Written by Ron Davies
The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to a distributed network connecting physical objects that are capable of sensing or acting on their environment and able to communicate with each other, other machines or computers. The data these devices report can be collected and analysed in order to reveal insights and suggest actions that will produce cost savings, increase efficiency or improve products and services. The IoT is growing rapidly, with an estimated 25 billion connected objects throughout the world by 2020, and added value from the IoT of US$1.9 trillion by the same year. The IoT can thus be a key contributor to achieving the EU’s Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.
However the IoT also poses important challenges to society. Open standards and interoperability may need to be encouraged, in order to widen choices for consumers and ensure competition and innovation. Sufficient radio spectrum must be allocated for future needs. With so many interconnected devices, security is a major concern. A balance needs to be achieved between the rights of citizens to keep personal data private and protected, and to consent to its use in other contexts, and the significant benefits that can accrue to enterprises and society from the analysis of such rich data sources.
The European Union is supporting the development of the IoT through funding for research as well as competitiveness and innovation. While EU institutions have taken a notable interest in the IoT, the balance between too much and too little regulation may need to be carefully managed if the full benefits of the IoT are to be realised.