Google gets into the blockchain, Watson enters your home and car, and the rise of autonomous cybersecurity— This Week’s Top 10 Reads from a Chief Innovation Officer

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I read over 100 articles this week so you don’t have to — Here are the top 10 you should read over the weekend and why they matter for the public sector. Let’s dive into this week’s reads —

The Articles —

Out of over 100 articles, here are the top 10 that stood out this week:

📄 NIST Report on Blockchain Technology Aims to Go Beyond the Hype http://bit.ly/2Gkod1h (H/T Urban.Us)

🤖 JASK and the future of autonomous cybersecurity https://tcrn.ch/2HYHRNi

🤯 What Will Our Society Look Like When Artificial Intelligence Is Everywhere? http://bit.ly/2DJ6yLp

🚙 IBM’s Watson-based voice assistant is coming to cars and smart homes http://engt.co/2FNnIxc

💡 Google Is Working on Its Own Blockchain-Related Technology https://bloom.bg/2GpfJGb

🔎 IBM has created a computer smaller than a grain of salt http://on.mash.to/2GFEA69

⚠️ Next Steps After Russian Attacks on U.S. Critical Infrastructure http://bit.ly/2G90vVO

😠 This Call May Be Monitored for Tone and Emotion http://bit.ly/2G5OzUx

⁉️ Is Your Company Ready For AI? Ask Yourself These Nine Questions http://bit.ly/2u44iyK

🔒 How Smart Home Lock-In Imprisons You, And Why That Might Change http://bit.ly/2HP2r2H

👉 Bonus — First look at our gov tech market year in review for 2017 and projections for the remainder of 2018 —https://www.beautiful.ai/deck/-L8D903cr4cblzOlt6Ju/State-of-Gov-Tech-2017

The Bottom Line —

Just in case you don’t have time to read each article, here are the key takeaways and why each one matters for government:

📄 NIST Report on Blockchain Technology Aims to Go Beyond the Hype http://bit.ly/2Gkod1h (H/T Urban.Us)

🏛 Why it Matters for Government: For those of you interested in the potential for blockchain to be used in the public sector, this new NIST report provides a deep dive (almost 60 pages worth) into the core technology and potential use-cases. There is no doubt that the blockchain has major applicability in the public sector, but it’s important to remember that it’s not a silver bullet to our infrastructure, data and transactional problems in government. For government agencies interested in learning more about the technology I encourage you to read the NIST report, look at Deloitte’s research on blockchain in the public sector, and follow the State of Illinois Blockchain Initiative.

🤖 JASK and the future of autonomous cybersecurity https://tcrn.ch/2HYHRNi

🏛 Why it Matters for Government: This was an interesting read that provides a glimpse of the future of autonomous cybersecurity through a new startup called JASK. Cyber attacks today are mostly conducting through large semi-autonomous botnets and automated scripting, but defense is often a manual process that requires vast human hours of analyzing potential threats. JASK uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to augment security analyst by consolidating and grouping multiple streams of information — but eventually, full-automation. In my opinion, the role of government cybersecurity staff will morph into that of a coaching staff — and the players they are coaching will be autonomous bots and software-defined roles. Sound crazy? One city — Long Beach, California — is already preparing for this future by skipping hiring a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) and going directly to a Cyber Risk Officer, whose job it is to mitigate risk and coordinate a software-defined CISO. For government agencies, the rise of software-defined positions will create changes in the workforce, shifting some employees into new coaching-like roles, but in the end, increasing satisfaction and productivity across the board.

🤯 What Will Our Society Look Like When Artificial Intelligence Is Everywhere? http://bit.ly/2DJ6yLp

🏛 Why it Matters for Government: This was a fun read that illustrated one view at an AI-infused society and the challenges and new behaviors that emerged from it. Although I don’t foresee all of the predictions becoming a reality, it’s a good exercise to think about the multiple possible futures — something my futurist friends at SXSW trained mayors how to do — so that you can better dictate the future you want. For government agencies, understanding and preparing for the societal implications of AI is vital because the changes will be quick — and hit the hardest at the state and local levels of government.

🚙 IBM’s Watson-based voice assistant is coming to cars and smart homes http://engt.co/2FNnIxc

🏛 Why it Matters for Government: At IBM’s Think 2018 conference, IBM announced Watson Assistant — an extension of IBM’s Watson to the consumer space, similar to Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. The most important thing about this announcement is that Watson Assistant is not tied to a specific piece of hardware, so it can be embedded into a variety of experiences and channels by hardware manufacturers and software creators alike. For government agencies, as voice assistants continue to increase in consumer adoption it will be important to follow their development and plan eventual implementation as their development platforms mature. It is also worth noting many agencies have already begun implementing voice assistant technologies, but each of these is it’s own skill or voice app, separate from the rest. With 90,000 government agencies in the United States, that is an unsustainable amount of individual voice assistants. In the future, I believe a single voice skill will be able to identify and query the relevant government application programming interface (API) for each agency in the right context of the ask, but there is much work to be done to lay a foundation for doing it (federated identity management, shared data standards, etc.).

💡 Google Is Working on Its Own Blockchain-Related Technology https://bloom.bg/2GpfJGb

🏛 Why it Matters for Government: Google is continuing to work on its own blockchain technology for the Google cloud. In 2016, it was announced that Google was piloting blockchain technologies with developers, and now two years later — development is still ongoing and progressing. Google’s use and eventually deployment of blockchain technologies is fascinating because of the vast amount of data and services Google powers. For government agencies, this article validates that eventual public sector blockchain use-cases will be ushered in by the large platform companies with the resources to democratize development. I often equate blockchain today to MS-DOS prior to the graphical user-interface — it was a powerful technology that was one barrier away from mass-utilization. For those interested in learning more about blockchain in government, I’ve aggregated some links here.

🔎 IBM has created a computer smaller than a grain of salt http://on.mash.to/2GFEA69

🏛 Why it Matters for Government: Also at IBM’s Think 2018 conference, a new computer prototype was unveiled that is smaller than a grain of salt and could literally be put anywhere. Although the specs of this computer are equivalent to 1990s processor, that is still powerful enough to do major processing for small Internet-of-Things devices. For government agencies, it’s important to note a recent shift in how IoT devices are leveraged — for the longest time, we envisioned putting Internet-enabled sensors at the edge of networks that would leverage a centralized cloud to do their computing. Today, advancements like IBM’s announcement are enabling more processing to be done on small internet-enabled devices at the edge of networks — making the network more resilient and intelligent. This also makes these devices more susceptible to being targeted by hackers to power bot-nets of the future.

⚠️ Next Steps After Russian Attacks on U.S. Critical Infrastructure http://bit.ly/2G90vVO

🏛 Why it Matters for Government: Last week we looked at how the US-CERT warned mission-critical infrastructure agencies about Russian attempts to infiltrate their IT environments, and this week we look at Dan Lohrmann’s recommendations to GovTech.com on how agencies should respond (as well as a great breakdown of events leading up to the US-CERT notice). For government agencies interested in how to respond to these new threats, Lohrmann recommends the following tactics:

  1. Read the US-CERT Alert issued this past week
  2. Work with owners/operators on coordinated plans
  3. Test your government plans with private-sector owners and operators of critical infrastructure.
😠 This Call May Be Monitored for Tone and Emotion http://bit.ly/2G5OzUx

🏛 Why it Matters for Government: This was an interesting look at how call-centers are applying voice-analysis algorithms to understand worker and caller emotion in almost real-time. MetLife is using the technology to provide a better experience for customers by augmenting their call-center employees with response recommendations based on customer emotions. For government agencies, there are opportunities to leverage the technology in a similar manner to enhance the effectiveness of 311 calls and much more. One thing to keep in mind is making sure constituents understand how the technology is being used and what happens to their interaction data afterward.

⁉️ Is Your Company Ready For AI? Ask Yourself These Nine Questions http://bit.ly/2u44iyK

🏛 Why it Matters for Government: One of the most talked about technologies today inside and outside of government is artificial intelligence (AI). In a recent study we conducted at the Center for Digital Government, we found 52% of counties and 37% of cities said they are currently using AI technologies in their operations. For those respondents that are not using it, 21% of counties and 27% of cities plan on using AI in the near future. For government agencies, AI can help solve major challenges but it can also be an expensive shiny object if it’s not applied properly. These nine questions, although constructed towards a private-sector company, are also good ones to think about as you explore how and when to apply AI in your agency.

🔒 How Smart Home Lock-In Imprisons You, And Why That Might Change http://bit.ly/2HP2r2H

🏛 Why it Matters for Government: The author of this piece hit the proverbial nail, The tech giants’ current approach to smart homes is a lot like the one they took with mobile devices a decade ago. Instead of championing interoperability, companies created their own platforms, each with their own set of tools that allowed developers to build apps. Instead of the open web, we got a bunch of separate app stores.” Meaning that the standards war with smart homes and the Internet of Things is having a VHS and Betamax moment, only this time it’s impacting far more than our entertainment systems. There are numerous organizations trying to solve this gap including the Open Connectivity Foundation, the NICE Alliance and even companies like Mozilla. Unfortunately, these non-profit approaches are also fragmented. For government agencies, I have two recommendations:

  1. Don’t neglect consumer IoT — Many agencies I have spoken with are only focused on enterprise IoT systems (SCADA, etc.), but fail to see the risk of a consumer IoT not having standards. The lines between enterprise and consumer IoT are blurring and will eventually go away, so don’t treat them as separate things. Remember, the last major infrastructure attack on the Internet was fueled by hacked consumer devices, it wouldn’t be hard for them to point those devices at a piece of government-run mission-critical infrastructure.
  2. Force a standards conversation — We have to move beyond the industry standards fragmentation we have today, so government agencies (at all levels) need to look for opportunities to convene industry together to work out shared standards and frameworks that move beyond just a conceptual framework stuck in a PDF.

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