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Fact Sheet: Fostering the Advancement of the Internet of Things

January 12, 2017

The Department of Commerce today issued a green paper outlining guiding principles and an approach to support the advancement of the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT is a transformational evolution in global technology with the potential to benefit public safety, health care, governance, the environment and improve the daily lives of workers and consumers.

The report, developed by the Department’s Internet Policy Task Force and Digital Economy Leadership Team, finds that the increased scale, scope and stakes of the Internet of Things will lead to opportunities and challenges that are qualitatively different than prior technological advances.  The report suggests that the Department’s policies and practices that evolved over recent decades to support emerging technologies -- like the Internet -- can form a strong foundation for fostering the growth and advancement of advanced IoT applications.

The paper reflects feedback received from an April 2016 Request for Comment as well as a workshop hosted by the Department in September 2016. Included in the paper are four principles – derived from stakeholder input – to guide the Department’s future IoT activities:

  • The Department will lead efforts to ensure the IoT environment is inclusive and widely accessible to consumers, workers, and businesses;
  • The Department will recommend policy and take action to support a stable, secure and trustworthy IoT environment;
  • The Department will advocate for and defend a globally connected, open and interoperable IoT environment built upon industry-driven, consensus-based standards; and
  • The Department will encourage IoT growth and innovation by expanding markets and reducing barriers to entry, and by convening stakeholders to address public policy challenges.

The paper also identifies four broad areas of engagement to advance these principles.

Enabling Infrastructure Availability and Access

The expected increase in connected devices associated with IoT will dramatically increase demands upon the nation’s information and communications infrastructure. It could put stress on legacy networks as well as more recently deployed all-Internet Protocol networks. 

IoT will depend upon both public and private communications networks, and will use various wireline and wireless modes, including satellite, often in combination or on an interdependent basis. The need for seamless connectivity will require deployment of robust broadband infrastructure for interconnecting devices. Wireless technologies will also likely play a significant role.

Meeting these connectivity demands will require continued modernization of legacy telecommunications infrastructure and buildout of additional broadband networks.

Crafting Balanced Policy and Building Coalitions

While the computer and Internet revolutions have pushed more of our lives into the data domain, IoT will continue that trend and bring both software and connectivity into almost every aspect of the home, enterprise, and public space.

In response, the paper suggests the Department work to remove barriers and encourage coordination and collaboration among all stakeholders – government, civil society, academia, the technical community, and the private sector, globally and domestically – to ensure forward-looking, adaptable, and balanced policy that fosters innovation while addressing risks and challenges.

The green paper also proposes that the Department seek to influence, analyze, devise and promote norms and practices that will protect IoT users while encouraging the growth, advancement and applicability of IoT technologies.

Promoting Standards and Technology Advancement

The U.S. Government has an important role to play in supporting the development of IoT standards. The paper proposes that the Department help ensure necessary technical standards are developed and are in place to support global IoT interoperability and that the technical applications and devices to support IoT continue to advance.

The green paper suggests that the Department do this by monitoring IoT related technology developments and applications and contributing to research and development involving those technologies. It also proposes that the Department advocate for industry-led, consensus-based, international standards for IoT technologies and applications in its bilateral and multilateral engagements, as well as actively participate in the development of technical standards for IoT.

Encouraging Markets

The U.S. Government, and the Department of Commerce in particular, can help to encourage the development and growth of the market for IoT devices by being a leading consumer and adopter of IoT; helping to address the workforce issues that will arise due to the deployment of IoT; and helping to better understand, plan for, and respond to IoT through quantification and measurement of the deployment and use of IoT.