In the course of the Internet’s growing importance within the last decade, the Internet of Things (IoT) has also been a subject of much debate. Being defined by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) as the development of item identifications, sensor technologies and the ability to interact with the environment, the term Internet of Things, in more simple words, stands for a technology that is based on the connection of everyday objects to the Internet which exchange, aggregate and process information regarding their physical environment for providing value-added services to end-users. Notwithstanding the extensive research activities having been conducted in the recent past and the broad consensus as to the necessity of a basic normative framework for IoT applications, a final multilateral agreement is still missing. In this respect, an analysis of possible approaches solving the present challenges seems to be worthwhile to conduct.
Within the last years a number of general and sectoral research activities have been conducted. Hereinafter, for example, a summary of the recent activities of the European Commission, the Alliance for Internet of Things Innovation, the European Research Cluster on the IoT, the Federal Trade Commission, the Dynamic Coalition on the Internet of Things, the International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners and the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party is provided.
IOT GOVERNANCE FRAMEWORK
Despite the non-existence of a multilateral agreement, there is broad consensus as to the necessity of a basic normative framework for IoT applications and services. Given that legal fragmentation jeopardizes the successful outlet of the IoT, coherence between different initiatives is advisable. For providing the business community with a stable and predictable environment, legal inter-operability as an object must be envisaged and implemented.
Without being completely new, the Internet of Things having the potential to change people’s lives by simplifying their everyday life is still in its infancy. Even though a number of both general and sectoral research activities have been conducted within the last five years, the implementation of undisputedly necessary appropriate regulatory mechanisms still remains a not yet settled task. Given that a fragmentation of the normative order jeopardizes the successful outlet of the IoT, a future normative framework should be based on the following legal pillars:
(1) Legal interoperability : By facilitating global communication, reducing costs in cross-border business and driving innovation, legal interoperability is adapted for building a stable and predictable IoT environment. Although, from a structural perspective, legal interoperability can be implemented by applying a top-down or a bottom-up approach, with regard to the Internet of Things only the bottom-up approach meets the given requirements. A successful implementation of a top-down approach appears to be very unlikely. The normative environment of the bottom-up approach still needs further elaboration. Additionally, the recently developed networks model and the mesh regulation concept are worth being considered.
(2) Networks Model : Being understood as an institutional answer to overcome the traditional law-making weaknesses the networks model enables the medium “power” to materialize by allocating power to individuals or to different governmental authorities. The networks model can be found at the European Commission’s activities and in the context of the Mauritius Declaration on the Internet of Things.
Source: University of Zurich
Author: Rolf H. Weber