Academic journal article Connections : The Quarterly Journal

Policy and the Internet of Things

Academic journal article Connections : The Quarterly Journal

Policy and the Internet of Things

Article excerpt

Introduction

Over the past decade, cybersecurity concerns have steadily crept to the top of national and international security agendas. However, with the focus mainly on policies and strategy, rapid technological developments continue to undermine policymakers' understanding of cyber risks and opportunities. One such development is the Internet of Things (loT).

While the Internet of Things is not widely discussed among policy circles, it is nonetheless likely to substantially impact how individuals, institutions and societies interact in the future. In brief, the loT refers to the interconnection of uniquely identifiable, machine-to-machine devices with the Internet. A relatively well-known example from retail industry is the use of radio frequency identification devices (RFID) to track the location of goods and inventory.

According to one estimate, there are currently about 9 billion devices connected to the Internet. This number-which is already greater than the global population-is expected to grow dramatically over the next ten years. According to recent calculations, every second 127 new devices are being added to the Internet.1 Other projections from notable institutions suggest roughly 50 billion to 1 trillion devices will be connected to the Internet by around 2025, impacting how business is carried out in fields ranging from health care to security policy. This is currently yielding new visions such as the movement to- wards as the "Internet of Everything" (Cisco) or the "Industrial Internet" (General Electric). General Electric estimates that the "Industrial Internet" will add $10 to $15 trillion to the global GDP within the next 20 years. With growth of that scale, the loT is set to usher in a new era of ubiquitous computing that will make the changes brought about by the Internet look small by comparison.

This article examines why policymakers should care about loT, the significant trends for the next five to ten years, and possible security implications stemming from those trends. The article finalizes with an overview of policy considerations.

Why the Internet of Things Matters

We suggest that there are three main reasons why policymakers should care about the loT. First, the Internet of Things has the potential to contribute to substantial economic growth. Current developments, such as the gradual introduction of smart meters (for energy efficiency) and driverless vehicles (for transport and logistics) represent just a small sample of the opportunities offered by loT. Applications are possible in most fields, opening the door to economic growth primarily via efficiency gains and new services that need not entail human intervention. A 2015 study by Accenture suggests loT can add $ 10.6 trillion to the cumulative GDP of 20 developed and emerging economies that represent over 75% of the world's economic output.2 Another report by the McKinsey Global Institute estimates an loT economic impact of $2.7 to $6.2 trillion annually by 2025.3

Second, the loT will impact diverse and multiple fields, enabling advances and efficiencies across disciplines as opposed to within one or two areas. With this in mind, the areas that are most likely to gain from the loT are health care, infrastructure, and public sector services.4 Given current trends, the applications enabled by the loT will be wide ranging and some cases only limited by imagination. Prospects range from "smart cities" to "personalized healthcare." Specific examples might include a more efficient traffic flow as street signs or stop lights that can communicate with each other and with vehicles in their proximity. loT sensors can be placed on infrastructures such as bridges to identify micro fissures and cracks, enabling preventative efforts to prolong their lifespan. Within the defense sector, loT may be used to enhance logistics and transport. loT may also play a role in autonomous weapons systems, especially as consideration is given to automated systems. …

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