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2015: Get Ready to Greet the Internet of Things

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December 12, 2014
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I get it, but the Internet of Things (IoT) is still somewhat of an abstraction to me. I haven’t experienced it ‘personally’ yet. A recent news report, however, brought the potential and value of the IoT into better focus, albeit in relation to a disturbing series of events … officer-involved shootings.

While equipping officers with body-worn cameras is interesting, what got my attention is the advent of sensors that automatically send an alert to a dispatcher whenever a service weapon is un-holstered and a second if it’s discharged. The dispatcher gets on the radio to alert fellow officers and communications and actions are escaled accordingly. No doubt the incident data is stored for later review and reference, along with the body-worn camera data that’s recorded continuously.

Expanding on that, what if the weapon alert included GPS data and initiated a stand-by notification to other first responders such as EMS, or to area schools for a possible lock-down? What if traffic signals automatically re-routed traffic around the scene, and traffic cameras were redirected to the officer’s coordinates. What if street maps, building layouts and other geographical data were immediately available. And what if digital signs in smart buildings in the vicinity reported constant updates and shelter-in-place alerts. It would also be good to know if the officer on the scene had prior experience with similar circumstances and outcomes. Maybe the department psychiatrist should also be flagged if there’s history there.

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Right about now IT professionals are thinking to themselves, what an integration nightmare this would be. Fighting through system and application disparities, communication issues and middleware inadequacies, not to mention the multiple agencies, authorities and private interests involved, conflicting policies and procedures, governance and privacy issues.

Having the IoT function as a well-oiled machine will require not only a lot of work but also changes in the way work gets done. Many of the connecting pieces are still in development. Regardless, Gartner recently wrote about the need to start now and to take a holistic approach to addressing integration issues.

“The proliferation of the Internet of Things and the need to become a digital business bring formidable new application and data integration challenges. Directors of integration and other IT leaders who define integration strategies must act now to guarantee future success,” the firm wrote in the introduction to, “Predicts 2015: Digital Business and Internet of Things Add Formidable Integration Challenges.” (Published: 11 November 2014, Analyst(s): Benoit J. Lheureux, Eric Thoo, Keith Guttridge, Jess Thompson, Massimo Pezzini, Jeff Schulman.)

The report went on to say, “The challenge is not just the provisioning and management of new IoT devices. The greater challenge is that the rising number of IoT devices logically adds to (or multiplies) the total number of application infrastructure endpoints that consume or produce data and events, and which will often (in near real-time) need to interoperate with core applications (e.g., ERP), business processes and operational business intelligence systems. As such, as IoT devices proliferate they will substantially increase the overall complexity of distributed business processes, the volume of messages and data flowing across all IT assets, and drive more demand for near real-time interoperability with existing applications and systems.”

That’s a lot of heavy lifting. It’s also strategically essential to the future of businesses and organizations that are committed to the “digital” path.  CIOs and IT organizations need to be focusing their attention in collaboration with others – both internally and externally – on travelling this rugged and ill-marked path. Which makes 2015 especially suitable for another goal: offloading infrastructure and operations tasks and management. After all, you have more important challenges that require your attention — and you’re not the only one.

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