Shawn McCarthy, Research Director at IDC Government recently penned an insightful blog on IoT. Titled “Beyond the Internet of Things: How Convergence Can Help Governments Support Their Rising Tide of New Devices,” the blog notes with more devices producing more data, government agencies have been working to add more storage, security, network bandwidth, and systems management tools. David Bray, the innovative, young Chief Information Officer at the Federal Communications Commission, has noted this exponential change. In a recent interview, Bray estimates that from the current 7 billion networked devices we will grow to upwards of 50 billion networked devices by 2020. Deloitte suggests that by 2020, the IoT is powered by a trillion sensors. And Cisco Systems’ research indicates the economic impact in 2020 is more than $14 trillion. In order to take advantage of their mountain of new data, and the associated range of new applications, agencies will have to merge parts of their existing infrastructure. That converged infrastructure can take two forms – merging data centers themselves or consolidating components within a single optimized computing package. Converging IT infrastructure is the first step in the roadmap to capitalizing on the benefits of the Internet of Everything (I0E). Bray goes even further, arguing that we will need to shift from searching for data to having relevant data find us, to include developing machines that learn our preferences for data as well as when to deliver that data in a form most useful to our work. McCarthy also reviews the disruptive, but hopefully positive, effects of IoT on citizen services, government reaction times, and employees.

The rapid adoption, growth and spread of IoT or IoE seems inevitable. Many of the associated changes will go unnoticed by customers and citizens but the long-term effect is likely to be enormously beneficial for individuals and the economy – improving transportation, safer cities, reducing pollution, connected schools and communities, and so on. But McCarthy’s blog reminds us that in addition to the economic growth and societal benefits that IoT/IoE is bringing, we need to be aware of and manage other associated consequences and risks. In fact, that’s the message of a new report from the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee, a group of 30 industry executives who advise President Obama on such issues. The report, released in November, states:

There is a small – and rapidly closing — window to ensure that IoT is adopted in a way that maximizes security and minimizes risk. If the country fails to do so, it will be coping with the consequences for generations . . . There are only three years – and certainly no more than five – to influence how IoT is adopted.”

So as government seeks to recap the benefits of IoT/IoE, they must manage an array of challenges:

  • Reliable security to deal with exponential growth of new attack vectors, new vulnerabilities as more devices access networks, and the ability to remotely cause destruction or death;
  • Public trust in that security will be critical to the spread and adoption of IoE technologies;
  • Leadership to drive collaboration between the public and private sectors that will create appropriate standards and protocols (e.g., privacy, security, resilience, etc.);
  • Citizen, employee, and organizations implications.

Let the discussion and debate begin! Use #CiscoConvergence to join the conversation on Twitter.

You can start your own journey by downloading the white paper, “Pay Attention IT: A New Convergence is Afoot“, which takes an in depth look at how this convergence will help your agency.


Alan Balutis

Distinguished Fellow and Senior Director

North American Public Sector for Busiiness Solutions Group