The Public Sector
If you live in Chicago and you want to know when the street sweeper is coming around so you can move your car and avoid getting a ticket, well, there’s an app for that. It’s a simple yet elegant solution produced by one of an army of app developers that the city’s public service has engaged to capitalize on the ever-growing usefulness of the Internet of Everything, defined by Cisco as the juncture of people, process, data and things.
Traditionally the public sector has been maligned as a place and mindset that is far from the cutting edge, with bureaucracy and partisan politics dominating. But increasingly an opposite perspective can be seen. Given the enormity and variety of the responsibilities held by government, the constant scarcity of funds, combined with increased calls for transparency and accountability, the opportunities offered by the connected technologies of the Internet of Everything are both appealing and fiscally prudent.
The city of Amsterdam is one of many locations around the world in which the Internet of Everything has been embraced by its public sector to create a more efficient and economically sound living space for its citizens. According to a Cisco white paper, 47 IoE projects have been implemented, tackling issues such as the creation of “smart energy grid systems, street lighting, parking applications, building management, and public Wi-Fi.”
Primary among the motivations for government participation is the care for the health of its citizens, and so health ministries and departments are using IoE technology to advance healthcare, from the expansion of existing telehealth programs through to the integration of wearables for hospital patients.
Traffic, transit management, waste/water management, and pollution are also key areas in which sensors, data and people can interact more closely to cut back on wasteful habits or techniques and replace them with energy-efficient and cost-efficient alternatives. These can range from maintenance sensors on board city-owned trucks and buses through to the dynamic allocation of lanes for traffic.
But above and beyond the application of actual technologies, the size of the public sector makes it a perfect staging area for the proactive use of big data, collecting and analyzing information on a large scale, allowing for new policies to take shape. The Cisco white paper describes Israel’s largest municipal water utility, Hagihon, which employs a smart water management and conservation system that “uses algorithms to identify irregularities that indicate a leak or flow problem. Hagihon can then fix the leak before it causes an interruption in water service.”
According to Cisco’s 2013 studies of the IoE, there exists $4.6 trillion in public sector Value at Stake resulting from public-sector organizations’ renewed ability to manage assets, optimize performance, and create new business models. While some of the most immediate benefits include crime reduction through smart lighting, travel savings due to immersive video, improved disaster response, bridge maintenance, reduction in waste-collection costs driven by usage of sensors – just to name a few – the greatest promise lies in developments that have not yet been thought of, but for which the connected Internet of Everything is perfectly suited.
Quoted in the Ecommerce Times, Ruthbea Clarke, smart cities research director for IDC, stated that “Government overall is one of the fastest-growing sectors with respect to IoT,” and it will grow “at a compound annual rate of 10.7 percent over the next five years.”
It is a huge landscape, and as the Cisco white paper points out, “it represents an unprecedented opportunity to transform the public sector in terms of how it operates and how it provides services to constituents. It creates both the need (rising expectations from citizens) and the means (a platform for fostering and delivering new capabilities) to accelerate innovation.”
By Steve Prentice