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Public sector digital trends 2023 collection | Article

Internet of Things (IoT) everywhere

There has been significant innovation in public services use of IoT sensors, particularly in social care settings, compliance with building codes and regulations, traffic management and environmental management applications. In these and other application areas, IoT and the way in which the data they generate is used, shared, and controlled is set to grow rapidly in 2023.

With greater maturity of understanding and learning about the security and privacy risks, IoT is becoming a core digital technology, rather than an add-on often deployed outside IT policies and compliance regimes. Public services generally are investing heavily in IoT sensors to track a wide variety of environmental and social activities, all of which come with ethical and security implications.

“We are seeing continued exponential growth in data from multiple sources, with a growth in particular in data streaming from IoT devices. Artificial intelligence is increasingly being used to analyse this data.”

Clark Rainer, Chief Information Officer, Office of the Attorney General, Georgia Department of Law, USA

Proliferation of IoT devices will become one of the biggest risks and trust issues for CIOs to control in the public sector. Knowing where all the devices are placed, the data they capture, their compliance with relevant standards and security management are all important considerations, particularly where sensors are used in sensitive or high-risk areas, such as social care settings, or in applications linked to secure networks.


Case studies

South London Partnership – IoT programme

InnOvaTe ‘Internet of Things’ Programme (southlondonpartnership.co.uk)

South London Partnership’s £4m InnOvaTe Programme is using the IoT to help boroughs manage and mitigate new challenges arising from the Covid pandemic, drive economic recovery and trial solutions to help people live better and healthier lives.

By connecting sensors across borough boundaries, the programme provides real-time intelligence in areas such as:

  • Air quality monitoring outside schools
  • Verifying the benefits and impacts of road closures during school drop-off
  • Providing insights for street walkway and route improvements
  • Monitoring damp and mould in social housing
  • Controlling fly-tipping
  • Providing sensors in vulnerable residents’ homes for safety and wellbeing support.

A LOLA international digital programme award winner in 2022, the programme has raised the profile of data as a strategic tool:

“We were able to halt the decline in residents’ health and quantify the level of fuel poverty within vulnerable resident cohorts, and in a number of cases, IoT sensors were part of life-saving responses.”

– Andrew Parsons, SLP Programme Manager at Sutton Council

“[InnOvaTe has the] most advanced and broad-ranging set of IoT use cases I’ve seen. They should be really proud of what has been achieved here.”

– Theo Blackwell, Chief Digital Officer, Greater London Authority (GLA), England

Stirling Council – IoT in social housing

Stirling Council to deploy 50,000 IoT devices in social housing (ukauthority.com)

Stirling Council in Scotland plans to use 50,000 devices in its social housing in the coming year, alongside release of a free app for residents to understand their home environments and energy consumption levels. The sensors will monitor factors such as damp, mould, ventilation, and other issues. Stirling Council will be able to identify the least thermally efficient homes and take intelligent decisions on how to target its capital investment in housing.

Digital Flanders – interoperability and user control over IoT in the home

Enterprise-ready Solid Platform (vlaanderen.be)

“Data-driven devices such as those used to optimise energy consumption in households based on the life pattern of individuals have become key in our society. In everyday life, Internet of Things (IoT) devices can include a wide range of products, such as smart thermostats, security cameras, smart appliances, and more.

These developments represent a shift from centralised applications towards decentralised system-on-chip devices that processes the information on the edge. The emergence of 5G accelerates this process. This creates new challenges in terms of interoperability and data portability that must prevent users from losing control over their own data or creating a vendor lock-in. To cope with these challenges, Flanders builds upon an approach using the decentralised Solid ecosystem, which is already successfully applied in client-server solutions that give users control over their own data.”

– Raf Buyle, Digitaal Vlaanderen (Digital Flanders), Belgium.