You probably already know plenty about the latest in consumer high-tech gadgetry from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week. But you might not be as familiar about what happened at the 10th annual CES Government, which preceded the main event. The five biggest takeaways:

The Internet of Things
The Internet isn’t just for smartphones, tablets, and computers anymore. The Internet of Things (IoT) introduces the idea that anything –lights, thermostats, cars, even chairs and pianos – can connect, communicate and be controlled via the Web. At CES, Samsung made a splash, announcing that by 2020, all their products will be connected to the IoT.
For government, the implications could be huge; imagine smart buildings, smart systems and more in your offices, but also new policy and regulatory concerns. FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez stressed the need for Feds to outline privacy and security standards for the burgeoning IoT ecosystem. Vendors will be collecting even more data on the public, which promises a treasure trove for advertisers and hackers, alike. Standards are needed to safeguard that data.
More than 100 companies had commercial drone systems on display. But The Bionic Bird sang the sweetest tune. Equipped with a Bluetooth radio, your smartphone acts as the drone controller. Plus, it charges with a plastic egg. Drones have never been so cute.
But the Federal Aviation Administration is not keeping up, notes Politico’s Tony Romm. “For all the work here to highlight the nascent market for unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, there are still serious restrictions on where companies and consumers can test their craft in the United States. The FAA has been working for months on new rules that would open the skies for more drones, but the agency’s final product isn’t expected until perhaps 2017 – years beyond what Congress intended when it tasked the FAA to study the issue.”
CNN said Monday that it reached an agreement with the FAA that could result in the use of drones by news organizations. CNN hopes to “get beyond hobby-grade equipment and to establish what options are available and workable to produce high quality video journalism using various types of UAVs and camera setups,” CNN Senior Vice President David Vigilante said in a release. News organizations decried the FAA’s decision last year to ban drones for journalism, as the news outlets cited the First Amendment for their right to use the technology.
Wearables are Finally Wearable 
No, you still won’t look cool in your Google Glasses, but you may see more discreet wearables showing up in the workplaces soon. Law enforcement is slowly embracing wearable cameras, and other devices are just around the corner for the military, as well.
Healthcare authorities are advocating for wearables in exercise routines as well as in hospitals. The presence of tech in the doctor’s office increases transparency while decreasing paper trails. Instant communication could improve efficiency during emergencies as well as decrease downtime during workdays. At this point in time, wearable technology presents more questions than solutions, but the potential is boundless. How could a park ranger utilize hands-free communication? What if census takers could immediately transmit information to their database?
Virtual Reality
Augmented or virtual reality (VR) has long been a critical component in military training, not just for flight simulators but for teaching a range of critical battlefield skills, from driving and bomb disposal tobattlefield medicine. Now the University of Southern California is using VR to combat post-traumatic stress disorder, helping patients by reconstructing events in a virtual environment.
But Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg bought virtual reality simulator Oculus Rift for $2 billion with even greater aspirations. He and others see the emerging technology as a major player in the future of media that can be used to map out buildings in the field of architecture, simulate travel, public speaking, and more importantly, ameliorate the field of education by integrating new experiences for students. The Feds could invest in such technology with the foresight of it becoming a major cross-industry tool in the future.
Net Neutrality
Net neutrality may seem a bore, but it remains a critical issue for feds and technology types. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said there remains a need to find balance between the allowance for innovation and the need to incentivize Internet Service Providers’ continued investment in broadband. He essentially has decided to back the White House’s position on net neutrality, hinting that our open Internet is here to stay.
If most of our emerging technologies hinge on the idea of the Internet of Things, Feds will need to figure out how to not just maintain – but continually improve – our nation’s wireless Internet infrastructure to accommodate the growth of data.
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MeriTalk Staff