Internet of Things on docket for new Congress

The incoming GOP Senate majority is likely to focus on how the government regulates the growing universe of networks and connected devices.

Shutterstock image: a global system of information relays.

There are plenty of issues the 114th Congress will need to address when it convenes in January -- immigration, jobs, taxes -- and perhaps one more with a slightly lower profile: the Internet of Things.

At a Dec. 4 event hosted by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation in Washington, D.C., Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), both members of the Commerce Committee, said that panel will be having a conversation about the Internet of Things right off the bat.

"There is tremendous opportunity for us as we look at the new Congress to examine the Internet of Things, and that's why I've asked for a hearing specifically on this topic," Ayotte said. "This is going to be a very, very critical topic for our committee."

The focus is likely to be on how the federal government regulates the universe of networks and devices connected to Internet infrastructure.

"New technologies shouldn't be tied to old red tape," Fisher said. "The FDA still depends on a 1976 definition of a medical device."

Ayotte suggested the regulatory framework for the Internet of Things amounts to a relic from the dark ages.

Advances in technology and the ever-expanding sphere of the federal government have created a target-rich environment for regulation and, therefore, investigation: medical device apps at the FDA; commercial drones at the Federal Aviation Administration; and intelligent vehicle technology at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are but a few examples.

"I think it's entirely appropriate for the U.S. government to think about how to modernize its regulatory frameworks," Fischer said. "We're destined to lose to the Chinese or others if the Internet of Things is governed in the United States by rules that pre-date our VCRs."

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