After CES: Innovative Uses of Consumer Electronics in Government

In this Federal Times article, Sapient’s Chief Technology Officer, Bill Annibell, discusses how innovations at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) could be utilized in the public sector of the future. Networks of drones could navigate disaster areas and aid in search and rescue operations or secure our borders with less manpower. Health and fitness trackers could not only serve exercise fiends, but also ensure the elderly are receiving proper government services or veterans are monitored for symptoms of PTSD. New technologies are transforming the private sector constantly, and many of these innovations have untapped benefits for the public sector as well. Read the full article originally posted on Federal Times and copied below. 

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As most people prepare to jump back into their daily grind after the New Year’s holiday, I instead pack my bags to head to Las Vegas to attend the International Consumer Electronics Show (aka CES). Joined by over 170,000 of my closest friends (a new record) from 153 countries, I looked forward to seeing first-hand the latest and greatest consumer electronics from 3,631 exhibiting companies located in over 2.2 million net square feet of exhibit space spread across the city.

Needless to say, CES is not for the faint of heart. One must persevere through long lines, huge crowds and be prepared to walk mile upon mile. This show taxes Las Vegas’ infrastructure to its limits.

As a technology consultant, I attend CES to get a glimpse into the future, which allows me to envision how emerging technologies can be applied to real world problems particularly in the public sector. With over 20 years in this industry, my focus is less on the flashy televisions with screen resolutions of 8K (medical imaging quality, and YES, absolutely amazing!) and more on practical uses of consumer technologies that are often outside the realm of how they are marketed or intended.

With that in mind, walking away from CES 2016, I thought of multiple areas of innovation and insight adaptable to government:

Drones have come a long way in the last year: Perhaps one of the most impressive demonstrations at CES was the self-driving drone that not only followed an individual on a bicycle through an obstacle course but was able to sense and avoid random falling objects. A network of drones (literally hundreds of them) with such technology, equipped with cameras and also infrared and thermal imaging sensors could find a variety of use cases in the public sector. They would be a big help to search and rescue operations, for example, or as part of a “digital border” for Customs and Border Protection.

Imagine a network of drones that could safely navigate a disaster area above or below ground without human intervention, sending sensor data to a central hub. With this level of speed and flexibility, first responders could focus solely on rescuing citizens while these self-driving and networked drones did all the searching. Equally promising is the possible use of networked drones to secure our borders by leveraging sensors (already on the ground) to activate a fleet of drones to follow and record illegal activity at our borders alerting our limited human resources exactly where such activity is occurring and their exact movements in real-time.

Health and fitness trackers are only scratching the surface: The vast majority of health and fitness trackers are focused heavily on fitness enthusiasts. Although there are some companies considering general health concerns (e.g. heart rate, blood pressure, etc.), there is a huge opportunity to leverage these technologies in support of citizen services. As the elderly find themselves living longer and often alone, government services for senior citizens could be enhanced to support medicine compliance, safety based on location deviation and/or lack of movement, and tracking capabilities for everyday needs, such as the arrival of food stamps cards or checks. Assuming they choose to opt-in to such a service, this information could be securely sent to the appropriate agency that could proactively provide assistance to senior citizens as needed.

These same health and fitness trackers could be repurposed to support veterans to monitor signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, for example, allowing the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide supportive services in near real-time. Clinical trials at the VA and/or the National Institutes of Health could be enhanced by the use of wearables providing continuous monitoring of health indicators without the need to be in a hospital or a research center to do so.

CES is the place where I allow my imagination to run wild, for technology vendors are in the business of making money and that often leads them to market their products to the masses in a very targeted fashion. By keeping the mission of the public sector in mind, envisioning the use of these technologies in unique ways that can enhance citizen services or leverage technology to maximize the use of limited resources allows for organizations to take advantage of digital disruption. Be it in homeland security or federal health, these are just a few ways emerging technologies could be used in a unique fashion to better service our citizens and secure our nation.

Bill Annibell is the Chief Technology Officer for Sapient Government Services. With a unique understanding of how the intersection of user experience, emerging trends and security are changing the ways organizations must leverage technology, Bill enables long-term success for clients in the public and private sectors. 

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Originally posted on Federal Times
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