Communication with and among objects - How can we envisage the governance an "Internet of Things" (IoT)?

Meeting type: 
Side Session
Meeting Description: 

The Internet of today offers access to content and information through connectivity to web pages and to multiple terminals (e.g., mobiles, TV). The next evolution will make it possible to access information related to our physical environment, through a generalised connectivity of everyday objects. A car may be able to report the status of its various subsystems using communicating embedded sensors for remote diagnosis and maintenance; home information about the status of the doors, shutters, and content of the fridge may be delivered to distant smart phones; personal devices may deliver to a central location the latest status of healthcare information of remotely cared patients; environmental data may be collected and processed globally for real time decision making. Access to information relating to our surrounding environment is made possible through communicating objects able to interact with that environment and react to events. This makes possible new classes of applications such as smart homes with automated systems to monitor many aspects of daily living, smart grids and intelligent energy management, smart mobility with better control of traffic, or smart logistics with the integrated control of all processes in the entire distribution chain. There are endless examples of this evolution of networked devices, also known as the Internet of Things (IoT). The Internet of Things holds the promise of significant progress in addressing global and societal challenges and to improve daily life. It is also a highly promising economic sector for sustainability, growth, innovation and employment. But it is likely to have a profound impact on society, in areas like privacy, security, ethics, and liability. The policy challenge is to assess the right trade-off between the potential economic and societal benefits and the control that we want to retain over an environment where machines will gather, exchange, process and store information automatically. The effects on our private and public space require that people and their governments debate the appropriate governance and management of the Internet of Things in the future.

Reported by: 
Sandra Hoferichter, Avri Doria
A brief substantive summary and the main events that were raised: 

The Internet of Things is a project which is not really defined, organizations and people continue to discuss “what does it mean?” It started around ten years ago, when it became clear that there is an opportunity to link objects to the Internet. This workshop was the third IGF workshop.
This session was focussed on the question: Is there a need for a special governance structure for the Internet of Things?
Within a IoT expert working group of the European Commission, which is divided into a number of subgroups, two different approaches came out:

  • “…yes, there is a need for IoT governance and we have to create a new mechanism to govern the Internet of Things. …”  The subgroup proposed the establishment of a new International organisation or even an intergovernmental organisation for the management of the Internet of Things. 
  •  “…no, the Internet of Things governance is not different from the Internet governance we have. There is no need for a special mechanism. Privacy issue raised in the Internet of Things, are a serious issue, but are not so fundamentally different from privacy issues in social networks and in search engines…”

Resulting from this opposition the so called Internet of Things has no accepted definition. There is no basic understanding what exactly the Internet of Things is.
The workshop was designed as a brainstorming session, and not to present fixed results.

The existence of a entity, called IoT, was generally questioned, because small computers modules are embedded in many objects already and can be connected to the Internet, apart from that barcodes and RFID technologies that are operating in various industries already. It can just be seen as a progress in functionality and not as an entirely new beast.
On the other hand the increase and specialization of communication of things to things and of people to things, though with us from the beginning of the computer age, has implications for issues like standardization, like personal data protection, tracking and tracking, which must be taken seriously to avoid misuse. For Example what needs to be looked at, in the European context, is not how to regulate or legislate, but rather a policy review and identification of issues. “Governance” might be a wrong word in this regard. We have governance structures and these governance structures evolve as the Internet changes and should continue to do so.

Apparently we look at a network of things which is just being built up like the Internet was 30 years ago, which started just as networks and IP came later as the unifier by which those network were joined together into an internet. So we should be careful and learn from that experience and keep in mind that basically anything that we do with the Internet applies to these connected things as well. It is a huge educational process that we have to go through.

The global diversity to look at this issue and different approaches around the world will lead us to different results. It can offer opportunities but also have its challenges, for instance in terms of market access, when a system is geographically closed and governed under a national jurisdiction.

Conclusions and further comments: 

Finally it will all have an impact on the Internet as such and on the society in particular. What does it mean if objects are becoming a part of our daily communication? Maybe the carrier structure to add billions of objects to the Internet will just be a sort of an “Add On” to the Internet?

Scopes of authority, Data protection, data management and the technology that connect different networks are some of the greatest challenges in the future. E-health and jurisdiction, in particular competition law are further challenges.
Please read also the report of the Dynamic Coalition on the Internet of Things.

Gender Report Card
Please estimate the overall number of women participants present at the session: 
There were very few women participants
To what extent did the session discuss gender equality and/or women's empowerment?: 
It was not seen as related to the session theme and was not raised
Provide the name of the speakers and their affiliation to various stakeholder groups: 

Megan Richards, European Commission, DG Connect (Government)
Latif Ladid, IPv6 Forum (private Sector)
Rolf Weber, University of Zurich (Academic)
Geoff Houston, APNIC (technical Community)
Maarten Botterman, Chairman Public Interest Registry (.ORG), Director GNKS Consult
Moderator: Wolfgang Kleinwächter, University of Aarhus

Provide the name of the organiser(s) of the Meeting and their affiliation to various stakeholder groups: 

Gérald Santucci, Chair of the EU Task Force, European Commission, Task Force on Internet of Things, WG IOT Governance
Wolfgang Kleinwächter, Chair of the WG IOT Governance

Have you organised a Meeting (Dynamic Coalition, Open Forum, Side Session) before? If yes, please provide links to report(s):