Representing a global opportunity of $4.6 trillion over the next ten years, the Internet of Things (IoT) holds many applications in the public sector, which includes municipalities at the state, county and city levels, as well as the education space, both K-12 and higher education. Leveraging an IoT sensor-based network enables organizations to gain information about what is happening in their vicinity in real-time or near real-time. This information can take the form of building occupancy data, analytics from video surveillance cameras or integration with a public safety network, for example. The data can ultimately lead to increased productivity, new streams of revenue and enhanced citizen experiences.
The transition toward so-called smart cities and smart buildings impacts three key areas: physical and cyber security; environmental aspects such as reducing energy consumption; and collaboration, including ubiquitous access to the internet, real-time video capabilities, digital signage and more.
Physical security – enabling public sector entities to avert catastrophes from happening and/or manage unfolding situations in real time – is often overlooked when discussing IoT in the public sector. Today, physical security in public spaces can generally be described as somewhat unreliable at best, non-existent at worst – and IoT has the power to vastly improve our protection.
For example, a sensor-based occupancy device or video analytics system can identify an excessive amount of metal on a person’s body when he or she passes a sensor or series of sensors in a courthouse, busy downtown corridor or school building and send an alert to a designated recipient(s). The system can be programmed to alert public safety officials, building administrators, facility managers or others via phone, or distributed communications such as a pager or email, all instantly and automatically.
Sensor network systems have the ability to integrate with emergency notification, forensics and other systems, and it is relatively simple to configure and integrate with policy engines within most IP network systems. (That doesn’t mean that today they are necessarily IP-based, some may be analog or on a proprietary protocol.) Most IP networks have open application program interfaces (APIs) and/or software development kits (SDKs), enabling developers to create fairly easy integration at a local, and even enterprise, level so that an IP phone system could be integrated with an access control system.
When a student or employee swipes a badge to enter a building, for example, the building’s IP access control system can be integrated with a phone system so the entrant can be seen on a video-enabled phone or via an image sent in the form of a text message to a designated administrator or manager.
Alternatively, an occupancy sensor-based system could be installed in a doorframe or other ingress/egress point of a building, or a camera(s) installed on the interior or exterior of a building can play a similar role. These systems can be interconnected in a variety of ways, enabling them to collaborate with phones, distributed communications such as clocks, intercoms, sound masking and paging systems, as well as physical security systems such as fire alarms, access control and video surveillance.
Some U.S. states such as Florida and Maryland currently require K-12 public entities to have integration from phones to intercoms so that in the event of an emergency, a teacher or administrator using a headset or mobile phone can simply press a button to alert every designated communication device that something is happening – enabling people to react on a real-time basis. There have been recent discussions about the Federal government expanding this to every state and every public and private entity that provides education.
Implementing IoT-based systems can significantly tighten security, productivity and revenue for public-sector organizations. Those that have not already begun evaluating options should look into how it can work for them.
Do you have questions or comments about implementing IoT in your organization? I look forward to your feedback below.
This blog post was featured as an article on the Internet of Things Today.