The “Internet of Things”, also known under the acronym ‘IoT’, is one of the most important interconnected technological systems of everyday life. It will likely continue to increase in popularity since it has proven to be an integral part of the mechanism in which businesses function and the potentials of connected devices are used to maintain competitiveness.
But what does “Internet of Things” stand for exactly? According to the Cambridge Online Dictionary, “Internet of Things” refers to the “objects with computing devices in them that are able to connect to each other and exchange data using the Internet”. Hence, every system which consists of interrelated computing devices, both mechanical and digital, which have unique identifiers and can transfer data over a network without human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction, is an example of the “Internet of Things” concept.
At first sight, “The Internet of Things” seems a purely beneficial technological advancement which enables the transfer of data and opens up a huge range of possibilities of how these data can be used. An eco-system of the “Internet of Things”, as explained on the “The Internet of Things Agenda” website, consists of “web-enabled smart devices that use embedded systems, such as processors, sensors and communication hardware, to collect, send and act on the data which they acquire from the environments”. It is clear that the benefit of such a data transfer over a network enables organisations and individuals to better understand customers, market needs, to deliver enhanced customer services, to improve all decision-making procedures and finally, to increase the value of business.
Nevertheless, there is an aspect of the “Internet of Things” which raises high concern and asks for immediate actions and measures. Each IoT system uses its own specific IoT applications and protocols regarding connectivity, networking, and communication aspects. So, the question arises: Who is to control the way in which these protocols are designed? Who is to control the ethical issues connected to the way in which the vast amounts of collected data are used?
This concern has been raised very recently and has generated broad antitrust inquiries into “Internet of Things” technologies. Specifically, Margrethe Vestager, Vice President of the European Commission for ‘A Europe Fit for the Digital Age’, gave a press conference on 16th July 2020, in which she announced the launch of a broad antitrust inquiry into the Internet of Things. Vestager noted that voice assistants, including Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant will be examined as part of the investigation.
As published on the EURACTIV site, in an article entitled Vestager launches investigation into Internet of Things, Margrethe Vestager is certain that “there is a risk that companies can misuse this data that they collect though such devices to cement their position in the market place” and that “they might even misuse their knowledge of how to access our services, to enter the market of those services and take it over”.
According to Vice President Vestager, the issue of ‘misuse’ is one that can happen anytime within any kind of framework. This is why the European Commission decided to take necessary precaution measures so as to ensure that the beneficial rather than the dangerous aspects of the “Internet of Things” are used.
Online Cambridge Dictionary. 2020. Meaning of Internet of Things by Online Cambridge Dictionary [ONLINE] Available at https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/internet-of-things [Accessed 22 July 2020].
Online Network of European Media EURACTIV [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.euractiv.com [Accessed 22 July 2020].
Online IATE platform “Internet of Things’ [ONLINE] Available at https://iate.europa.eu/search/standard/result/1595399972859/1 [Accessed 22 July 2020]
Internet of Things Agenda. 2020. Definition Internet of Things [ONLINE] Available at: https://internetofthingsagenda.techtarget.com/definition/Internet-of-Things-IoT [Accessed 22 July 2020]
EURACTIVE. Vestager launches investigation into internet of things [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.euractiv.com/section/digital/news/vestager-launches-investigation-into-internet-of-things/ [Accessed 22 July 2020]
Written by Maria Papamargariti, Greek and English Philologist, writer in the field of children’s literature.