The Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) is an inclusive term referring to any sequence of connected devices that transfer information to one another via the Internet. The IoT is a movement which should not be ignored by Government agencies when planning for strategic implementation of mission goals. According to research company IDC Corporation, 200 billion machines are expected to be connected to the Internet by 2020. A senior vice president at IDC commented:

“While wearable devices are the consumer face of the Internet of Things, and where recognition of IoT appears to begin, the real opportunity remains in the enterprise and public sector markets.”

The recent GovLoop case study guide, The Internet of Things: What the IoT Means to the Public Sector, identifies some of the ways IoT is becoming a part of the Federal Government and its various agencies:

Emergency Management

Current emergency management communications rely on systems that natural disasters can impede or destroy. If a lack of real-time information results from reduced communications, emergency services cannot be effectively executed. The Internet has the potential to extend connected devices into locations where conventional communications have failed.

One example of improved services through IoT is a partnership between the U.S. Forest Service and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Real-time satellite observation data is being used to improve decision support. This partnership is called the Active Fire Mapping Program. Data from the program is used to enhance the Wildland Fire Decision Support System.

Other potential IoT options for emergency management include sensors which can be connected to aerial vehicles and on-the-ground robots. These devices could access dangerous areas which are unsafe for responders and relay real-time information. These Internet-connected devices hold promise to improve communication between coordinating agencies and the public.


The Internet of Things is poised to improve healthcare in a number of ways. Sharing information regarding a patient’s condition and medication will improve dramatically with increased connectivity between doctors, medical centers, and pharmacies. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is currently working on more than 50 IoT devices to help veterans.

Also on the horizon are implantable medical devices which monitor patient values such as glucose levels and inflammation. These devices will alert the patient when medication needs to be taken and will let doctors know when the patient needs to be evaluated for treatment. In some cases, treatments can be delivered remotely to the patient with the implanted device.

Security and privacy of patient data are still very real concerns that need to be carefully addressed for Internet connected healthcare devices. While patient data issues are still being addressed, the future of IoT in healthcare has the potential to offer a better quality of care for each patient.


Internet connected devices and sensors are likely to revolutionize public transportation and improve safety. The U.S. Department of Transportation(DOT) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has accelerated the process of submitting a request to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that would require vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technology in all new cars.

Unlike current sensors and cameras in some vehicles today, the new V2V technology would employ short wave radio communication. V2V-enabled cars will be able to communicate important information to each other such as speed, direction, state of vehicle maintenance, and more. This information will allow drivers to reasonably predict what the cars around them may do and make driving choices accordingly.

According to a V2V readiness report by the NHTSA, when considering just two of the possible V2V safety applications, it is estimated that connected vehicle technologies will prevent up to 592,000 crashes and 1083 lives annually.

These are just a few of the areas of Federal Government in which the Internet of Things is poised to make a difference. For agencies integrating IoT factors into strategic planning, DOT Chief Data Officer Daniel Morgan makes a suggestion to leaders:

“… link these activities to your strategic plan and goals. Doing so will help you measure the IoT investments’ results. …start small and measure along the way. Learn about risk and return on investment, and share those results broadly so that other public-sector agencies can learn and scale.”

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