It was probably just a matter of time. Given the range and ramifications of the Internet of Things (IoT), it's no surprise that members of Congress are pushing for congressional attention on the issues. In fact, a group of senators wants a hearing scheduled before the end of the year.
In a letter to Jay Rockefeller (D-West Va.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation, and John Thune (R-S.D.), ranking member of the committee, four members of Congress spelled out why there's a need for a general oversight and information-gathering session on the IoT.
"The proliferation of connected products is sparking a number of important policy questions related to consumer protection, security, privacy, technical standards, spectrum capacity, manufacturing, regulatory certainty and public-sector applications, among many others," the letter states.
"The number and the scope of these issues demands our prompt attention so we can better understand the technologies and explore how best to preserve America's global leadership position in innovation and economic growth," the letter adds. "These issues are especially ripe for congressional attention as millions of Americans will be shopping for new tech products during the upcoming holiday season… Now is the time to start building a robust public record through testimony and questions."
The letter was signed by Sens. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Corey Booker (D-N.J.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii). The senators said Congress should engage on the issue "cautiously and constructively, in a bipartisan fashion."
Last November, the Federal Trade Commission held a public workshop on some of the topics related to the IoT. FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez spelled out concerns about privacy and security related to everything from home security systems to wireless medical and fitness devices. She noted that the IoT facilitates the collection of vast amounts of user data, opens that data up to new uses unexpected by most consumers, and puts users at a greater security risk.
IDC expects the IoT to generate global revenues of $8.9 trillion by 2020, with more than 200 billion connected objects.
Numerous industry efforts are under way to develop a common interface for "things" to talk to one another. The IEEE wants to create a standard as well, with the IEEE P2413 working group officially having been established in July.
At last count, the AllSeen Alliance totaled 71 members, up from 24 since its formation in December 2013. The group aims to advance the IoT through an open source framework called AllJoyn that acts as a universal translator for devices to interact regardless of brand or other infrastructure considerations.
The Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC), formed this past summer, is pursuing a different path with similar goals. OIC's membership includes at least 32 member companies with the missive of defining the connectivity requirements and ensuring interoperability for the billions of devices that will make up the IoT.
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