The Benefits, Challenges, and Potential Roles for the Government in Fostering the Advancement of the Internet of Things

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Internet of things

Yesterday, the Future of Privacy Forum filed comments with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) in response to NTIA’s inquiry into the Internet of Things (IoT).  NTIA asked policy experts and other stakeholders to identify key issues affecting deployment the IoT – a broad category of devices, appliances, and objects that can be connected via the Internet.  The Internet of Things has been a focus of FPF’s work since our founding in 2008. FPF recognizes the enormous potential benefits to consumers and to society of the inter-connected applications offered through the Internet of Things.

FPF’s comments, “The Benefits, Challenges, and Potential Roles for the Government in Fostering the Advancement of the Internet of Things,” describe the privacy and security challenges presented by IoT technologies, as well as the enormous potential benefits to consumers and to society of the inter-connected applications offered through the Internet of Things.  FPF urges NTIA to promote the use of IoT data in ways that will benefit disadvantaged populations and promote inclusion.  Our comments highlight IoT technologies that offer direct, meaningful benefits for individuals who are elderly, infirm, visually impaired, deaf, living with chronic health conditions, suffering from mobility-related disabilities, or economically disadvantaged.  Today, IoT technologies are improving the day-to-day quality of life of traditionally underserved groups:

  • Sensors can alert relatives when a family member fails to take medicine, eat, or return home from a walk.
  • IoT devices in hospitals can track when patients get in and out of bed, help prevent falls, monitor clinical roundups to ensure that clinicians check in on patients at least once per hour, and revolutionize the protocol for preventing and treating painful pressure ulcers.
  • Wearable video cameras can translate text to audio in real time, providing crucial assistance to the visually impaired.
  • Smart home technologies allow users to control things in his or her home that may be physically difficult to reach, such as lights, door locks or security systems.
  • M2M technology, integrated with new payment platforms, is expanding access to credit by enabling two new payment methods: pay-as-you-go asset financing, which allows consumers to pay for products over time, and prepaid, where consumers pay for services on an as-needed basis.

Emerging IoT technologies promise to broaden inclusiveness for traditionally underserved groups in the immediate future.  Common sense privacy protections can build trust in IoT technologies and help ensure that consumers enjoy the full benefits of IoT sensors and devices.

Read NTIA’s Request for Comment.

Read FPF’s Comments.