The Internet of Things (IoT) – in which connected devices are proliferating at an unprecedented rate – is a technological development that is transforming the way we live and do business. IoT continues the decades-long trend of increasing connectivity among devices and the Internet, bringing online everything from refrigerators to automobiles to factory inventory systems. At the same time, IoT encompasses a widening scope of industries and activities and a vastly increasing scale and number of devices being connected, thus raising the stakes and impacts of broad connectivity.
The prospective benefits of IoT to personal convenience, public safety, efficiency, and the environment are clear. IoT has the potential to make our highways safer by enabling connected vehicles to interact with each other to prevent accidents, to make quality health care more accessible through remote monitoring devices and telehealth practices for those who cannot easily travel, and to reduce waste and improve efficiency both in factory supply chains and in the running of cities. It even has the potential to create new industries and consumer goods that have yet to be imagined. For the full potential to be realized, however, the necessary infrastructure and policies must be in place, including strategies to respond to the challenges raised in areas such as cybersecurity and privacy.
Due to its expertise in the issues raised by IoT, as well as its economy-wide perspective, the Department of Commerce (Department) is well placed to meet these challenges and to champion the development of a robust IoT environment that benefits consumers, the economy, and society as a whole.
The goal of this paper is to identify elements of an approach for the Department of Commerce to foster the advancement of the Internet of Things. The record of comments underlying this green paper, however, does set forth a series of issues that should be considered in any future discussions related to the possibility of a national IoT strategy. The Department heard a strong message from the submitted comments that coordination among U.S. Government partners would be helpful, because of the complex, interdisciplinary, cross-sector nature of IoT. A federal coordination structure for these issues may also be helpful when working with international and private sector partners.
This paper begins with an overview of IoT, including definitional issues, the benefits of IoT, the possible role of government in fostering the IoT environment, and some of the international considerations that, due to the global nature of the Internet and connected technologies, are inherent in the issues discussed in the rest of the paper. The next section lays out an approach for Departmental action organized around four engagement areas. The section thereafter provides a review and analysis of the comments, current Department initiatives, and next steps for each engagement area.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), located within the Department of Commerce, is the Executive Branch agency that is principally responsible by law for advising the President on telecommunications and information policy issues. NTIA’s programs and policymaking focus largely on expanding broadband Internet access and adoption in America, expanding the use of spectrum by all users, and ensuring that the Internet remains an engine for continued innovation and economic growth. These goals are critical to America’s competitiveness in the 21st century global economy and to addressing many of the nation’s most pressing needs, such as improving education, health care, and public safety.