AWS Government, Education, & Nonprofits Blog

If every government asset is a sensor, what does that mean for management?

A guest post by Frank DiGiammarino, Director, AWS State and Local Government

I have the opportunity to see local and regional governments around the world engage in innovative and inspiring programs to better serve their citizens. City leaders get creative when faced with pressure to innovate within fixed or shrinking budgets. To save costs, they must look at what they already have and collaborate across agencies to see how they can adapt their services for the new era of technology—the Internet of Things (IoT).

The growth of IoT

With the growth of IoT, more and more objects can be classified as sensors. The police officer with the body camera, the trashcan monitoring waste, and the ambulance rushing to the hospital; all of these “things” can, in fact, be “sensors” that collect vital data.

This should be a welcome advancement as we look to have more connectivity to our citizens and their needs, with little or no extra budget. To take advantage of IoT, city leaders can take small steps into this connected world by starting with what they already have. They can also share across agencies and access more data, eventually making the whole government more efficient.  When data is made available to the public, startups and established businesses can create modern services and programs for the constituent within those cities.

For example, Philips uses IoT to deliver healthcare in the home. They plan to make it easier for patients to self-monitor their health using the AWS Cloud and IoT technologies. “We’ve been working with AWS for a lot of reasons because you can imagine the amount of information you generate from IoT devices,” said Jeroen Tas, CEO, Healthcare Informatics Solutions and Services. “We’ve been working with Amazon Web Services on our IoT platform and of course, we bring in the medical grade view of that. We need that core platform and the core capability of Amazon Web Services to really tie this together into a single system.”

Delivering on this vision requires the ability to collect, store, analyze and cross-reference the data Philips receives from these devices on a large scale and in real-time. Being able to store and analyze the data, Philips is able to take action and deliver results for their patients. Services are in place with AWS IoT– to easily and securely connect sensors to the cloud via devices. Similarly, city leaders can take the sensors in place throughout their city and take action to positively impact their citizens.

So the sensor is there, now what?

  1. Shift the mind frame – First, authorities should be enabled and trained in how best to analyze and act on this data. Often governments are managing based on lagging data, so by the time they get it, the world has changed. Instead, they should be managing the enterprise with leading data.
  2. Understand the data – Innovation occurs in the white space between silos.  The cloud can be used as a low cost, agile option to get the data out of the silos and explore the challenges, opportunities, and needs of the people. By understanding the data, governments can build new tools and services for the people and for their agency. There is a great opportunity for sensor data to help build healthier, greener, safer, and better educated communities.
  3. Drive new thinking – Build citizen-obsessed solutions that focus on how government can make the lives of the people better and easier.  Now that they have data from sensors and open data, we can start to take advantage of technology to enable and deliver what the people need and want: reduction in crime, fixed potholes, and lower bills. Other IoT examples include real-time updates on traffic, road closures, construction, parking, energy, utilities, public safety, citizen connection, predictive maintenance, emergency management, air quality, and waste management.

Sensors, data, and the interpretation of that data are game changers for the outcomes that they can produce. If the sensors are in place, the next step is to aggregate the data and make adjustments for the city. This is big because it affects people where they work, live, and raise their kids.

We want to recognize how you are innovating on behalf of citizens today through our City on a Cloud Innovation Challenge. Only two weeks left (deadline is May 13, 2016) to apply to the challenge. We are giving away a total of $250,000 in AWS promotional credits to eight winners. Share your story today!


Read more from Frank in his paper titled, “Can Government Work like OpenTable?” here.