Internet of Things

Rules for the IoT: 'Only what's necessary and no more'

Shutterstock image (by a-image): connected devices around the world.

The nascent interests that make up what amounts to the lobbying arm for the Internet of Things remains uncertain about what the IoT will be, but they're sure of one thing: They want an unfettered road to innovation, and for Congress and the federal government to have a light touch when it comes to regulation.

The IoT will have a seismic effect in "creating new industries and disrupting existing ones," Dean Garfield, president and CEO of the IT Industry Council, told a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing July 29.

Gary Shapiro, CEO and president of the Consumer Electronics Association, even painted a vivid picture of a fully connected Congress, "a smart Capitol Hill, where smart parking, driverless cars, and interactive dining and fitness areas make doing business much easier and better."

Shapiro's ode to his hosts aside, the hearing shined a spotlight on how Congress is still figuring out what its role will be.

Mitch Bainwol, president and CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, made a pitch for "the necessary legislative and regulatory framework needed to spur development and adoption of advanced technologies." For carmakers serving a national and even global customer base, he said, that means a single federal standard.

"A patchwork of state laws will negatively impact the speed and trajectory of the technologies adopted," Bainwol told the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet in his prepared testimony. "Federal leadership is needed to establish a single, long-term national vision for personal transportation in the future."

At the same time, Garfield urged that Congress "do only what's necessary and no more."

A debate over privacy ran along much the same lines. Potential uses abound, with tantalizing possibilities. But privacy and security concerns stalk the IoT for virtually any application -- billions of connected devices present a target-rich environment for hackers, terrorists and other cyber sinners.

Morgan Reed, executive director of ACT/The App Association, said that while doctors see the potential inherent in the IoT, they are wary of making use of it due to concerns about the security of patient information.

Shapiro, however, warned that if too much of a premium is placed on privacy, then potential services offered to customers will be adversely affected, and stressed that Industry access to consumer data should not be overly limited -- echoing Garfield's message of doing only what's necessary and no more. He cited as an example determining whether an automobile's wipers are in use, in order to disseminate weather data. No permission should be needed from a consumer before that data is collected, he argued.

A moment of consensus did arise when Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) said that a warrant should be required to access any information such as geolocation or electronic communications available via the IoT, and that consumers' privacy should be protected from the government. While the industry witnesses differed on just how much flexibility the private sector should be afforded, all concurred with Poe's position.

About the Author

Eli Gorski is an FCW editorial fellow. Connect with him on Twitter: @EliasGorski

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