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Internet of Things: governance proposals in the pipeline

Emily Parris
10/10/2012
How should the Internet of Things ("IoT") be managed and governed?  The European Commission's view is that some form of policy intervention at a European level is needed to steer the development of How should the Internet of Things ("IoT") be managed and governed?  The European Commission's view is that some form of policy intervention at a European level is needed to steer the development of the IoT.  Within the next couple of weeks, we should have a better idea of the Commission's plans when it publishes the outcome of its recent public consultation.   The challenge is how to shape a governance framework that both fosters the economic, business and societal benefits promised by the IoT and incorporates appropriate privacy, security and ethical safeguards.  A Commission "Recommendation" for an IoT governance  framework is expected mid-2013.  

The Internet of Things refers to networks of every-day objects, devices and machines that are able to process and exchange information, for example, about an object's location, its surroundings or its physical condition, and act or react accordingly.  Analysis Mason predicts that by 2020, the IoT could comprise as many as 2.1 billion connected items. The range of uses and the potential benefits are enormous, from freight management, smart meters and smart grids, remote monitoring and management of chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease, sensors in medication containers that can alert patients if they forget to take their scheduled dose through to intelligent traffic management solutions that can improve road safety and reduce congestion and fuel costs.

Among the issues that the Commission has in its sights are:

  • Ensuring that the identifiers that objects use to communicate with one another are sufficently open to support interoperability, competition and consumer choice.

  • Should existing data protection laws be supplemented with additional IoT-specific laws?  IoT raises special privacy and ethical concerns because the data is processed and exchanged automatically and because connected objects might make automated decisions based on the data held.

  • Security. This is a particular concern if connected devices are linked to critical infrastructure such as the power supply or impact  person's environment, health or safety.


We'll be following and reporting on the Commission's proposals on Tech Bytes.

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