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Federal Agencies and the Internet of Things

Earlier this week, Federal Computer Week ran an article – “Are agencies really ready for the Internet of Things?” – that discusses the potential challenges government agencies face when implementing the Internet of Things (IoT). The article’s author spoke to Gary Hall, chief technology officer for Federal Defense at Cisco, about these challenges, as well as why federal agencies can’t afford to ignore IoT any longer.

The biggest concern that all organizations have with IoT is the massive scope it involves – there is a huge volume of data being produced and a need to store and process it all. Even just the number of connected devices is expected to explode in the coming years, growing from around 16 billion today to 50 billion by 2020. “Humans can’t deal with the volume of data we’re producing,” Hall said.

All this data means more chances for security breaches as well, which is especially worrying for federal agencies. In this case, awareness is key, as Peter Romness, a business development manager Cisco, spoke about at a recent GovLoop seminar. Romness cautioned that there is no “silver bullet” defense, so agencies must prepare to deal with inevitable hacks. “It’s not a question of if you’re going to get hacked, it’s a matter of when,” he said.

Despite these concerns, IoT experts agree that federal agencies cannot avoid the issue any longer, and if they haven’t already started planning for IoT implementation, they’re behind. Cisco estimates that IoT will generate $4.6 trillion for the public sector over the next 10 years, and agencies that are too wary of potential security issues risk missing out on this value. “This is the next big disruption,” Hall said. “It’s important that we aren’t so afraid of the fear of attack that we don’t realize the value.”

For example, the General Services Administration (GSA) – which manages nearly 10,000 government-owned buildings around the county – is reaping the rewards of its IoT- building management initiative, GSALink. GSA collects almost 30 million data points from sensors throughout its buildings, constantly monitoring everything from light to humidity. Using this data, GSA is able to optimize conditions when workers are present and save on energy costs when buildings are empty. IoT can add significant value like this to all federal agencies – they just have to take advantage of it!

Read more about how IoT can transform the public sector here, and check out more thoughts from Cisco’s experts like Gary Hall on our blog.

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Remember, It’s Just a Meeting

Driving the discussion of collaboration.

Today, the federal government is still heavily involved in placing people on an airplane and flying key decision makers across the world to meet in person. While face-to-face interactions are important, long-term productivity requires the flexibility and capabilities to facilitate immediate, impromptu meetings without technological restrictions. The fact is, being tethered to a desk or having to rely on transportation and conflicting time zones significantly impact communications. Further, amid shrinking budgets and fewer resources, agencies are also being asked to do more with less.

Collaboration technologies break down those boundaries, bringing the right resources to the right meeting at the right time. The value of these tools for government agencies can, at times, be stunted by the tendency to place them into silos. We must move beyond the siloed thinking of video to video, voice to voice and web-conferencing to web-conferencing to embrace a more integrated approach. In the end, the goal of every meeting is to connect people and share information. Collaboration technologies can help agencies meet this objective while lowering costs and increasing efficiency.

Collaboration: Taking a Unified Approach

The value of collaboration is seen when you move beyond the traditional tether of your desk. Collaborative environments are expanding as federal agencies no longer operate in silos. Federal agencies are complex, highly strategic environments where decision makers need to work together to improve citizen services and national security. Many programs are tapping subject matter experts (SMEs) to leverage the best talent for their technical missions—reaching across regions, silos, environments, and in multiple time zones.

By taking a unified approach with technologies, agencies are improving information sharing within and between individual departments and entire federal agencies.

Virtual training provides significant value to both trainers and trainees. A recent Govloop survey members found that 90 percent of respondents attended a virtual training in 2014. This Virtual Training Playbook outlines the benefits of hybrid training environments and offers a roadmap for arranging effective and engaging online trainings.

  • Many federal agencies have offices spread throughout the country and around the world. Cohorts from multiple locations, multiple entities, and multiple sites are using various collaboration solutions to connect interagency.
  • Key decision makers are also connecting across multiple disciplines. For instance, government agencies can connect to business leaders with niche skillsets that can help agencies accomplish their objectives. Think of it as bringing together some of the top minds in several relevant designated fields to collaborate on better solutions.
  • Managers can more effectively interacting with teleworkers face-to-face, improving relations with those employees and lessening the resistance to telework environments.
  • Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, collaboration solutions are being used to support citizen engagement and improve communication between agencies and the public. This is also helping provide new perspectives on the delivery of various government agency services.

Cisco offers a unified collaboration toolkit that provides customers with flexible solutions to meet end users’ needs regardless of the circumstance. To improve efficiency, agencies should identify the various stakeholders they communicate with and the collaboration tools that are best suited to interact with each of those groups. This enables agencies to adopt a unified approach to collaboration and build customized hybrid meeting environments. Furthermore, collaboration is helping push agencies to modernize their IT systems with architectures that serve the needs of today and help build a foundation to support the growing needs of tomorrow.

Government organizations are using collaboration solutions to enhance information sharing, boost employee productivity and increase citizen satisfaction while reducing costs and driving greater efficiencies. It’s important to remember that it’s just a meeting, and you should have access to the resources your team needs—no matter the form of collaboration—for successful business and mission outcomes.

To learn more about Cisco’s government collaboration solutions, visit http://www.cisco.com/web/strategy/us_government/collaboration.html.

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Use Cloud Collaboration to Improve Your Agency’s Communication

Collaboration technologies power a new way of working where everyone, everywhere can be more productive through face-to-face and instantaneous communication.  In previous posts, we’ve discussed how VoIP, TelePresence and Mobile Collaboration are reshaping the government workspace. For those organizations that often forced to do more with less, flexibility in service models is essential to accessing these transformative technologies.

As we’ve seen in education, the move from on-premise service models to the cloud gives organizations the ability to deploy advanced collaboration services while minimizing the requirements of an upfront investment. But a hosted delivery model not only minimizes cost, it also increases efficiency and effectiveness, reduces the burden on IT staff and ensures access to the latest releases.. With the right deployment model government workers can access the collaboration tools they want, whenever they need them.

When the City of Charlotte, North Carolina was preparing to host the 2012 Democratic National Convention cloud was the easy choice. With Cisco Hosted Collaboration Solution (HCS) the city was able to integrate its contact call centers and deliver excellent caller experiences to citizens and visitors before and after the political convention.  With Cisco HCS the city found a solution that scaled to meet their needs during a major event and continues to better serve its citizens. But the benefits of choosing cloud don’t end there. With cloud services the City of Charlotte has lowered the total cost of ownership for the contact centers saving the city more than $100,000 a year!

With that kind of financial and operational flexibility, it’s not a surprise that more agencies are turning to hosted solutions. Is your government organization ready to take advantage of the cloud?

 

 

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US Federal Government Makes Huge Strides in IPv6 Deployment

The US Federal Government, like many large IT organizations  and other national governments recognizes the important of transition their networks to support IPv6. On Sept 2010 a memo on the transition to IPv6, was issued by then Federal CIO; Vivek Kundra, outlining the government’s commitment and rational behind expediting the operational deployment and use of IPv6.

Read More »

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Government Telework Programs Ready to Take Off, But Hurdles Remain

We’ve been singing the praises on this blog about the Federal government’s efforts to encourage telecommuting for its employees. While great strides continue to be made, new research reveals some hurdles that still remain, before widespread adoption will ensue.

First, the good news.  Since the enactment of the Telework Enhancement Act in late 2010, the Federal government has clearly made telework a priority for agencies through the creation of an official guide and an overall cultural shift. Read More »

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