Powerful digital tools help governments and other organizations protect and improve people’s lives.
These tools include objects with sensors that accumulate data as well as software that gathers this data through the Internet. The software sorts, analyzes, and shares the information with other software programs, all of which are supported by another, more powerful level of software called a platform. Combined, they are part of a network called the Internet of Things (IoT).
The IoT is a vast network of objects connected to the Internet. The most common IoT object is the cellphone; others range from computers in police cars to thermostats in government offices. They produce a flood of information called Big Data.
Making sense of Big Data
Without interpretation, data is not useful. To gain insights from data, government agencies must make sense of massive amounts of information from IoT sensors, back office administrative systems, social media, and other sources.
One example of a government agency that relies on solutions gained from Big Data is the French Gendarmerie nationale. It is the branch of the nation’s police connected to the French Armed Forces and aids national defense. The Gendarmerie nationale uses digital tools for constant gathering and analysis of social media to help identify potential terrorist actions and participants.
Analyzing social media also helps the agency see patterns in other kinds of crime. They use this information to predict where extra support may be necessary in the future.
The State of Indiana is another example of government controlling the flood of information. It has created a digital “data hub” aimed at helping its departments and agencies share and coordinate information.
The hub supports a unified approach to solving problems such as decreasing drug abuse and supporting citizens harmed by it.
The Republic, an Indiana newspaper, reports that before the hub, lots of data existed but hadn’t been shared among agencies. It says the state’s goal “is to help agency heads make decisions based on the latest, best, most comprehensive information available.”
U.S. governors discuss shared data
In 2016, the National Governors Association reported on U.S. state and local government use of Big Data.
The NGA emphasized strong interest in data analysis to control costs and improve targeting and delivery of services. But it said government data systems often make it difficult for agencies to connect digitally and share information.
Closed data systems become “silos” filled with valuable information that becomes useless. The data is so difficult to get that it can’t aid shared problem solving.
According to the NGA, governors can improve decision making based on shared data. But to do this, they need to promote digital transformation that connects state agencies for easy sharing.
IoT imperative in public services
IoT connectivity gives public service organizations the ability to generate and access data with greater ease than ever before. But before the data is ready to access, it must be cleansed and tagged with metadata. The cleansing process may involve changes in format, finding patterns and missing values, and protecting citizen safety by making data sources anonymous.
Some technology experts compare today’s wealth of digital data to a new kind of oil strike. Similar to crude oil, Big Data must be refined. As Forbes magazine notes, the IoT’s many benefits are accompanied by challenges. Forbes states, “The fact that nearly anything can connect to the Internet also means that nearly anything can serve as a point of attack. In this environment, organizations must re-examine their security strategies to ensure that they’re comprehensive enough to withstand threats in the age of IoT.”
Security is also supported by a powerful IoT platform. Once the data is cleansed and secured, public service networks can use Big Data to identify, manage, and reduce social risks. For example, sensors placed in wheelchairs can warn IoT-connected caregivers that elderly or disabled people need help.
Another example would be worker safety networks alerted to problems communicated by wearable IoT objects tracing the actions, location, and safety of workers. Firefighters will someday wear Internet-connected infrared devices, cameras, and monitors to check air supply and body vitals.
Municipal governments are beginning to pilot smart city projects that include more than networking agencies for data sharing and decision making. One role for IoT devices is predictive analysis of maintenance needs, such as setting times for roadway and building improvements.
Handling citizen complaints in a smart city
The IoT in smart cities can also help government become more responsive to citizens. Like the French police and the Indiana state government, Buenos Aires relies on the analytical power of a digital platform to help it become a smarter city.
One demanding analytical task amid the city’s flood of data is management of 30,000 complaints a month from residents. To be effective, this type of real-time data requires real-time solutions. With help from high tech, Buenos Aires now prioritizes and resolves problems within 96 hours.
Big Data analysis helps people by helping governments attend to their basic needs.
Learn how to bring new technologies and services together to power digital transformation by downloading The IoT Imperative in Public Services: Government and Healthcare.