The Internet of Things (IoT) can provide U.S. state and local government executives with access to timely, granular and complete data needed to support strategic and tactical decision making. This access is a vital part of developing “smart cities,” according to a new report from IDC Government Insights.

The report explains the role of the IoT in smart cities and provides a planning framework that allows state and city organizations to prepare for the fast pace of technology transformation around trends including cloud, mobile, social networks and big data/analytics.

While government can expect a financial return from IoT through efficiencies and cost savings, there are also social and environmental returns, as departments and agencies can meet specific targets, outcomes and policy goals, the report says.

For example, IoT technologies can help state and local governments reduce traffic congestion, respond more quickly to emergencies, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and serve citizens more effectively.

A challenge facing state and local government today around IoT efforts is the lack of education and awareness. Many department leaders have specific problems they’d like to solve that would be a fit for IoT, but they’re not clear on what IoT means in practical terms, what are specific use cases, and what other cities have already tested and tried.

"The Internet of Things is an emerging reality, and U.S. cities and states cannot avoid the ramifications of new IP-enabled and connected devices and their potential impact on the delivery of government services and on the quality of life of citizens," Ruthbea Yesner Clarke, director, Smart Cities Strategies program, at ID Government Insights, said in a statement.

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