Thursday, 12 April 2012

Internet of Things

The European Commission opened a new consultation procedures (not only for stakeholders, but also for the public at large) which is to help it envisage the future of internet technology ("The Internet is gearing up for the next technological revolution: communication with and among objects. How would you envisage the "governance" of such an "Internet of Things" (IoT)"). This initiative fits within the plan to increase online data protection of EU citizens. Nowadays, the protection is directed at internet users who open their computers/phones and browse the web. With the progress of technology it becomes clear that other, everyday products may be used to collect personal data as well as information on the physical environment of EU citizens via the wireless network. The EC predicts that by 2015 an average person would have 7 objects connected to the Internet (instead of standard 2: computer and smartphone). For example, sensors in a car may give away citizens' locations but also information on various subsystems of the car, their need for maintanence and repair; personal devices may control the state of health of a citizen but also transfer this data to a central database; content of the fridge etc. could be stored and automaticlaly updated on citizens' smartphones.

"For example, if a university teacher cancels a morning lecture because they are sick, students' alarm clocks and coffee machines could automatically be reset, giving them an extra hour in bed. If an elderly person forgets to take an essential pill, a warning text message could be sent to a close family member, or even to a local emergency centre, so that somebody could call round to check that everything was ok." (Digital Agenda: Commission consults on rules for wirelessly connected devices - the "Internet of Things")

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of wireless-connected devices, that allows access to information about our surrounding environment through objects able to interact with that environment and react to events. While this network could significantly improve our lives, it will also create a further threat to our privacy and security. The balance between the benefits to our economic and social lives and the need to protect our personal information needs to be estimated and upheld. Therefore, the European Commission through the questionnaire in this consultation process tries to estimate what importance EU citizens place on these values and how far the data protection should stretch in respect of IoT.

The deadline for sending replies is set on the 12th of July.

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