Will the Internet of Things change everything?

The "Internet of Things" is one of the hottest catch phrases in the market and is described as a multi-billion dollar opportunity.

But what exactly is it, and what kind of opportunities will it create in the government market?

Generally, Internet of Things refers to interconnected networks of assets with embedded sensors that communicate with one another in order to achieve unprecedented solutions and efficiencies.

And for your company, the business opportunity knocking on the door could be worth $4.6 billion.

According to a Cisco white paper released at the end of 2013, the Internet of Things, or Internet of everything as Cisco likes to call it, is the way of the future, so now is the time to get to know what it does, and how you can use it to deliver unique solutions.

At its heart, the Internet of Things has sensors embedded in things that communicate with each other. From this communication, often referred to as machine-to-machine, or M2M communication, data is generated, and from analyzing that data, you can make certain processes more efficient, more cost-effective, and even more profitable.

The best way to understand the Internet of Things is through examples of how it is already being implemented in the world.

One example are smart cities, said Joseph Bradley, managing director, Internet of Everything Practice, Cisco Consulting Services.

In a smart city, you might have sensors embedded in roads that can tell how many cars are currently driving on them, Bradley said, or you might have sensors embedded within trash bins that measure how much trash is piling up, real-time.

The way things work now, trash collectors follow the same route on the same schedule each week, but if garbage truck drivers were able to determine which bins actually needed to be visited, money could be saved in terms of operations and logistics, Bradley said.

Smart parking would also be part of a smart city. If you embed sensors within parking meters and parking spaces, you are able to tell when a parking space is being filled. A lot of information is generated that way, and “once I apply analytics to that data, I’m able to come up with dynamic pricing,” Bradley said.

On top of that, you can have a parking space or meter communicate with your phone, letting you know how much time is left in your spot. Or, you can have a parking space sensor communicate with an electronic sign outside of a parking lot, informing drivers of how many spaces are available. This would be a time saver because you wouldn’t have to drive around the garage looking for an open space that might not exist.

A smart city could have smart lights, too. “Lights can dim when no one is around, and the city can save on operating costs,” Bradley said.

Once connecting the lights to the internet, you can offer WiFi through them. “Citizens can now interact with local retailers in new ways, and retailers can get better from a profitability standpoint,” Bradley said.

Plus, cities that have smart lighting have lower crime rates, which in turn causes property value to increase, allowing for additional revenue in property taxes.

The Internet of Things is “not a specific technology or a specific application; it is a concept based on connecting physical objects that have embedded sensors in them. They are all connected to the internet, and you can apply those things to real applications,” said PV Puvvada, vice president for federal systems justice, Finance and Administration group, Unisys.

From these applications, it is clearly a good state and local government opportunity, but it is also a federal opportunity.

“We started thinking about where [the Internet of Things] would be relevant in the federal government or global governments and determined that it is definitely relevant in facilities management,” Puvvada said.

Smart buildings that can use the technology can control lighting and energy output, which could bring cost savings.

The Homeland Security Department might do well to invest in the Internet of Things at bureaus such as Customs and Border Control. It could “enable the DHS and its partners to be able to detect patterns of people coming in and out, and patterns of what is happening along the border,” Puvvada said.

Unisys has partnered with Amazon Web Services to build a big data analytics platform on the web. “We are expanding that offering to be able to take the data from the embedded objects and build analytics around these applications,” Puvvada said.

But Unisys isn’t the only company investing in Internet of things. Computer Sciences Corp. also sees it as a “space that creates a phenomenal set of opportunities across our entire portfolio,” said Yogesh Khanna, chief technology officer of CSC’s North American Public Sector.

CSC can use the technology to take data from sensors, correlate that data, analyze it, to make sense of it, and enable its customers to make data-driven decisions, acting on the results of that analysis to improve their processes, Khanna said.

As an example, Khanna said that one of CSC’s customers is the TSA, and the company could use the Internet of Things to track peak volumes of people moving through security at airports to improve the scheduling of agents and reduce wait times, or ensure that more ticketing agents are working at a time when the volume of passengers is high.

Splunk is partnering with a company called McKenney’s Inc. who used the technology to build an energy management solution which they installed at Eglin Air Force Base, said Brian Gilmore, solution expert, Internet of Things and industrial data for Splunk, a big data firm. .

The solution takes data from the base’s connected control systems and power meters and pulls it into a Splunk-based system, from which energy managers can gain insight into the performance of the base’s chiller plants, the HVAC system, and lighting systems, Gilmore said.

The Internet of Things has other applications in the military, as well.

The U.S. Special Operations Command has the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit or TALOS project. A pilot is expected in 2015, said Mark Seward, senior director of public sector at Splunk.

TALOS will be a suite of technologies that a soldier will wear. “It’s going to have sensors embedded in it, monitoring the performance of the suit, monitoring fluid levels and linked to weapon performance and ordnance data,” he said.

The military will be able to see in “near real-time the condition of a soldier, their health, the health of their wearables, their weapon and the location of each individual soldier,” Seward said.

The information will help drive decisions on the battlefield, he said.

The power of the Internet of Things will “tie data together in a way that makes the soldier much more efficient,” Seward said.

About the Author

Mark Hoover is a senior staff writer with Washington Technology. You can contact him at [email protected], or connect with him on Twitter at @mhooverWT.

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