How governments can tap into cloud and Internet of Things

This post was originally published on ThoughtsOnCloud on October 2nd, 2014.

In my previous post, I discussed some of the innovations that can be achieved by governments using cloud. I presented on this topic recently at the Westminster eForum Keynote Seminar: Next steps for cloud computing. At the session I went on to explore mobile, the Internet of Things and some changes in the skills needed for cloud.

The session abstract asked the following question about mobile: As device processing power increases, yet cloud solutions rely less and less on that power, is there a disconnect between hardware manufacturers and app and software developers? I think this misses the point. Cloud isn’t about shifting the processing power from one place to another; it’s about doing the right processing in the right place.

U.S. Marine using GPS capabilities on a handheld device to check his location.

At IBM, we talk about the nexus of forces of cloud, analytics, mobile and social (CAMS) and we split information technology (IT) into Systems of Record and Systems of Engagement.

The Systems of Record are the traditional IT—the databases that we’re talking about moving from the existing data centers to the cloud. And, as I’ve discussed in a previous post, moving into the cloud means that we can perform a lot of new analytics.

With mobile and social we now have Systems of Engagement. We have devices that interact with people and the world. Because of their fantastic processing power, these devices can gather data that we’ve never had access to before. For example, these devices make it really easy to take a photo of graffiti or a hole in the road and send it to the local council through FixMyStreet in order to have it fixed. It’s not just the additional processing power; it’s the new instrumentation that this brings. We now have a GPS location so the council knows exactly where the hole is.

In a case I discussed in my previous post, this would have made it a lot easier to send photos and even videos of Madeleine McCann to a photo analytics site, to assist in the investigation of her disappearance in 2007.

We’re also working with Westminster council to optimize their parking. The instrumentation and communication from phones helps us do things we’ve never done before, moving us onto the Internet of Things and making it possible to put connected sensors in parking spaces.

With connected cars, we have even more instrumentation and possibilities. We have millions of cars with thermometers, rain detection, GPS and connectivity that can tell the National Weather Service exactly what the weather is with incredible granularity, as well as the more obvious solutions like traffic optimization.

Let’s move on to talk about skills. IBM has an Academic Initiative in which we supply software to universities at no cost, and IBMers work with university administrators and professors on the curriculum and even act as guest lecturers. For Imperial College, we’re providing cloud based marketing analytics software as well as data sets and skills, so that they can focus on teaching the subject rather than worrying about the IT. Since computer science curriculum in schools is changing to focus more on programming skills, we can offer cloud based development environments like IBM Bluemix. We’re working with the Oxford and Cambridge examination board on their modules for cloud, big data and security.

Students at the lecture 21440848

To be honest, it’s still hard. Universities are a competitive environment and they have to offer courses that students are interested in rather than ones that industry and the country need. IT is changing so fast that we can’t keep up.

Lecturers will teach subjects that they’re comfortable with and students will apply for courses that they understand or that their parents are familiar with. A university recently offered a course on social media analytics, which you’d think would be quite trendy and attractive, but they only had two attendees. It used to be that universities would teach theory and the ability to learn, and then industry would hire them and give them the skills. Now, things are moving so fast that industry doesn’t have the skills and is looking for the graduates to bring them.

Looking at the strategy of moving to the cloud and the changing role of the IT department, we’re finding that outsourcing the day-to-day running of the technology brings about a change in skills needed. It’s less about hands-on IT and more about architecture, governance, and managing relationships with third party providers. A lot of this is typically offered by the business faculty of a university, rather than the computing faculty. We need these groups to work closer together.

To a certain extent, we’re addressing this with apprenticeships. IBM has been running an apprenticeship scheme for the last four years. This on-the-job training means that industry can provide hands-on training with the best blend of up-to-the-minute technical, business and personal skills. This has been very effective, with IBM winning the Best Apprenticeship Scheme from Target National Recruitment Awards and National Apprenticeship Services and Everywoman in technology.

In summary, we need to be looking at the new things that can be achieved by moving to cloud and shared services; exploiting mobile and the internet of things; and training for the most appropriate skills in the most appropriate way.

How do you think governments should utilize cloud and the Internet of Things? And what changes do you think are needed to equip students for a cloud based future? Please leave a comment to join the conversation.

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