Transportation’s Maria Roat on the momentum of data in 2015

CTO Maria Roat discusses the Department of Transportation’s foray into big data, cloud and smart city technology.

As the Department of Transportation explores potential applications for the Internet of Things, concepts like virtualization, autonomous vehicles and cloud storage are at the top of its priority list, Chief Technology Officer Maria Roat told FedScoop in an exclusive interview.

“There’s been a big interest in data and visualization and analytics, and we’re really taking that interest and momentum we’ve generated — we’ve got a chief data officer now — we’re taking that momentum and really looking at how we share that information across the department,” Roat said. “Using innovation in that we’re sharing that information, looking how we can use data from a multimodal perspective.”

With widespread urban interconnectivity a burgeoning possibility, the DOT is preparing new ways to store — and secure — what promise to be gargantuan data sets.


“When you look at hybrid cloud solutions, you have data moving outside of your traditional perimeter within an agency,” Roat said. “Think of the cloud — it could be an extension of your network. And all the sudden you’ve got data that’s moving outside into the cloud, back and forth as users query it, and you really have to pay attention to what those pipes are — whether they’re going in or coming out.”

The DOT anticipates that a significant proportion of this new data will be the product of connected vehicles, a prospect that it has poured significant resources into researching. Not only will the vehicles be producing metadata — so too will traffic lights, road blocks and other vehicles in relation to each other. In a city of smart technology with autonomous communication capabilities, the data avenues are virtually endless.

“If you think of all the things that could potentially have sensors…how do you make that available to a driver?” Roat said.

She added, “There’s going to be a ton of [data] when you’re talking the sensor arena. And then, what do you need to keep?”

With the availability of smart technology expected to expand exponentially in coming years, Roat promises to use her remaining tenure to look towards the horizon.


“I’m really looking out for the next three years, saying… ‘Where does the department need to positioned to be able to support…changes in data as we move to the cloud — data from vehicles as we’re doing research in testing? All of those aspects.”

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