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IoT made easy: 6 options for local government

To some, the internet of things may seem like a technology without opportunities or implications for local government. After all, what could video-enabled doorbells and smart bike locks have to do with public service?

While much of the IoT hype has to do with consumer products, the tech that fuels the IoT has significant implications for how the public sector can better engage and connect with citizens and enhance public service offerings -- and local government leaders are taking notice.

Better technology leads to better citizen service

IT directors in smart cities and counties are identifying effective entry points for digital transformation models that leverage IoT technology to help them solve business needs and -- most importantly -- better serve their citizenry. When it comes to incorporating IoT technology into public services, it is not always the high-priced initiatives that have the most impact on residents' lives and produce the most good will between citizens and their leaders. Rather, many communities have found that small conveniences and personal notifications have the biggest impact on connecting local government to their citizens.

Consider these examples of how the latest smart tech is allowing for the collection of valuable and accurate data and enabling innovative citizen services:

1. Pedestrian safety. Internet-connected traffic sensors are allowing public works and public safety departments to improve pedestrian safety, while connected wearables such as smart watches can help residents in need of emergency assistance contact local authorities without having to place a phone call.

2. Advanced earthquake warnings. Leveraging ground sensors, earthquake early warning (EEW) technology can notify authorities, and even subscribed mobile users, of oncoming earthquake tremors seconds to minutes before they are felt at ground level. Not only do such warnings allow individuals to move to safety before quaking begins, they can be used to stop mass transit systems like subways and trains automatically, minimizing the chances of a wide-scale catastrophe.

3. Improved water quality. For communities working to improve the quality and cleanliness of lakes, embedded sensors, automated workflows and robotics may be able to expedite conservation efforts.

4. Geo-targeted safety warnings. Some communities are using sensors embedded in rivers and waterways to identify and warn authorities of rising flood waters. Similar to EEW technology, the data collected in flood-imminent situations could be used to geo-target nearby citizens with warnings and evacuation instructions sent directly to their smartphones.

5. Community pride and holiday spirit. IP-based LED lights installed at community parks, public spaces and facilities can be controlled remotely to conserve energy and costs. Administrators can also program such lights to change color to celebrate the seasons --think red and green for Christmas -- or support important causes, such as a wash of pink to support breast cancer awareness throughout the month of October).

6. Smart cameras that dispatch emergency responders. Public safety and law enforcement offices already use strategically placed cameras to assist with speed limit enforcement and automated toll collection. Before long, IP-based smart cameras capable of machine learning may be able to “recognize” a traffic accident and immediately dispatch emergency responders.

Analyzing opportunities

With an abundance of data and the tools to analyze it, local leaders benefit from the kind of situational awareness and location intelligence that allows them to identify valuable opportunities to enhance citizen services. Data allows officials to forecast critical variables such as residents' needs and demand for services. Such data can be pulled from a wide variety of internet-connected channels, including social media, mobile geolocation tools and video feeds. Effective analysis requires the consolidation of data into a single repository. Local governments that leverage platform technology to connect to IoT tech are best-positioned to identify and act on the data insights such tools provide.

A single repository of IoT-sourced data also allows local governments to enhance transparency through open data initiatives. For local governments that are required to meet transparency requirements, IoT-based open data can help them provide residents with access to information resources.

No longer a category of IT tech that simply offers consumers futuristic tech functionality, the IoT is a crucial component in both private- and public-sector service delivery. Local governments that start pursuing their digital transformation strategies by leveraging the IoT now will benefit from a brighter future -- and so will their citizens.

About the Author

Ben Sebree is the director of platform and technology for CivicPlus.

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