Across the Digital Nation: Interest grows in use of RFID, Linux and voice over IP

Rishi Sood

State and local governments are wary of using unproven, untested technologies, and it's been a significant obstacle to early adoption of emerging technologies to support public-sector processes. However, interest has been bubbling up among key decision-makers to investigate how emerging technologies can provide new solutions to old government problems.

A recent survey of leading government technology officials highlighted three emerging technologies of particular interest: radio frequency identification, Linux and voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).

State and local government organizations have used RFID solutions as part of intelligent transportation system. Electronic toll collection has been enormously successful, significantly improving the underlying business process through technology. The proliferation of these programs, such as EZPass and FasTrak, and the rapid rise of transponder use among citizens underscore the success of these initiatives.

RFID use may be expanded further as governments weigh use of variable tolls, known as congestion pricing, expanded high-occupancy vehicle criteria and similar measures. Interest in using RFID to support homeland security objectives, specifically, applying RFID at port authorities, also is high.

As the federal government provides more funds and helps push RFID applicability, state and local government authorities will adopt it increasingly over the next year. As costs go down, interest to use RFID applications in a wider variety of segments, such as justice, public works and environmental agencies, will rise.
Linux and open-source technologies have been embraced by global public-sector organizations, but U.S government agencies have been reluctant to do so. Over the last six months, however, government decision-makers have ramped up information gathering to understand the pros and cons of utilization. Interest in this area, albeit small contrasted with other technology areas, clearly is on the upswing.

Recent government surveys suggest that Linux and related open-source technologies likely will see a step-function increase in adoption over the next three years as more government-specific initiatives are implemented globally.

As state and local governments have focused more sharply on cost containment over the past two years, their interest has been sparked by the potential of VoIP to reduce some agency segments' resource allocation for communications.

Although the survey identified VoIP as another key emerging technology, adopting and using it likely will require more time. Local government respondents probably will take initial steps with VoIP pilot projects.

At the state level, however, decision-makers indicated they need to feel more comfortable with the security and reliability of a VoIP system before large-scale deployments can be done.

Buoyed by a healthier budgetary environment, state and local governments are at the beginning of new agency modernization plans and technology initiatives. Government agencies will still focus most of their attention on conventional technology areas such as enterprise resource planning and data warehousing, and on horizontal requirements such as security, architecture and outsourcing. But emerging technologies such as RFID, Linux and VoIP will play a role in specific areas.

Systems integrators must understand the variance in adoption rates associated with these emerging technologies and position themselves accordingly. Vendors at the forefront of specific technology adoption can generate significant business opportunities as these initiatives move across the landscape of state and local government organizations. n

Rishi Sood is a principal analyst with Gartner Dataquest in Mountain View, Calif. His e-mail address is rishi.sood@gartner.com.

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