Buying Into the Internet of Things

Anchorage, Alaska

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States need to be smart and strategic when purchasing connected devices, according to Alaska's chief procurement officer.

Brace yourselves, the Internet of Things—the great connectivity that encompasses pretty much every aspect of our lives—is coming. In fact, its impacts are already being felt in state government procurement and are only going to grow as trillions of dollars are spent on IoT solutions over the next decade. Those of us involved in these decisions need to understand what IoT means in our jurisdictions, what kind of policies we have in place already, which ones we’re lacking, and what questions to ask when we see IoT acquisition projects.

To provide direction in this regard, the National Association of State Procurement Officials recently released a report on the effects of IoT as part of its new Tech Next series, which focuses on emerging technologies and related impacts on procurement.

State governments are already using IoT for a variety of purposes, from monitoring buildings to tracking wildlife populations. Smart cities are using the technology to detect when trash dumpsters need to be emptied and to help drivers find parking spots more easily. These applications help increase government efficiency, save energy, and improve citizens’ lives. With 30-50 billion connected devices expected to be in use by the early 2020s, evidence-based decisions will increasingly be made and shared in real-time and the range of uses for IoT devices will expand into nearly all aspects of our day-to-day routines.

For example, with IoT technologies being integrated into our roadways, drivers will benefit from technologies that allow electric vehicles, which are already becoming more prevalent in state motor pools, to recharge while traveling on solar powered roadways. This will lead to reduced pollution from gasoline-fueled vehicles and make better use of sustainable, renewable energy.

When it comes to health care, upgrading to IoT-connected medical devices in state and county hospitals will improve data collection and recordkeeping. Expect online appointments with doctors and self-service portals where patients can pay medical bills to reduce wait times and make travel to the doctor’s office unnecessary for many minor issues.

Connected IoT devices from healthcare will bleed into public safety, ensuring hospitals can communicate among ambulances and doctors’ offices—not to mention police dispatch and fire departments—to ensure that all necessary authorities and first responders are receiving the same information and updates during a crisis.

To begin to make sense of all things IoT, NASPO has compiled a checklist of issues that all procurement officials should consider when working on a project that involves IoT:

  • Have you developed or considered a cyber breach policy with your chief information officer or chief information security officer?
  • Have you collaborated with your CIO or CISO to ensure the IoT device you are procuring will solve the issue at hand?
  • Have you considered what technology foundation or platform you may need? For example, will all the devices run on the same software?
  • Have you considered the workforce implications?
  • Have you considered preference laws? How will this procurement impact small, women-owned and minority-owned businesses?
  • Are you ensuring that each device you procure is compatible and will seamlessly connect with all other devices?
  • Does the state have the infrastructure in place to ensure this procurement will succeed?
  • Have you researched local entities that have adopted Smart City regulations? What were their lessons learned?
  • Have you considered this long term, in terms of budget implications or future commitments?
  • Are you limiting yourself in terms of competition? Have you ensured whatever device your state needs can be procured through a fair and open competition?

To learn more, download NASPO’s Tech Next: The Internet of Things.

Jason Soza is Alaska's chief procurement officer.

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