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Internet of Things

Foreshadowing ‘the Future Internet’, the implementation of the Internet of Things will help to meet a considerable number of current challenges such as an ageing society, deforestation or CO2 emissions through the development in particular of health monitoring systems, connected trees and cars. The interconnection of physical objects will generate a genuine paradigm shift for society.

ACT

Communication of 18 June 2009 from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions - Internet of Things: an action plan for Europe [COM(2009) 0278 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

This Communication presents the perspectives and challenges for the development of the Internet of Things (IoT).

Definition and existing applications of IoT

IoT is composed of a series of new independent systems operating with their own infrastructures which are partly based on existing Internet infrastructures. IoT can be implemented in symbiosis with new services. It covers three types of communication which can be established in restricted areas (‘intranet of things’) or made publicly accessible (‘Internet of things’):

  • things-to-person;
  • thing-to-thing;
  • Machine-to-Machine (M2M).

IoT currently covers several applications such as:

  • web-enabled mobile phones equipped with cameras;
  • unique serial numbers or bar-codes on pharmaceutical products;
  • smart electrical metering systems which provide a consumption report in real time;
  • ‘intelligent objects’ in the logistics sector (eFreight), manufacturing or retail.

The challenges of public governance

According to the European Commission, policymakers should also participate in the development of IoT alongside the private sector. Some challenges are indeed policy-related, as highlighted by the World Summit on the Information Society, which encourages IoT governance designed and exercised in a coherent manner with all the public policy activities related to Internet Governance.

Many questions concerning the implementation of the connection of objects arise such as:

  • object naming;
  • the authority responsible for assigning the identifier;
  • ways to find information about the object;
  • how information security is ensured;
  • the ethical and legal framework of IoT;
  • control mechanisms.

Faced with these challenges, the Commission proposes to prepare a set of principles underlying the governance of IoT, as well as a decentralised management structure.

Principles underlying the governance of IoT

The development of IoT must not take place to the detriment of privacy and personal data protection. In this regard, the Commission intends to publish a Communication on privacy and trust in the information society, as well as launching a debate on the freedom for individuals to disconnect from a network at any time.

In order to safeguard information security, the Commission proposes to step up monitoring and protection of critical information infrastructure.

Regarding standardisation, the Commission considers it sensible to take advantage of the deployment of Ipv6, making it possible to directly address objects. The Commission also intends to assess existing standards mandates which may include some issues related to IoT, or create others if necessary.

In the field of research and development, IoT represents a considerable challenge, insofar as it is related to wide societal problems. In this regard, the Commission will fund research projects in the field of IoT under the Seventh Framework Programme. Furthermore, IoT may also have a role to play in the four public-private partnerships set up by the Commission in the following areas:

  • ‘green cars’;
  • ‘energy-efficient buildings’;
  • ‘factories of the future’;
  • ‘Future Internet’.

These research activities are to be supplemented by the launch of pilot projects under the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP). These pilots should help to promote activities related to e-health, e-accessibility, climate change, or helping to bridge the digital divide.

The international aspect is also essential, insofar as the Commission intends to intensify dialogue with its international partners in order to establish benchmarks for common principles in the field of IoT.

Waste recycling should be facilitated by the implementation of IoT through tags which will make objects easier to distinguish during the process.

The Commission is currently concentrating its work more particularly on the availability of appropriate radio spectrum resources and on electromagnetic fields.

Context

The Internet has reached a turning point in its development. A network of interconnected computers is to evolve into a network of interconnected objects such as books, cars or electrical appliances. Although IoT is not yet actually implemented, this Communication gives an indication of the technology to come over the next 15 years.

This summary is for information only. It is not designed to interpret or replace the reference document, which remains the only binding legal text.

Last updated: 22.09.2009
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