Page 59 - FCW, September 15, 2016
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In August 2015, the Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a report about potential IoT applications. Some of them would benefit more than just the USPS. For example, one application would leverage the “smart cities” initiatives underway in 36 states by feeding data to those municipalities.
“We suggested, among other things, attaching sensors to postal vehicles for the collection of data on road and environmental conditions,” says Paola Piscioneri, director of global digital and innovation research for the USPS OIG Risk Analysis Research Center.
Smart cities themselves are an example of federal IoT initiatives.
“The U.S. DOT Smart City Challenge and its $50 million grand prize, launched in December 2015, attracted 72 applicants,” Piscioneri says. “It generated tremendous interest from cities, businesses, universities and nonprofits in the development of smart mobility solutions.
“So did the White House Smart City initiative announced in September, which offers $160 million in federal research funds to help local communities tackle challenges through technology. IoT is a big piece.”
sensor management — specifically, collection and communication of data
— for improved tactical intelligence at
the warfighter level,” says Randy Wood, vice president for U.S. federal sales at
F5 Networks. “In the Marine Corps, the notion that ‘Every Marine is a rifleman’ is being augmented with the imperative that ‘Every Marine is a collector’ of intelligence. Advancements in wearable intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance
sensors are making this a reality.”
Information Overload Threatens Budgets and Effectiveness
The Postal Service’s interest in IoT is noteworthy for another
reason: The agency has spent decades figuring out how to collect and manage enormous amounts of tracking and other operational data — just the kind of information the IoT is designed to generate. But even that experience might not be enough to keep up with IoT volumes and additional sources.
“This poses challenges in terms of managing, analyzing, sharing and making sense of the increasing quantity of data,” says Paola Piscioneri, director of global digital and innovation research for the USPS OIG Risk Analysis Research Center. “One of the
main challenges for smart cities was not to deploy sensors to collect data, or to collect more data,
but rather to turn existing data into actions.
“Cities develop partnerships with universities and private sector companies to help analyze this information and make it actionable through platforms and apps. This is something the Postal Service could also consider doing.”
For any federal agency using IoT, one risk is collecting more data than it can afford to store. IoT also has the potential to soak up so much storage that non-IoT applications get shortchanged.
“Any cost savings incurred on the storage side will easily be exceeded by the resources expended analyzing incoming data to find the most actionable items,” says ForeScout’s Sann. “To combat this growing fiscal obstacle, agencies should know what problems they are trying to solve for and build the solution that will help them
get answers.”
Some vendors are responding with analytics solutions that sit at the network’s edge, fielding data from IoT devices.
“An emerging approach is performing lightweight analytics at the edge that run machine learning models,” says Jeff Healey, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) director of Vertica product marketing. “\[These\] look for specific faults or parameters that fall outside a given range and send only that data back to the data center to feed more historical analytics on larger data sets.”
A side benefit of this approach is reduced bandwidth consumption, because only important data makes it back to the data center. There are potential savings on the storage side, too, because the edge analytics weed out nonessential data.
New Security Paradigms and Challenges
Like their enterprise counterparts, federal agencies are grappling with IoT security. In fact, those concerns and challenges could undermine the return on investment — or even reduce investment.
“The biggest limiting factor in unlocking the value of IoT

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