Government’s Role in the Internet of Things
As part of this series introducing concepts from my book, Building the Internet of Things, I am taking a short break from my “Recipe for IoT Success” to offer a short excerpt from the book:
Governments around the world are beginning to realize that IoT adoption will be one of the key factors defining the competitiveness of their cities, provinces, countries, or regions and that IoT can help solve many of the chronic problems plaguing their economies and their environments. Thus, governments at various levels have a number of key roles to play:
- Regulators. There will be competition for bandwidth and other resources; there will be ideas that may conflict with public policy; and there will be IoT-based ideas that need to be regulated to ensure public safety and privacy. Think drones. In these and other ways, government regulations can help direct and align the industry. Here are a few examples of U.S. legislations and the impact of each:
- The Energy Act drove the need for energy monitoring, including smart meters.
- The Rail Safety Improvement Act specified the requirements and the deadline (since extended) for adoption of Positive Train Control on main U.S. railways.
- The Food Safety Modernization Act drove the requirements for IoT-based systems, including quality control and source tracking, across the food supply chain to prevent food safety issues.
- Most recently, the Drug Quality and Security Act requires the adoption of a system to identify and trace prescription drugs.
- Agenda setters. Who represents the public’s interests in the rush to IoT? Say the government decides it has a vested interest in getting private cars off the road to reduce congestion, save energy, and lower pollution. It must, in turn, encourage the development of autonomous vehicles and other energy-saving initiatives. We’ve seen plenty of positive examples of government involvement in such efforts, including co-funding autonomous car research and industry test beds as well as issuing new policies aimed at accelerating the adoption of such vehicles. Another example is privacy, where governments help explore various models, boundaries, and best practices associated with sharing customer data, as well as with customers’ control over their data. The January 2015 Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Staff Report on the Internet of Things, Privacy, and Security in the Connected World, recommended that the U.S. Congress “enact broad-based (as opposed to IoT-specific) privacy Such legislation should be flexible and technology-neutral, while also providing clear rules of the road for companies about such issues as how to provide choices to consumers about data collection and use practices.” Similarly, governments are increasingly advocating for public health. Because IoT has the potential to monitor individuals’ health through a variety of wearables, the government—in conjunction with hospitals and a variety of healthcare providers and insurers—clearly has the public’s interests in mind with these types of efforts.
- Adopters. Through their spending power, governments can drive the focus and accelerate the adoption of IoT technologies and solutions. In aggregate, governments represent a huge global market. Their priorities, what they choose to buy, and what problems they choose to address can drive the roadmaps of IoT technology and solution providers. Military requirements, for example, have accelerated the technology development and adoption of drones, wearables, sensors (especially bio-sensors), and many IoT communication technologies.
Other government roles include:
- Supporting training and education
- Supporting development of startup ecosystems
- Supporting standards efforts
- Supporting basic research and development
- Enabling competitiveness and openness of the country’s markets
- Promoting best practices and modern business models
Globally, governments are already becoming involved. In Germany, Industry 4.0 implementation is addressing intelligent manufacturing; that is, applying the tools of information technology to production. In the German context, this primarily means using IoT to connect small and midsize companies more efficiently in global production and innovation networks so they can not only more efficiently engage in mass production but just as easily and efficiently customize products. Similar initiatives sprang up in many countries, from Made in China 2025 to Turkey 2023. We also increasingly see private companies and governments forming private/public partnerships. Country digitization initiatives, such as those signed by Cisco and the governments of several countries in Europe, are good examples.
Private enterprise, driven by market needs, is certainly in the best position to spearhead the development of IoT and the continuing innovation that will be required as it evolves and changes. But governments and public interest groups have a valid place in the development and adoption of IoT, too. Let’s welcome that.
Next week I’ll finish up the “Recipe for IoT Success” series with Ingredient #8, transform company culture along with technology.