Federal Agency Use of Sensors Technologies Helps Drive the Internet of Things

Posted by John Slye on September 29, 2017

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Agencies are spending millions of dollars on sensor technologies, contributing to the advancement of the Internet of Things.

Deltek’s Emerging Federal Technology Markets, 2018 report explores trends in the adoption and use of sensor technologies/Internet of Things, blockchain technology, and artificial intelligence/machine learning by federal agencies. Our analysis of sensor technologies encompassed the following three broad but related areas of the Internet of Things (IoT), Machine-to-Machine (M2M), and Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS).

Internet of Things (IoT)

This is the interconnection of uniquely identifiable physical devices with embedded technology to communicate, sense, or interact with other physical devices.

Deltek found that sensor-centric efforts in both Defense and Civilian segments center on R&D to evolve new capabilities, integration and O&M to improve existing operations, and cybersecurity to harden IoT systems’ cyber-resilience. The annual Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) program outlines areas of basic and applied R&D in emerging technologies that agencies are funding. Proposed R&D funding for programs containing IoT/sensor technology related initiatives in FY 2017 amounts to about $1.1 billion across all agencies that receive NITRD funding.  

Existing development and collaborative initiatives at DoD, DHS, NTIRD, NIST, NSF, and others continue to expose potential opportunities, both immediate and future.

Machine-to-Machine (M2M)

These are the technologies that allow wired or wireless systems to communicate with other devices of the same type and perform actions without manual human intervention. They often include embedded, dedicated components that communicate primarily point-to-point and are managed remotely or via automation to contain maintenance costs.

Many, if not most, machine-to-machine functionalities and components are elements of existing logistics, healthcare, weapons, and other systems, given that M2M is perhaps one of the most mature emerging technology areas.

Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS)

These are “smart” networked systems with embedded sensors, processors and actuators designed to sense and interact with the physical world (including the human users.) Like the name denotes, CPS is where “cyber” and “physical” elements intertwine into one system. The computing, controlling, sensing and networking elements can be integrated into every component, requiring each piece of the chain to be interoperable and (increasingly important) secure.

Similar to the broader total sensor market, Deltek found that research and development efforts dominate CPS spending reported by federal departments and agencies with reported prime contract obligations in FY 2016 (the most recent full fiscal year available) coming in around $1.8 million. Additional related spending may exist within broader programs and systems integration efforts that have CPS as a component.

The rapid proliferation of sensor technologies will continue to expand the convergence of cyber- and physical systems and related components and applications. Other emerging technologies will complement and accelerate this convergence.

Overall, Deltek expects that agency investment in sensor-related technologies will continue to grow in broad areas of defense, intelligence, and civilian applications. However, harnessing, managing, and securing the capabilities afforded by sensors is an ongoing challenge and agencies will look to industry for both advanced solutions and the know-how to develop and integrate these technologies to meet their complex missions.

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