Everything wrong with IoT (and how to fix it) – according to Uncle Sam

US Dept of Commerce green paper reveals that, er, it's a bit of a mess


The US Department of Commerce has published a green paper [PDF] on the Internet of Things, the first step in a process to develop formal governmental policies on the technology.

Following a public request for comments back in April, the green paper attempts to summarize what a large number of companies, advocacy groups and interested individuals said with respect to what the key issues surrounding IoT were, what the benefits and challenges were, and what role the federal government should adopt.

The end result is a typically vague but well-meaning combination of "doing verbs," complete with lengthy resource references. But the paper does help point the direction in which the IoT market is going.

Several things stand out:

  • The US government needs to get on the same page: As we have repeatedly pointed out, a wide range of different government departments are jostling for position to be the IoT go-to. This has not gone unnoticed and the report notes, diplomatically, that "coordination among US Government partners would be helpful." It also notes that "a federal coordination structure for these issues may be helpful." In other words: get your act together.
  • New policies will develop through broad participation: The Department of Commerce is very keen on the so-called "multistakeholder" approach to policy-making, where everyone including civil society and the technical community gets a seat at the table. It has reaffirmed it would adopt this approach with IoT.
  • It ain't nothing special: While the internet of things offers some unique possibilities, the existing systems and processes should be sufficient to handle any new challenges.
  • There is no definition of what IoT actually is: Obviously this is not an ideal scenario – trying to create policies for something that no one can agree on what it actually is. As such: "This green paper will continue to use the term Internet of Things as an umbrella term to reference the technological development in which a greatly increasing number of devices are connected to one another and/or to the Internet." So that solves that.
  • Regulation is bad: The US government was told to resist the urge to regulate things, especially when it's still largely up in the air. The DoC appears to agree.
  • There are different flavors of IoT: There was agreement that it would be useful to put IoT into several buckets, such as industrial and consumer. Smart city technology was also seen as pretty much its own thing.
  • We need IPv6 and we need it now: Unsurprisingly, if we want to add billions of new things to the internet, responders feel it may be a good idea to finally shift to an infrastructure that is capable of handling it. As a result, the DoC will "continue to encourage the adoption of IPv6 through its ongoing efforts to enhance standards profiles, support measurement and testing infrastructures, and foster multistakeholder collaboration." It'll happen, we promise.

You can read the 69-page green paper [PDF] online. The DoC has put out another request for comments on the back of it and these will be reviewed before it is developed into a more formal policy "white paper."

In the meantime, here are the official "doing verbs" that outline the official "areas of engagement":

  • Enabling Infrastructure Availability and Access: Fostering the physical and spectrum-related assets needed to support IoT growth and advancement.
  • Crafting Balanced Policy and Building Coalitions: Removing barriers and encouraging coordination and collaboration; influencing, analyzing, devising, and promoting norms and practices that will protect IoT users while encouraging growth, advancement, and applicability of IoT technologies.
  • Promoting Standards and Technology Advancement: Ensuring necessary technical standards are developed and in place to support global IoT interoperability and that the technical applications and devices to support IoT continue to advance.
  • Encouraging Markets: Promoting the advancement of IoT through Department usage, application, and novel usage of the technologies; and translating the economic benefits and opportunities of IoT to foreign partners.

You've got until the beginning of April to send your views to Uncle Sam. ®

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