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Booz Allen IoT Prototypes Signal Move Toward Health-Care, Emergency-Response Products

The consultancy is developing a platform to improve data security at hospitals, as well as a safety system for first-responders.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Jun 16, 2015

Booz Allen is known for its business- and risk-management consultancy work, but what most people do not realize, says Walton Smith, a principal at the firm, is that the company also has a very active engineering arm, which develops sensor-based tools and systems, specializing in rapid prototyping. "These are mostly for our federal clients," Smith admits, "for whom we might make four prototypes that are dropped in the middle of nowhere [used for a covert operation], and we can't talk about it."

Booz Allen employs some of the top data scientists in the world, Smith asserts, and this knowledge base forms the foundation of the company's data-security services. "Customers hire us to be their watchtower for cyber-security," he says.

Walton Smith
It's not surprising, then, that Booz Allen demonstrated two prototype IoT products last week that are designed for highly secure and, in one case, dangerous operational situations. The prototypes are part of a bigger strategy to roll out products and services, in a wide range of industries, that leverage the company's data security and engineering know-how.

One prototype, dubbed District Defend, is a location-based security system for highly mobile, connected devices, such as smartphones or tablets. At the Internet of Things World conference, held last week in San Francisco, Booz Allen demonstrated District Defend as a health-care application, but Smith says it could also be useful in other industries, such as manufacturing or energy extraction—anywhere that sensitive data must be protected from falling into the wrong hands.

According to Smith, District Defend is a means of controlling access to data through a mobile device by requiring multi-point authentication, based on external sensors. For example, say a doctor with a tablet enters a hospital room and calls up a patient's electronic health records. He consults with the patient, then goes to lunch, and then forgets the tablet—still open to that patient's records—at his lunch table. If that device falls into the wrong hands, the physician may have just created a serious breach of the patient's data security (and either way, Smith notes, he has breached the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act [HIPPA]).

Powered by District Defend, the tablet could be set to access the patient's records only when the device detects the presence—through RFID-based identity tags, for instance—of both the doctor and the patient.

"Right now [in hospitals], it's all or nothing, in most cases," Smith states. "If I am a doctor, I should have access to a patient's health records. If I'm the guy who needs to clean the bedpan, all I need to know is when I need to go in and clean a room." Using District Defend, mobile devices could deliver data based on who is using the tablet and where he or she is located.

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