WIT Q&A - NextGov’s Camille Tuutti

In preparation for next week’s WIT Connect Panel, we sat down with panelist Camille Tuutti, the Executive Editor at NextGov, to chat all things IoT. Camille is responsible for the editorial vision and strategy at NextGov, having previously served as editorial director at FedScoop, and prior to that, was a staff writer and "People" section editor at Federal Computer Week. Before that, Camille worked as a news editor and reporter, covering government contracting and IT.

A long-time journalist in the federal government space, Camille shared with us her thoughts on the Internet of Things; where she is seeing opportunities, challenges, and how government entities are taking advantage of IoT.

1. What are the biggest opportunities right now with IoT and analytics?

The federal government spent $8.8 billion on the internet of things in fiscal 2015, driven mostly by defense spending, according to Govini. The military is spending big on sensors that collect situational awareness information.

On the state and local government level, we've seen momentum around smart cities, and federal research dollars funneled into efforts to slash traffic congestion, reduce pollution and streamline public transportation.

In the federal government, you see agencies like the Postal Service embracing IoT as a way to revamp business processes and deliver citizen services with cutting-edge technology and with lightning speed. Furthermore, the General Services Administration's smart building initiative, launched in 2012, aims to reduce the energy footprint in federal buildings. GSA also uses sensors to track the efficiency and performance of its fleet. And finally, a really cool use case I found about from Amy Gaskins, a former National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration official and founder of Panopticon: NOAA's Integrated Ocean Observing System has been using "animal telemetry devices," or tags, to geolocate seals. It's the internet of seals!

2. What challenges are federal corporations and government entities facing when implementing IoT and analytics?

Because IoT touches so many different areas—technology, privacy, data, cyber, etc.—public sector organizations will have to overcome a multitude of challenges. For one, how do you protect this ecosystem? How do you secure the sensors, devices and objects connected to the internet? How do you make sure personal or sensitive data doesn't fall into the wrong hands? How do you ensure hackers and other nefarious actors don't get access to this connected network?

Second, there's the issue of regulation. Currently, it's unclear who governs the internet of things and ensures that the myriad connected devices aren't putting users' privacy at risk or share their information to third parties. There’s no one agency tasked with overseeing the internet of things: Issues related to self-driving cars fall under the purview of the Transportation Department, while issues related to medical devices are under the Federal Drug Administration.

And third, you need people who have the skills to make sense of all the data coming from the various sensors and devices. Luckily, being a data scientist is one of the hottest jobs around so there's a lot of interest in people going into that field.

3. Where do you see IoT in the next five to 10 years?

Gartner predicts there will be 21 billion connected devices by 2020, so it's definitely moving beyond application such as smart homes/buildings. In the government space, I see expanded use of IoT in areas like disaster and emergency response and homeland security. The Homeland Security Department is piloting a network of sensors that can trigger an emergency alert system. The idea is to send citizens customized emergency alerts depending on their proximity to a disaster.

Maybe this is wishful thinking considering I live in the city, but I see today's public transportation being replaced entirely by much smarter, zero-emission autonomous vehicles.

To hear more from Camille and our other tech experts, register for next week’s panel event, held at the Gannett building at 7950 Jones Branch Drive in McLean, VA from 6:00 - 8:30 PM next Thursday, October 20.

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