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#WednesdayWalkabout Series: Big Data Benefits for the Digital Citizen

Co-authored with Munish Khetrapal

Big data, what’s the big deal?

With the pressure to innovate faster, the onslaught of rapid urbanization, and heightened citizen expectations, government organizations and leaders are looking to the Internet of Everything.

Of the many technology trends that enable the Internet of Everything, big data and analytics warrant special consideration. The astonishing amount of data traversing today’s networks is growing exponentially each day. A recent IDC research report highlights that from now until 2020, the digital universe will double every two years.

This growth in data represents a remarkable opportunity for global public sector organizations, particularly for government leaders. The automated collection of data – from devices, sensors, and physical objects – and use of the resulting information is providing unprecedented visibility and decision-making capabilities. This is paving the way for faster incident response, safer communities, better operational efficiency, secure access to anytime, anywhere services, and an overall heightened citizen experience.

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#WednesdayWalkabout Series Kickoff: The Internet of Everything and Tomorrow’s Digital Cities, Today

It’s Here and It’s Happening Now

As large populations shift to urban areas, cities are under tremendous pressure to compete economically and grow sustainably. In the era of digital disruption, citizens are also expecting more from their engagements with local, regional, and national government organizations and leaders. In response to these pressing challenges, communities around the world are going digital and creating new, intelligent connections with the Internet of Everything (IoE).

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Security Is a Top Priority for Feds and Should Be Moving Forward

It’s no secret that security is top priority for the federal government. It seems like every week we are hearing about a new threat, hack, or breach that has hit an agency. In just the past few weeks, we’ve heard about significant breaches that have resulted in both citizen and federal employee information being compromised.

Obviously, these kinds of attacks are putting agencies on alert. This is especially important as organizations continue to embrace new technologies and polices to improve operations and efficiency. As technology investments bring great new capabilities to government, it’s imperative that IT managers design security in from the very beginning.

I recently discussed this topic in an article published in Federal Times. The article explored how the Internet of Things (IoT) and Internet of Everything (IoE) need cybersecurity protection. In addition to a projected $4.6 trillion in value for global public sector by 2022, the enhanced connectivity offered by IoE technologies also creates an increased need for network security. For example, while BYOD programs are tremendously valuable, these initiatives also create a larger surface area for potential attacks by adding devices to the networks.

With billions of devices expected become connected over the next five years, it’s important that agencies have a plan in place to address their security needs. In general, agencies should focus their efforts on creating a cybersecurity strategy that is visibility-driven, threat-focused and platform-based. As more individuals and devices need network access, having real-time visibility becomes even more critical to gaining insight on surrounding threats and identifying system vulnerabilities. Also, presuming the network has already been breached it can help agencies be more proactive their approach. And lastly, a platform-based approach will provide scalability and flexibility required to address a variety of threats and reduce complexity through centralized management.

The number of ways IoE can make our lives better and our organizations more efficient depends mainly on our ability to think of new ways to use the technology. If we can be confident in the security of IoE, we can be confident developing more applications for it. All organizations should be in a position to ask, “Now that I am confident with my protection, what new things can I develop to save money or time and delight my users?”

Take a look at the Federal Times article for more insights around IoE and cybersecurity, and check out this white paper to learn more about IoE’s impact on public sector.

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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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Local Government and Law Enforcement Share Unique Insights

Cisco recently held a public safety panel to discuss how public sector agencies are addressing reduced workforces and constrained budgets. Central to the topic of discussion were cost-effective solutions to keep citizens and public spaces safe. Jonathan Thompson, executive director of the National Sheriffs’ Association, and Jeff Teer, a telecom analyst for the city of McAllen, Texas, were among the panelists who led the conversation. These leaders discussed integrating the right technology to enhance public safety and support the justice system.

Challenges for Today’s Sheriffs

Law enforcement agencies in the U.S. are evaluating how technology can reduce costs. Agencies are now working with technology to leverage the right resources, data and location information to support organizational needs and improve efficiency.

During the panel, Thompson explained the scale and scope of environmental challenges facing sheriffs. Due to current federal policies, sheriffs have taken a primary role in securing and protecting the U.S. border. Thompson noted that technology is a key component to helping sheriffs operate successfully. While U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) offers a very robust and viable set of solutions for their personnel, deputies will sometimes have to cover more than 25 square miles alone in remote areas. These deputies need the technology in place to fulfill their roles and communicate with not only each other but other entities (like CBP) to provide support as-needed.

Sheriffs are being asked to do more with less, and be more efficient with less. This type of pressure paired with their unique civic obligations lead to a high-stress environment. Given these circumstances, sheriffs are generally slow to adopt intricate technologies, so they require solutions that are simple and easy to use.

How are public safety agencies improving efficiencies?

Teer explained how McAllen brought Cisco TelePresence into its warrant process to accelerate investigations that require easy and immediate access to a judge. This new deployment has minimized wasted time and maximized its value and efficiency for law enforcement and the judges. The city has plans to use video adjudication to support virtual arraignments. This force multiplier will be cost-effective and improve efficiencies. By using technology to collaborate across jurisdictions, stakeholders from different agencies federal, state and local can connect to improve law enforcement. This kind of connected justice is one of Cisco’s major public safety initiatives.

Law enforcement agencies rely heavily on planning, especially when it comes to planning and evaluating pipelines. Forecasting where an agency plans to be in the next few years is very important. These projections and input from every department can help agencies to improve overall connectivity and proficiencies.

Cisco is committed to providing public safety organizations with the technologies they need to do their jobs as efficiently as possible. Visit Cisco’s safety and security website for more information about how government agencies are using Cisco technologies and solutions to improve the lives of law enforcement officers as well as citizens.

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