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Can Internet of Things help create a smarter government?

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My youngest son plans to have a career in Military Intelligence after graduation, so I always cringe when I hear people call “military intelligence” an oxymoron. Until recently, my typical comeback to them would have been, “No, military intelligence is very real; the real oxymoron is ‘smarter Government.'” However, after attending the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in San Francisco and seeing the live Internet Of Things (IoT) demonstration on SoftLayer—and despite the current political climate—I clearly need to find a new response.

For the last few months, my team had been working with the Intel and M2Mi teams on an IoT proof of concept on SoftLayer. Our goal was to be able to do a live demonstration on the IDF showroom floor at our SoftLayer booth. As soon as I arrived, I could immediately tell from the large banners that IoT was the central theme for the entire conference.

I quickly discovered why IoT would be the focus in the first few minutes of the opening keynote when Intel announced their new x86 family, “Quark,” which targets low-power, low-cost, Internet of Things and embedded applications. It is also fully synthesizable with an open architecture and an open ecosystem, which was a huge hit with the thousands of Intel developers in attendance.

As part of the keynote announcement, there were several IoT use cases highlighted from a number of industry segments, such as healthcare, retail and manufacturing. However, the ability to develop IoT services so the government can help its citizens appeared to have the most appeal with the Intel developer community.

A sense of patriotism seemed to emerge from the developers during my discussions with them after the keynote. It was as if one of the foundational principles of our American government, by the people and for the people, started to take on a new meaning. (Of course, the incentives from the Federal Government likely helped spark their enthusiasm, too).

Developers were discussing how they could develop IoT services that could improve basic government services like public transportation, emergency response, and utilities as well as creating advanced government services for artificial intelligence and predictive analytics.

With the only live IoT demonstration at the IDF, we were able to show developers visiting our SoftLayer booth that the future is now for IoT services:

This was eye opening for many of the developers because they did not believe that a cloud service provider could actually deliver the levels of customization, scale and performance needed for the IoT services they wanted to develop. This was the same reaction we initially got from the M2Mi team when we first approached them about doing the IoT proof of concept on SoftLayer.

M2Mi is the secretary for the OASIS MQTT Standard and the chair for the OASIS MQTT Security Sub-Committee. An important aspect of the MQTT Security work is that M2Mi is leading the work to align MQTT to the very important NIST Cyber Security Framework, which includes the White House-sponsored effort for NIST Cyber Security Critical Infrastructure Protection.

M2Mi has been a pioneer in creating the cyber security and networking virtualization needed for machine-to-machine services since they were originally founded on the NASA Research Park, Silicon Valley. Due to this setting, they had the opportunity to work with NASA and the U.S. government on early exploration of IoT services.

The dilemma faced by M2Mi in those explorations was that they could either ensure superior and predictable performance for their M2M services via bare metal servers on-premise (but sacrifice elasticity), or they could use Amazon or RackSpace and gain elasticity (Internet scale) but sacrifice the predictable performance they had with customized bare metal servers.

SoftLayer provided the perfect balance needed for M2Mi by allowing them to leverage a combination of virtual and bare metal servers with full elasticity. SoftLayer gave M2Mi a variety of IaaS APIs, which allowed them to make the same customized optimizations on the bare metal services used for their IO intensive operations.

SoftLayer’s dark fiber overlay network also ensured optimized connectivity and performance to the Vodafone M2M mobile network used to interact with the embedded Intel applications/devices. In other words, the perfect fit for bringing together Cloud First and Mobile First services.

Since the SoftLayer acquisition, there has been a flood of activity with IBM development teams and our IBM ISV partners in building more IoT services on SoftLayer. A particular area of interest is the integration of the IoT services on SoftLayer with the IBM MessageSight.

MessageSight is designed to deliver high volumes of messages with consistent latency. It also supports emerging and established messaging and communication standards, including JMS, WebSockets, and MQTT. MessageSight is scalable to deliver large amounts of data to analytics engines and other types of big data application. These characteristics make it a natural fit for SoftLayer, which shares these same attributives. We have also been working with our federal teams to understand the IoT services needed for the Smarter Government initiative. These are exciting times!

Interested in learning more about how IBM is providing solutions for federal agencies? Join us Oct. 22 for our Federal Cloud Innovation Forum at the Willard Hotel in Washington D.C. The keynote speaker for the event will be Colin Powell. For more information and to register for the event, click here.

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