WASHINGTON—There are myriad opportunities for the federal government to operate more efficiently and effectively by taking advantage of the Internet of Things, but few agencies are pursuing them, according to a first-of-its-kind analysis by the Center for Data Innovation. The Center, a think tank focused on data and public policy, assessed current federal use of the Internet of Things and found that agencies need to implement a series of reforms to overcome challenges impeding greater adoption of the burgeoning new technology.
“A few early adopters in the public sector have already demonstrated how the Internet of Things can help government provide better services to citizens at a lower cost,” said Daniel Castro, the Center’s director and the report’s lead author. “Unfortunately, overall adoption across federal agencies is still very low, especially when you look outside the defense arena. This is particularly unfortunate because, beyond the many benefits the government could see directly in the form of more efficient and effective service, robust federal adoption could also help spur commercial adoption—and that would mean even greater benefits for consumers, businesses, and the economy as a whole. The federal government needs to create a proactive strategy to accelerate adoption, otherwise it will continue to lag behind private sector adoption.”
Castro, along with co-authors Joshua New and Alan McQuinn, conducted interviews with experts from the U.S. federal government and the private sector to assess the current state of federal use of the Internet of Things. Their analysis found that the technology offers numerous opportunities for agencies to cut costs and offer better public services, including projects that improve public safety, reduce energy use, enhance military capabilities, and improve worker health.
The report explains that overall adoption remains limited due to a number of challenges, including lack of strategic leadership, skills, and funding; inadequate procurement policies; and an unwillingness to take on risks related to privacy, security, interoperability, data governance, and return on investment.
The report proposes a series of reforms to spur federal adoption, including:
- Establishing an Internet of Things taskforce through the federal CIO Council to provide cross-government leadership and coordination;
- Developing an action plan within each agency that identifies how it will use the Internet of Things to cut costs and improve services;
- Employing a chief data officer within each agency to develop the technical infrastructure needed to make effective use of data generated by the Internet of Things; and
- Establishing a team of government employees who can be assigned to work on high-impact Internet of Things projects.