Agencies want to better leverage public-private partnerships for IoT

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Marc Wine, senior adviser for the Department of Veterans Affairs Central Office’s Office of Information & Technology, believes it is possible to break through “the inertia of organizational status quo.” It just takes some imagination – and sometimes a strong commercial partner.

Speaking on a panel for the Smart Cities/IoT At ACT-IAC webinar Tuesday, Wine said that 5G networks have the potential to open a myriad of innovations. For one, the technology could end bottlenecks in telemedicine as existing networks are challenged for real-time remote health monitoring.

Another use is augmented reality, as he discovered when VA brought together Verizon, Microsoft and Medivis to develop the software for surgical services at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System this year.

“The result was standing up with network-on-wheels 5G – for demonstrating use cases and validating 5G uses. The result is, wearing a HoloLens connected to the Verizon 5G and the Medivis augmented reality, we see in space, live real-time MRI brain slices of a surgical patient,” Wine said. 

The next five years could also see virtual reality headsets, virtual participative training – from greeting patients to post-surgery physical therapy – 3D printing of surgical implants, and PTSD care come to fruition, Wine said. His colleague Jeffrey Saura, chief technology officer at the Orlando VA Medical Center, said bringing together smart cities and simulation is a worthwhile “mix.” Saura directs the Veterans Health Administration’s SimLEARN National Simulation Center, and has artificial intelligence-driven WiFI 6E, so he is curious about the latest infrastructures to start supporting innovative health technologies.

At the Energy Department, Principal Deputy CIO Emery Csulak sees most conversations on 5G are around supply chain risk management, workforce and incident response. He said the number one way that public-private partnerships could help support Energy’s initiatives in the coming year is in assessing threats to the supply chain.

“We’re really looking at partners in the commercial sector to say, ‘how do we come up with solutions that are reasonable?’ Because you can go way overboard, and you can spend a lot of time looking at every nuanced piece of every component within an [internet of things] device,” Csulak said. “Or you can look at organizational risk, or you can look at a number of different things, and then in reality, look, can you actually implement that?”

Fellow panelist Daniel Morgan, chief data officer and assistant chief information officer at the Transportation Department, said public-private partnerships can support IoT if agencies get better connected to industry associations.

“From where I sit inside Transportation, I think one of the important things to do is, because the deployment space for us is usually through a state local government, what we need to be able to think through is how whatever resources we build reach the deployment community most effectively,” he said. “One of the things that I want to be able to better understand is how we can leverage public-private partnerships to disseminate best practices and approaches so that we can move ahead.”

He added that also means looking around to see who is at the table – make sure the communities agencies intend to serve with these technologies are part of the decision making process for how they are deployed and housed. Likewise, he called the term “smart cities” a marketing phrase, and warned that agencies need to be inclusive toward non-urban communities that still want to benefit from the technology.

Morgan said the agency’s role is not necessarily in the direct deployment of smart cities technology, but rather in supporting state and local governments and making an investment in those kinds of people or activities via funding or technical assistance. Morgan said there is room inside agencies to think broadly about, not just smart cities, but how IoT helps get jobs done.

“I think about buoys that are out there in the middle of the ocean, that are transmitting information that helps [the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] manage our waterways and understand what’s going on. I think about volcano sensors that are out there deployed by the U.S. Geological Survey, I think about other kinds of deployed sensor infrastructure, and ‘put-a-sensor-on-it’ – is not sufficient for actually achieving sort of the level of smart that we’re talking about,” he said.

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