SIIA Holds Panel to Assess Benefits, Challenges, & Policy Implications of the Internet of Things

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On Friday, June 17th, SIIA hosted a panel that was co-sponsored by the Congressional High Tech Caucus and the Congressional Internet of Things Caucus on assessing the benefits, challenges, and policy implications of the Internet of Things.

SIIA has been active on the topic of IoT in recent months both filing comments to NTIA and releasing a white paper on the subject.  David LeDuc, SIIA’s Senior Director for Public Policy gave opening remarks where he said SIIA defines the “Internet of Things” as ubiquitous connectivity where people are not only interacting with their devices, but devices are also interacting with each other. He also touched on the importance of regulatory humility cautioning against an overarching policy framework for IoT to accommodate IoT’s complex ecosystem.

The panel consisted of representatives from GE Digital, Qualcomm Inc., and the Center for Data Innovation.  Each panelist touched on both public and private sector opportunity and economic benefits from IoT.  Steve Crout, Qualcomm’s Vice President for Government Affairs discussed IoT in the context of Smart Cities initiatives from programs to install various Wi-Fi hotspots and phone hubs around cities to bridge the internet connectivity gap between internet users to its waste management program which uses sensors in trash bins to monitor waste and reduce pollution.  Paul Hughes of GE Digital talked about the differences between the individual internet and the industrial internet and spoke on opportunities in the Industrial space.  He said IoT is beneficial here because using an example that predictive analytics and remote monitoring can maximize production and reduce emissions at the same time to increase the efficiency of the industrial sector.

Discussing policy considerations, Paul Hughes noted the importance of cross-border data flows, privacy & security, platforms, and interoperability & standards when developing policy that will fully enable the IoT environment to thrive.  Steve Crout noted the importance of adopting a step-by-step approach to the development of IoT public policy since IoT is still a new and emerging technology.  Joshua New of the Center for Data Innovation further discussed policy implications for IoT.  New remarked that the government can address market failures, regulatory challenges, and equity concerns as a means of facilitating IoT to ensure it reaches its full potential.  New also brought up the importance of public sector research and development funding saying that it, dollar-for-dollar, serves as a catalyst for private sector research and development.

Overall, the event was well-attended and the panelists were successful at outlining the benefits and potential of IoT while introducing policy concepts to address challenges in this space.  SIIA’s policy recommendations surrounding IoT as previously outlined in the white paper, Empowering the Internet of Things: Benefits, Solutions, and Recommendations to Policymakers, are as follows:

1.     Do not seek an overarching IoT Policy Framework; existing laws have functioned effectively and provide substantial consumer protection.

2.     Privacy rights for the IoT should be based on risk and societal benefits, such as public health, national security, economic growth, and the environment.

3.     Encourage best practices for privacy and cybersecurity; industry best practices and self-regulatory codes of conduct provide more flexibility to evolve and adapt over time.

4.     Promote technology neutrality and avoid technology mandates, which are especially important given IoT’s complex ecosystem.

5.     Standards should be open and industry-led so that they can they combine a wide range of data sets across myriad analytics environments and applications.

6.     Policies for embedded software should provide for product integrity; unrestricted ability to access and modify software will threaten device reliability, safety and usability

Diane Diane Pinto is the Public Policy Coordinator at SIIA. Follow the Policy team on Twitter @SIIAPolicy.