Internet of Things

How feds, military might deploy consumer IoT gear

Shutterstock image: internet of things, connectivity.

The government's old model for acquiring goods and services is becoming increasingly obsolete as everyday devices become networked, according to some experts.

Some estimates project that in the not-to-distant future, each square kilometer of a city will have 1 million Internet-connected devices, and John Pellegrino, deputy assistant secretary of the Army, said the service has an opportunity to take advantage of the ubiquity of networks and devices to enrich its sensory and data input. He made the comments during a keynote address at AFCEA Washington's Internet of Things Summit on May 17.

Given the sketchy availability of official networks, rapidly changing partnerships and cross-network communications requirements on the modern battlefield, Pellegrino said the Army must be highly adaptive in its technological approach. Soldiers equipped to handle complex environments will most likely be using some commercial technology, he added.

Certain civilian agencies share the military's need for cutting-edge, readily available and inexpensive IoT technologies, such as wrist-worn biometric sensors and clothing equipped with ballistic sensors. However, the federal government's traditional years-long technology development practices are falling by the wayside or hampering its use of IoT, said Wolf Tombe, CTO at Customs and Border Protection.

"We need consumer-grade technology" to handle some applications, he added. "The myth that consumer grade isn't good enough for government is poppycock."

Maj. Scott Cuomo, Marine Air-Ground Task Force planner and ground combat element integration officer at the U.S. Marine Corps, agreed. "We have to leverage commercial," he said.

He added that the Marines tried to develop a portable support system that was ruggedized for harsh environments, but it proved to be too bulky to move easily.

Cuomo said policies that were developed before the advent of the Internet are interfering with IoT adoption. The military limits the use of cell phones in the field because they can be used to track troops. However, that restriction seems antiquated given the fact that adversaries' cell phones have geospatial apps and location capabilities.

"If I'm rolling down a street" in a combat zone, with network streaming and cameras on every phone, "my adversaries probably already know where I am. Why preclude ourselves?"

He also said Syrian fighters have directed mortar fire using nothing but a geospatial app on a cell phone.

Old government rules tend to bog down advancing technology with bulky security and other requirements that are expensive and cumbersome, Cuomo said. Security shouldn't have to rely on a strict policy, he added, and more flexible rules would result in more effective training and other benefits.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


Featured

  • FCW Perspectives
    human machine interface

    Your agency isn’t ready for AI

    To truly take advantage, government must retool both its data and its infrastructure.

  • Cybersecurity
    secure network (bluebay/Shutterstock.com)

    Federal CISO floats potential for new supply chain regs

    The federal government's top IT security chief and canvassed industry for feedback on how to shape new rules of the road for federal acquisition and procurement.

  • People
    DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, shown here at her Nov. 8, 2017, confirmation hearing. DHS Photo by Jetta Disco

    DHS chief Nielsen resigns

    Kirstjen Nielsen, the first Homeland Security secretary with a background in cybersecurity, is being replaced on an acting basis by the Customs and Border Protection chief. Her last day is April 10.

Stay Connected

FCW INSIDER

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.