WHAT IS IoT?
Internet of Things is a network of interconnected devices that communicate information amongst each other using data and sensors, and work in a coordinated manner to create a technologically enabled ecosystem of various devices. For example, the wearable devices that monitor a person’s vitals; GPS system built within a car that tell the AC at home that the person will be home soon; intelligent home security systems that lock and unlock the house on its own; etc. Such technology is being created and marketed by many service providers, and we have discussed its legal challenges in a previous post. Let us now have a look at the legal trend being followed by various jurisdictions to adapt to the technological advancements.
THE EUROPEAN UNION
The European Commission (EC) has been coordinating with the industry, member States, and third-party States to exploit the true potential of IoT for development. The various steps adopted by the EC are:
- Alliance for Internet of Things Innovation (AIOTI) launched in 2015 to enable the EC to work closely with the players in the IoT industry to create an innovative and technology-driven IoT system.
- Digital Single Market (DSM) Strategy adopted, to promote interoperability of the component devices
- Introduced a “Digitising European Industry (DEI)” initiative and published a published a staff working document “Advancing the Internet of Things in Europe” to create a thriving IoT system, human centred IoT approach, and a single market for IoT.
- EU Data Protection Directive 95/46 that gave data processors some defence against individual claims, now made more stringent under EU Data Protection Regulation.
- EU Privacy Directives also apply to the IoT industry.
THE UNITED STATES
The Federal Govt has adopted non-binding guidance to the players in the industry, necessitating the companies to do it the right way.
- Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released a report on “The Internet of Things; privacy and security in a connected World”, outlining steps to ensure privacy and security.
- Federal laws regarding privacy and data protection also apply to IoT domain, and the law relating to cyberspace would also have a major impact.
IoT comes within the domain of the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, under the Department of Electronics and IT. It is notable that IoT comes as an added boon at the time of introduction of Digital India programme to ‘transform India into digital empowered society and knowledge economy’. The Govt released a Draft Policy on Internet of Things in 2015, with the objectives of creating an IoT industry in India of USD 15 billion by 2020; to undertake Research & development for all the assisting technologies; to undertake capacity development (Human & Technology) for IoT specific skillsets for domestic and international markets; and to develop IoT products specific to Indian needs in the domains of agriculture, health, water quality, natural disasters, etc. The Policy covers:
- Vertical Pillars: The primary aims sought to be achieved in time, divided into
- Domain-Specific Applications (Smart City, Smart Water, Smart Environment, Smart Health, Smart Waste Management, Smart Agriculture, Smart Safety, etc.)
- Incubation and Capacity Building: To build Institutional capacity by promoting experimentations and applications.
- Standardization: To promote globally acceptable standards relating to technology, process, interoperability and services.
- Innovation, Research and Development: To fund and promote R&D in specific related fields by identifying core members in each field, initiating cloud based open source projects, and create test labs for integration.
- Incentives and Engagement: To promote incentives to support companies in the IoT domain, encouraging exports, and participating in IoT Forums such as those of IEEE.
- Horizontal Supports: The subsidiary support system essential to help the IoT framework to function well.
- Human Resource Development: To create an Education and Awareness Programme on IoT, also introducing it into University Curriculum.
- Governance: The new technology requires a new structure of governance to ensure compliance, and the Govt purports to achieve it through a multifaceted framework:
- Legal: New legal provisions would need to be created, and the existing ones amended, to effectively manage the new systems created wherein machines will decide and intermediary human control will be minimum.
- Advisory Committee: To set up a high-level advisory committee with representatives from Govt, industry and academia.
- Governance Committees: To set up High-Level Governance Committees for different application domains.
- Programme Management Unit: To set up Management Units to support in identification, operationalization, implementation, performance tracking, periodic reviews, etc. of initiatives.
It may be noted that IoT is evolving and developing, and its full practical impact on the market and society will be felt only one the ripples reach far and wide. The law and regulatory framework will thus have to stay equally potent in corresponding evolution. The Govts across the world are currently attempting to utilise the benefits of IoT to attain better developmental goals, at the same time not jeopardizing privacy, security, and data protection concerns.