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Internet of things (IoT)

Updates

12 Jan 2017

In its recently published report on Technology, Media and Telecommunications Predictions, Deloitte predicts that over 300 million smartphones will have on-board neural network machine learning capability in 2017, allowing devices to perform machine learning tasks even when offline. This will enhance applications such as indoor navigation, augmented reality, speech recognition, and language translation. Such capabilities are also likely to be found in tens of millions drones, tablets, cars, virtual or augmented reality devices, medical tools, etc. Deloitte also expects that DDoS attacks, including those involving compromised IoT devices, will be more intense and frequent in 2017. The company, however, notes that embedded machine learning capabilities have the potential to protect devices (though, for example, detecting malware or suspicious or anomalous behavior) and ‘might help turn the tide against the growing wave of cyber-attacks’.

12 Jan 2017

The US Department of Commerce (DoC) issued a Green Paper on Fostering the Advancement of the Internet of Things, aimed to identify elements of an approach for the DoC to foster the advancement of the IoT. In addition to identifying key issues that can impact the deployment of IoT technologies, and highlighting potential benefits and challenges, the paper outlines several principles aimed to guide any future DoC activities in the area of IoT: leading efforts to ensure the IoT environment is inclusive and widely accessible to consumers, workers, and businesses; recommending policy and taking action to support a stable, secure and trustworthy IoT environment; advocating for and defending a globally connected, open and interoperable IoT environment built upon industry-driven, consensus-based standards; and encouraging IoT growth and innovation by expanding markets and reducing barriers to entry, and by convening stakeholders to address public policy challenges. The publication of the paper was accompanied by the launch of a public consultation in which the DoC asks for comments on the benefits, challenges, and potential roles for the government in fostering the advancement of the IoT.

12 Jan 2017

The Committee on Legal Affairs in the European Parliament adopted a report outlining recommendations for the introduction of ‘civil law rules on robotics’. The report proposes, among others, the elaboration and adoption of an EU ‘legislative instrument’ to tackle legal questions related to the development of robotics and artificial intelligence, such as: intellectual property rights and the flow of data, registration of smart robots, liability to damage caused by robots, interoperability and access to source code, and disclosure of use of robots and artificial intelligence by undertakings. The report also discusses the possibility of introducing ‘corporate reporting requirements on the extent and proportion of the contribution of robotics and AI to the economic results of a company for the purpose of taxation and social security contributions’. In addition, a code of ethical conduct in the fields of robotics is also proposed. The document, presented by the Committee in May 2015 is expected to be discussed by the EP in a plenary session in mid February.

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The Internet of Things (IoT) includes a wide range of Internet devices, from highly digitalised cars, online home appliances (fridges), smart watches to digitalised clothes that can monitor health. IoT devices are often connected in wide-systems, typically described as 'smart house' or 'smart city'.  Such devices both generate enormous amount of data and create new contexts in which data are used. IoT triggers a multitude of policy issues, from standardisation to protection of privacy.

When we say that Internet helps us to connect we also implicitly refer to the fact that some of our devices can be connected and transfer data among themselves. Primarily, we are thinking about computers, mobile phones, tablets, e-readers. But what if every device we use on a daily basis, such as transportation vehicles, home appliances, clothes, city infrastructure, medical and healthcare devices, can connect via the global network to a remote center or to other device? This will give the term ‘connected’ a different, broader meaning.

This is the general idea behind the Internet of Things (IoT), a network of physical objects or ‘things’ connected via electronics, software, and sensors to exchange data with manufacturers, operators or other connected device. The main objective is to achieve greater value or service. IoT devices use the present Internet structure, not a separate/different Internet.  

The most common sensors and parts currently used for device communication are the following:

  • Radio Frequency identifiers (RFID): Electronic tags attached to items to enable tracking. Suitable for clothes, pets, box shipping/tracking.
  • Universal Product Code (UPC): UPCs are on nearly all products, used in supermarket checkout scanning.
  • Electronic Product Code (EPC): EPCs provide a unique identity for every physical object anywhere in the world, all the time. EPCs function like UPCs, but are electronic.

Even if the size of a single piece of data generated this way is quite small, the final sum is staggering due to the number of devices that can connect and the fact that they will be always connected to a network. Therefore the cloud computing industry will be a main player in the future IoT developments. Large parts of current IoT networks are actually parts of private networks behind the firewalls and passwords.

Internet of Things industries

Some of the most developed IoT industries include:

  • Home automation: Providing access to home appliances from anywhere. There is no unified protocol, no industry web API standard.
  • Health monitoring: Actively adjusting your health (insulin pumps remotely adjusted by doctors, pacemaker monitoring, etc). Creating data on your cycles or habits, yet with many possible security issues and arbitrary data upload.
  • Transportation: Using IoT systems to keep track of information such as fuel usage, location, time, distance, as well as to anticipate maintenance needs in vehicles and optimise the use of resources (including fleets).

Other industries in which IoT is playing an increasing role include: energy, infrastructure, agriculture, manufacturing, consumer applications. The overall concept of smart cities (where information and communication technologies are integrated into urban services and infrastructures  to improve their quality and performance and increase the overall standards of ‘urban life’)  is also strongly related to IoT.

The main issues

According to various statistics, there will be between 20 and 100 billion IoT connected devices by 2020. These devices continue to generate significant amounts of data that are processed and analysed. The International Data Corporation forecasted that, by 2020, the ‘digital universe’ will reach 44 ZB (zettabytes, i.e. trillion of gigabytes), and 10% of this overall amount would come from IoT devices.

This massive data creation raises major concerns on privacy and the protection of personal information. Some IoT devices can collect and transmit data that are of personal nature (the case of medical IoT devices, for example), and there are concerns about  how the devices themselves are protected (ensuring their security), as well as about how the data they collect is processed and analysed. On the other hand, while information transmitted by a  IoT device might not cause privacy issues, when sets of data collected from multiple devices are put together, processed and analysed, this may lead to sensitive information being disclosed.

The absence of data oversight also raises the issue of ownership of data. Many applications used in IoT are proprietary alongside the data created and generated through them. There are overhauls in security and privacy (of data, protocol, and devices), hence new regulations are needed. This is a future development that will require unified, global action and regulation, more than any other in a realm of Internet governance. New social contracts need to be agreed.

Predictions of financial development of IoT industry are growing and plans from manufactures are skyrocketing. Verizon predicts that the worldwide IoT market will grow significantly over the next few years, from $591.7 billion in 2014 to $1.3 trillion in 2019, with a compound annual growth rate of 17%.

A report published by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and Cisco Systems in early 2016 concludes that IoT is a significant development opportunity that can improve living standards throughout the world and substantively contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The report outlines the increasing impact that IoT has in areas such as healthcare, education, water and sanitation, resiliency, climate change and pollution mitigation, natural resource management and energy.

Public and private initiatives

Governments have started to become more and more aware of the opportunities brought by the Internet of Things, and they are launching various types of initiatives in this area. The European Union, for example, has initiated the Horizon 2010 Work Programme 2016 -2017: Internet of Things Large Scale Pilots for testing and deployment, a funding programme aimed to encourage the take up of IoT in Europe. In the US, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration is looking into reviewing the Internet of Things technological and policy landscape, and intends to issue a green paper that would identify key issues impacting deployment of IoT technologies, highlight potential benefits and challenges, and identify possible roles for the federal government in fostering the advancement of IoT technologies in partnership with the private sector. The Chinese government, on the other hand, has created the Chengdu Internet of Things Technology Institute, through which it funds research in various IoT related areas.

The business sector is also leading major IoT initiatives. Some examples include: Cisco’s Internet of Thing initiative, Intel’s Internet of Things Solutions Group, and the Open Connectivity Foundation.

Many agree that Internet of Things is the future of our ‘connected’ world, but again there are some concerns about the ‘ubiquitous computing’ revolution (computer science concept where computing is made to appear everywhere and on any device, in any location, and in any format in contrast to present ‘desktop computing’).

Events

Instruments

Standards

Recommendation ITU-T Y.2060 ‘Overview of the Internet of things’ (2012)

Other Instruments

Resources

Articles

An Insider’s Handbook for IoT Startups (2016)
2016 Data Threat Report (2016)

Publications

Internet Governance Acronym Glossary (2015)
An Introduction to Internet Governance (2014)

Papers

The Internet of Things (IoT): An Overview - Understanding the Issues and Challenges of a More Connected World (2015)

Reports

Technology, Media and Telecommunications Predictions 2017 (2017)
One Internet (2016)
State of the Market: Internet of Things 2016 (2016)
Smart Homes and the Internet of Things (2016)
Automotive IoT Security: Countering the Most Common Forms of Attack (2016)
Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, 2015–2020 (2016)
Harnessing the Internet of Things for Global Development (2016)
Measuring the Information Society 2015 (2015)
Recommendations for future collaborative work in the context of the Internet of Things Focus Area in Horizon 2020 (2015)
OECD Digital Economy Outlook 2015 (2015)
The Internet of Things: Mapping the Value Beyond the Hype (2015)
The Impacts of the Internet of Things - The Connected Home (2015)
Security: The Vital Element of The Internet of Things (2015)
Industrial Internet of Things: Unleashing the Potential of Connected Products and Services (2015)

Other resources

Internet of Things and the Smart Home Survey (2016)
The CEO's Guide to Securing the Internet of Things - Exploring IoT Security (2016)
GSMA IoT Security Guidelines (2016)
Cyber Security Guidelines for Smart City Technology Adoption (2015)
Security Guidance for Early Adopters of the Internet of Things (2015)

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