20-what?!  13? Seriously? I thought the Mayans were taking care of this, but ok.  We’re two years shy of the hoverboard.  No one has flashy-thinged my memory away with a neuralyzer.  Right?  But, 3-D printers, now those are real and cool.  Useful though? That’s another question.

So now that we’re here, in the future, what can we expect in 2013 from our technology?  What technologies will have the biggest impact on the public sector? Where should we focus limited resources?  To find out, let’s start where we left off last year—with Bring Your Own Everything (BYOE).

Mobile Access to Citizen Services — Bring Your Own Everything

“Bring Your Own Everything” was originally discussed in my post last year — it was important then, and it still is.  What we’ve learned since that time is that these two movements are tied together.  Mobile access to citizen services is still the single greatest technology trend for state and local governments.

Gartner recently reported that smart device sales will top 1 billion in 2013. But what is the relationship of mobile proliferation to the “BYOD” trend?  Well, as business and government find it more economical to share the burden of mobile costs with employees, while also providing more freedom for employees to work with the technologies of their choice, smartphones become a win-win for both the business and the employee. But the devices aren’t the only important aspect – it’s what you do with them that counts. In this post I’ll discuss three mobile enablers for the public sector that are poised to shift how government interacts with its employees and its citizens.

Near Field Communications

What is Near Field Communications or NFC?It’s essentially RFID – or radio frequency identification — and it’s similar to Bluetooth.  NFC allows you to touch (or be within a few centimeters of) devices to transfer information, especially payment information.  For layman illustration purposes, think about the latest Samsung Galaxy S III and how the S Beam technology allows two people to hold their phones together and share photos, contacts, etc.  Now imagine your most common purchases taking place that easily.

The most common question will be, is that for real?  Yes, though it is new.  It’s new all over, so don’t expect it to be widely implemented anywhere tomorrow.  However, Google Wallet is already allowing consumers to store credit card information and pay using the MasterCard Pay Pass system.  The number of NFC enabled smartphones is on the rise, Further, Isis, a joint venture between the major carriers is already trialing in 2 cities.  Isis has also partnered with the major credit card companies.  This is the engine behind mobile payments and it’s been moving down the tracks for 2 years now.  We should see real headway in 2013.

Next question: If this technology is so new, won’t government agencies be hesitant to adopt it?  I’m stepping out a limb on here, a branch really, to say…NO. Government won’t wait too long. While it makes sense for government to wait until the technology has begun to be standardized before investing significantly, there are many signs that bode well for government adoption in the near term.  Several European countries are already trialing NFC technology for paying mass transportation fares.  You can pay parking meters right from your phone.

Mobile payments aren’t the only function though.  Storing and sharing almost any kind of information is possible.  I envision a world where I can share driver’s license and insurance information with police or other government agencies for services while keeping the paper social security card or bill safely stored.  See Melanie Pinola’s article over at LifeHacker for some suggestions.

Is this an ambitious endeavor?  Yes.  Putting NFC on the list for 2013 will make it very easy for you to come back next year and razz me, but I just can’t help it—I’m excited!

Big Data

The newest buzzword in government is everywhere.  Big data. Every organization and publication is talking about it, about how big it is, and revolutionary — and data-like.  But what does it mean?  The problem is that it means a lot of things.

Big data is, first and foremost, lots of data.  When it comes to citizen data, there is driver data-licensing, vehicle registration, and associated taxes or even violations, just for example.  There’s a myriad data points about you as an individual citizen and your interaction with various government agencies for services, programs, or even violations.  The real meaning of big data though is the larger, encompassing opportunity to capture that data, turn it into intelligence, and, ultimately, use it to improve service.  See my previous post for deeper dive about what Big Data means for government.

I won’t predict the big data predicament– if you can call it that– will be solved in 2013, but rather that all roads lead there.  Mobility is the means of generating and capturing big data.  Whether it’s automated through smart devices like parking meters, meter readers, traffic sensors, or payment data through NFC or the use of mobile applications, an agency’s mobile acuity and investment will determine their ability to capture and leverage big data.

The cloud will be the primary means for storage and likely for processing power.  The network investment and security will still be necessary to bring it all together and keep that data safe.  Finally, there’s the sheer genius behind the processing power to make data into intelligence. We will see the same trajectory from big data that we saw with cloud in the last year as it becomes an integral part of the lexicon and its role is further defined.

As these mobile-tech trends help shape the public sector of the future, what advances do you see coming that I haven’t covered yet? How will mobile-tech change the way you work or interact with the government?