Local governments learning to put IoT solutions into action

Local governments learning to put IoT solutions into action

The growing pressure to embrace the Internet of Things has government agencies at all levels investing more into IT systems capable of supporting IoT growth.

A recent report by IDC Government Insights  predicts that at some point, almost every mechanical, electrical, IT or security-related device in a government office will be tracked, analyzed and connected to the network. In order to handle the amount of data this will produce, government agencies will need enhanced IT systems.

According to the report, government IoT will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 17.1 percent from 2013 to 2018, with local governments projected to lead in overall IoT implementation.

Enhancing IT systems for the IoT can help government agencies with cost optimization, citizen services and agency processes,  according to Ruthbea Yesner Clarke, research director with IDC Government Insights.  Clarke said IoT innovations are most attractive in local level government and the Department of Defense.

“It can help provide actionable data, improve safety and boost the utilization of multiple types of government assets," Clarke said. "Ultimately, the IoT helps government's discovery, through new data sources, of what the government is doing now and what can be done to enhance its ability to serve its citizens."

The report also estimated that currently less than five percent of the possible number of connected devices is deployed across government, making the near-future payback for connecting these devices significant for government agencies.

However, agencies will have to invest and spend on IoT segments in order to handle, support, analyze and store all the data to come. According to the report, that data is expected to grow 40 percent per year over the next five years. Total government spending on IoT systems is expected to follow that trend.

There are real returns on those investments, however. IDC predicts IoT-driven solutions for cities that include smart parking , networked traffic lights, street lighting connected to intelligent public safety, energy saving devices, bike sharing programs, education, tourist growth and improved trash pickup. At the federal level, use cases mainly cluster in defense intelligence and border control.

“When you’re thinking of the state and what they do with social systems, they’re not as conducive to IoT implementations,” Clarke said. “Those fall more onto the purview of counties and city and town governments. So that’s why we see a lot of the spending there growing.”

For example, cities are and should be investing in hardware through devices and gateways, and connectivity through fiber and wireless networks in order to advance IoT solutions. And while most cities aren’t at the maturity level yet to start calculating ROIs, vendors are.

According to Clarke, vendors can provide cost savings estimates and ROI information helpful to cities -- like being able to save between 40 to 80 percent with a connected trash bin and logistical analysis system that helps with gas needs, trash pickup scheduling, fleet management and waste management. A networked LED street lighting system, meanwhile, can save around 50 percent in operational cost over six years. 

In a report by Silver Spring Networks, a city provider of smart grid technology that includes such street lighting systems, Chicago was cited for its ROI on the implementation of a cost-effective energy infrastructure.

According to that report, “Charting the Path to Smart Cities: How Municipal Utilities can Lead Sustainable Community Development,” Chicago leveraged technology and a utility-led program to enhance grid reliability, lessen outage identification time and speed of restoration during weather storms. The initial results are allowing the program to grow, and ultimately reach four million Chicago homes and businesses.

The Modesto Irrigation District in Modesto, Calif., also uses Silver Spring solutions to save money by leveraging voltage optimization, polling and real-time alerts to reduce energy waste. This reduction has allowed the MID to both trim its energy budget and provide the community with a more reliable service.

Chicago is also monitoring data connected to foot traffic and noise pollution. “Getting a sense of what the environmental situation on a daily and hourly basis," Clarke said, allows the city to make informed plans to improve neighborhoods.

And socially, municipalities’ use of sensor and video monitoring in certain parts of the city can equalize services. As Clarke explained, residents in poorer neighborhoods are at times less inclined to call and complain about a broken street light, pothole or leaking fire hydrant.  Using sensors to track these systems requires less reliance on the community to report it.

About the Author

Amanda Ziadeh is a former reporter/producer for GCN.


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