexities. The key here is learning. Cognitive applications employ machine learning, reasoning, natural language processing and other techniques.
Cognitive systems will be able to better handle the sheer volume of data and the anomalies that come with public sector data sets. In some areas of the public sector, there will be poorly planned, unnormalized data sets. Bad data has severe consequences, which currently reach throughout the entire government enterprise. Services are needlessly duplicated; evaluation of successful programs is difficult; infrastructure maintenance is conducted inefficiently; and money is wasted.
Much has been said about the role IoT and data will play in future societies. No more so is this true than in the public sector, as everything from transportation to infrastructure has the potential to be improved by introducing new cognitive applications. The government must recognize this and start to incorporate these technologies into everything it builds going forward.