Emerging Technologies for the Public Sector
By Chuck Brooks
July 27, 2017
We have entered a new technological era in commerce and it has also arrived in government. There are a variety of tech verticals to watch in the coming transformation, including:
1) data science; 2) digital transformation; 3) the Internet of Things; 4) 3-D printing; and 5) cybersecurity.
Collaboration, agility, innovation and engagement have emerged as driving factors for agency performance and progress will be determined by combining these factors with adoption and integration of new technologies and services.
Data science is an encompassing category. It includes big data, advanced analytics and predictive computing, and knowledge management, along with information-sharing via convergence to common smart platforms. Collaborative investment and information-sharing between government and private stakeholders will exponentially benefit innovation and data informatics in many key areas including homeland/national security, health and human services, public safety, and transportation. Social media has also become part of the federal government ecosystem.
The challenge is to automate technology and methods to analyze large amounts of unstructured data with application interfaces and convergence to smart interoperable platforms. The use of the cloud and innovative application software can now help government keep pace with the innovation trends in commercial sectors.
According to Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, we produce more data every other day than we did from the inception of early civilization until the year 2003 combined. Therefore organizing, managing and analyzing data is more important than ever.
Big data and data analytics are collapsing the information gap and giving businesses and governments the tools they need to uncover trends, population movements, customer preferences, demographics, commerce traffic, transportation, etc. These tools can also help several industries, including customer service, by identifying caller trends; healthcare, by flagging potential fraud; and financial services, by proactively flagging a borrower that is on the verge of lapsing in payment. The value of data analytics is something agencies and businesses cannot ignore because it can increase productivity, efficiency, decision-making and new business activities.
In homeland security, and in healthcare, many interesting applications of data analytics are being incorporated into government programs for case management situational awareness and mitigation.
Digital Transformation includes digitizing the customer experience, data flow, supply chain management, governance, engagement, e-government and virtual government. In its basic description, it is turning paper into electronic records. Going from paper-based to electronically based systems of documentation requires data collection, processing and analysis.
The United States government maintains one of largest repository of documents in the world. Millions of supporting documents are compiled and stored every year by a multitude of government agencies which have a responsibility to preserve, secure and retrieve vital information when needed. While paper documents are still very much routine for government operations, the goal has been to increasingly move from paper to electronic images. That is not an easy task considering the amount of documents being stored and used across government.
The federal government has recognized these challenges and has established the OpenGov initiative and the Citizen Archivist Project. Digitizing records reduces costs by speeding up document capture, recognition and retrieval. It also ensures file integrity and better access to data for the citizens the government serves.
The technological advances mentioned by the White House in a press release on the digital initiatives are significant. Automated optical capabilities are changing how documents are scanned and are being managed. For example, a new era of advanced imaging science, combined with skilled engineering, has led to incredible optical character recognition (OCR) capabilities in document scanners. New algorithms interact with a library of form recognition protocols, machine print, hand print and the integration of contextual logic databases for automated validation. Molecular scanners that will really transform optical recognition are now in the research and development stages.
Digitization also has a significant impact on transaction processing in the government sector especially in agencies such as the Department of Treasury, Department of Labor, and U.S. Customs and Immigration Service at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The ability to process electronic payments, reconcile information, create digitized audit trails and handle reporting requirements are critical for effective and more responsive government services to citizens.
Digitization is rapidly enhancing the capabilities of e-government. The 2016 fiscal budget request proposes spending $105 million to "scale and institutionalize" the evolving U.S. Digital Service citizen-facing services. The funding will create digital services teams in 25 key high-impact federal agencies to improve how citizens and businesses experience government services.
INTERNET OF THINGS
The Internet of Things (IOT) refers to the emerging connectivity of embedded devices to the Internet. It is estimated that there will be 64 billon connected Internet devices by 2020. The commercial and governmental IOT "landscape of sensors" is becoming more exponential and complex by the moment.
In the public sector, government agencies are being tasked to keep pace with expanding customer service requirements emanating from the connected economy. New citizen engagement strategies involving technology, policy, programs and intra/inter-agency collaboration are required to address the avalanche of needs and fixes associated with interoperability and the IOT of smart government.
A recent Cisco study summarized some of the key opportunities and benefits in transportation, healthcare, telework and connected learning. The study noted that "by enabling new connections among people, process, data, and things, governments and their agencies worldwide can save money, improve employee productivity, and generate new revenue (without raising taxes), while creating quantifiable benefits for citizens."
Two growing specialized areas of IOT in government to watch include smart cities and connected transportation.
Smart Cities integrate transportation, energy, water resources, waste collections, smart-building technologies and security technologies and services. The term "smart city" connotes creating a public-private infrastructure to conduct activities that protect and secure citizens. This includes shared situational awareness and enabling integrated operational actions to prevent, mitigate, respond to and recover from cyber incidents as well as crime, terrorism and natural disasters. It also signifies the betterment of public services, conduct of commerce and meeting the expanding logistical health, financial, transportation and communication requirements for those who choose to live in an urban setting. Many companies are becoming proactive in preparing for the expansion of IOT. For example, IBM recently announced that it is making a $3 billion investment in future IOT projects and initiatives such as smarter planet and smarter cities.
A "connected transportation system," and more specifically, "connected cars," allow for safer and more efficient urban mobility and is a priority for federal, state and local governments. Connected car technology is evolving rapidly and is now being tested.
For example, in a groundbreaking public-private partnership, the University of Michigan has created a 32-acre simulated city. It is called The Mobility Transformation Center (MTC), and it is designed to simulate traffic events and road conditions for automated and autonomous vehicles. It is the largest test facility of its kind and run in partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation as well as 13 companies, including GM, Ford and Xerox. The MTC recreates the everyday driving experience, ranging from the unpredictable behavior of drivers and pedestrians to roadblocks, railroad crossings and aging infrastructure. When it's fully developed, 30,000 cars will be deployed at the test facility and throughout southeastern Michigan.
Smart 3-D printing is trailblazing future manufacturing. 3-D printing connotes a three-dimensional object that is created layer by layer via computer-aided design programs. To be able to print the object, the computer divides it into flat layers that are printed one by one. By printing with advanced pliable materials such as plastics, ceramics, metals and graphene, there have already been breakthroughs in prosthetics for medicine and wearable sensors. The big advantage for government is that 3-D printing can be customized, produced rapidly and is cost effective.
The possibilities for 3-D printing are seemingly limitless. Recently, Rolls-Royce announced that it would use 3-D printing to make parts for its jet engines, and BAE Systems announced that fighter jets containing 3-D-printed parts are now being flown.
3-D printing innovation are also making its way into printing electronics, sensors and circuits. "Printed electronics" or electronic chips are fabricated by printing their features on top of thin surfaces. Using semiconducting and conductive inks and materials, 3-D printers can now print transistors, sensors, circuits, batteries and displays.
Cybersecurity, information assurance and resilience are the glues that will keep our world of converged sensors and algorithms operational. This has become one of the largest areas of government spending at all agencies and is consistently ranked the top priority among government and industry CIOs in surveys.
In the U.S., most (approximately 85 percent) of the cybersecurity critical infrastructure including defense, oil and gas, electric power grids, healthcare, utilities, communications, transportation, banking, and finance, is owned by the private sector and regulated by the public sector. 2014 was the year of the breach for many large corporations in a variety of sectors. The leading civilian agency in the government for public-private cooperation in cybersecurity is DHS. The department has recognized the importance for private sector input into cybersecurity requirements across these verticals and has played a major part in bringing government and industry together to develop a strategy to protect critical infrastructure.
There is a growing need for the following in government: 1) Better encryption, authentication and biometrics (quantum encryption, keyless authentication, etc.); 2) automated network security and self-encrypting drives to protect critical infrastructure in all categories; 3) the protection of critical infrastructure through technologies and public-private cooperation; 4) technologies for "real time" horizon scanning and monitoring of networks; 5) advanced defense for framework layers (network, payload, endpoint, firewalls and anti-virus); and 6) diagnostic and forensics analysis.
Additionally, bring your own device (BYOD) is a major area of concern for managing the mobile government workforce. Also, cyber resilience is an area that must be further developed both in processes and technologies. There is no panacea for the myriad of threats we all digitally face every day. Supercomputing and quantum computing technologies are an exciting area of current exploration that may remedy many of the threats. National labs and government agencies such as the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency are leading the way in the advanced technology cybersecurity realm.
These are just a few of the government verticals deriving benefits from catalyzing technologies in the next few years. As the rate and depth of engagement and collaboration between the private and public sectors grows, so will the dividends. A dedicated partnership between industry and government will be critical for success.
Chuck Brooks is Vice President of Government Relations & Marketing for Sutherland Government Solutions. In both 2017 and 2016, he was named “Cybersecurity Marketer of the Year by the Cybersecurity Excellence Awards. LinkedIn named Chuck as one of “The Top 5 Tech People to Follow on LinkedIn” out of their 500 million members. Chuck’s professional industry affiliations include being the Chairman of CompTIA’s New and Emerging Technology Committee, and as a member of The AFCEA Cybersecurity Committee. In government, Chuck has served at The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as the first Legislative Director of The Science & Technology Directorate at the Department of Homeland Security. He served as a top Advisor to the late Senator Arlen Specter on Capitol Hill covering security and technology issues on Capitol Hill. In academia, Chuck was an Adjunct Faculty Member at Johns Hopkins University where he taught a graduate course on homeland security for two years. He has an MA in International relations from the University of Chicago, a BA in Political Science from DePauw University, and a Certificate in International Law from The Hague Academy of International Law.