Warnings About IoT Given to Department of Commerce

The U.S. Department of Commerce (DoC) wanted to hear opinions about the potential of the Internet of Things (IoT) from the enterprise perspective. The agency got what it wanted: There were 130 papers submitted in response to the request, all with their own unique point of view — and a few providing warnings about IoT.

What Do Enterprises Think?

There were some common areas of agreement: Everyone thinks IoT will be a huge movement that will require some new ways of thinking about interconnected networks. Computerworld reported that in North America alone, the IoT will deliver 250 billion sensors for consumer applications and 50 billion for highway control devices. So many connected devices will require new security measures for all involved.

But in other areas, opinions on the IoT varied. Some viewed the IoT as enabling, with advancements such as smart cars and homes increasing personal safety. Additionally, new manufacturing and medical technologies could keep individuals healthy while boosting food production.

At the same time, a few organizations, such as the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), were concerned about the data profiles stemming from the IoT. Others were worried about the possibility of a global attack scenario enabled by a security-challenged interconnected network.

The American Bar Association (ABA) laid out its concerns in this area, noting that “the scale of remedy required in the event of such a disabling attack at global scale could exceed the capacity of any application vendor, the largest global device manufacturers, a self-help community within an industrial sector, or even national governments to address.”

Beyond Warnings About IoT

The association isn’t alone in its concern about the potentially massive consequences of IoT. But although there is a big risk associated with it, enterprises aren’t eager to have the movement regulated.

For example, IBM stated that ” prematurely imposing regulations could stifle innovation.” Instead, the company argued that “any existing gaps in regulations could be worked through in the marketplace via contracting, self-regulatory frameworks, open standards and competition.”

Spectrum access is going to be a major issue too. Wearables, fashion tech and other smart devices are becoming pervasive. All those sensors collect information and need to dump that data somewhere — and they need an internet connection do it. That alone makes them a risk for individuals and organizations.

Now that the submissions are in, the DoC is going to issue a green paper, which is the name given for a tentative government report. It won’t be an official policy statement; it’s focused more on stimulating policy discussions, which are sorely needed given predictions surrounding the future of IoT.

Larry Loeb

Principal, PBC Enterprises

Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other...