Connected devices. Tentacle networks. Huge amounts of data.
In short, it is the Internet of Things (IoT). There have never been more things in the ever-expanding IoT ecosystem than today.
From smart cities and smart cars to smart stethoscopes and smart dog collars, the world is becoming more interconnected every day.
“What the Internet of Things is really about is information technology that can collect its own information and often what it does with that information is not to say something to the people who run it, it just performs a task,” said technology pioneer, Briton Kevin Ashton, who coined the definition in 1999.
And in this regard, former Google chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt, in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos (Switzerland) in 2015, when asked about the future of the web, commented as follows: “I will answer very simply that the internet will disappear. There will be so many IP addresses … so many devices, sensors, things that you are wearing, things that you are interacting with that you won’t even sense it. It will be part of your presence all the time”.
Of course, we are not there yet, but it would seem that it is not that far off in the future. While we wait, not exactly longing, for it to materialise, let us clarify what an IoT is and how it works.
This acronym refers to a network of objects equipped with identification technologies linked to each other and able to communicate both with each other and with the nodal points of the system formed, but in particular capable of creating a network of things where each of them is identifiable both by name and by physical location.
The IoT devices that characterise these physical objects mainly fall into one of these two categories:
- switches (which send a command to an object);
- sensors (which receive data and transmit it to elsewhere).
By way of example, a smart thermostat (this word is often assumed to be synonymous with IoT), is able to receive data on a user’s location while on the move (e.g. by connecting to Google Maps), and use it to automatically adjust the temperature of his or her home prior to his or her arrival without any action on the part of the latter.
And this is just one possible application. There are numerous fields in current and future perspectives in which they can be used with undisputed effectiveness, among which we mention:
- Domotics, technology applied to homes (smart home) such as refrigerators, dishwashers, telephones or the thermostat of the previous example;
- Robotics, the engineering and technology that allow robots to perform tasks that today would be performed by humans;
- Avionics, technology applied to aircraft and piloting (aircraft communication systems, advanced autopilot, etc.);
- Automotive industry, e.g. smart windscreen wipers, automatic filter cleaning, up to smart cars such as cars capable of moving without a driver (Tesla is one of the leading companies in this field);
- Biomedical industry, such as remote patient management up to remote surgery;
- Agriculture, such as with the introduction of humidity sensors in order to more accurately plan the automatic irrigation of crops.
In Italy, the IoT sector, after a downturn in the first year of the pandemic, resumed its upward trend in 2021, reaching EUR 7.3 billion with an increase of 22% over the previous year. There are 110 million active connections or 1.8 per inhabitant, perfectly in line with pre-Covid growth and significant when compared to the performance of the main Western countries (growth between 15% and 25%). A significant incentive for the sector’s development will be provided by the NRRP (National Recovery and Resilience Plan – a plan that is part of the European Union’s Next Generation EU to revive the economy after the Covid-19 pandemic), which has allocated resources for an additional EUR 29.7 billion.
According to the World Economic Forum, by 2025 there will be 40 billion IoT-connected devices entering indiscriminately into every aspect of daily life.
This spread implies a major security issue.
The risks associated with such complexity and the potential for multiple repercussions in the economic, social and political spheres can range from technological dependence to the loss of a state’s strategic autonomy to small- or wide-ranging anthropogenic threats in which human error is compounded by the initiatives of individuals, groups of individuals or malevolent organisations of varying degrees of complexity and preparedness, which could be motivated by the most diverse dangerous and/or destructive intentions.
In this regard, the national realities are organising themselves by preparing the necessary prevention by defining the appropriate cybersecurity strategies until the optimal achievement, where possible, of a national strategic autonomy aimed at creating technological and industrial independence for the sector.
The European Union is also very interested in and sensitive to all the issues addressed so far, including the sector among its key objectives in the digital sphere and allocating funds to it in the Next Generation EU.
The European Commission on Competition has also carried out an in-depth analysis with regard to the impact on consumers with the issuing of a report on 20 January 2022, which follows the preliminary report of June 2021.
In it, problems are identified with regard to:
- the spread of voice assistants allowing interaction with other products, particularly those of Amazon, Apple and Google, which pose a potential risk to the entry of other competitors as they prevent their replacement or interaction with those of other companies
- exclusivity and captive sales by the big players;
- the dominant position that would allow the mentioned big techs access to large amounts of data, thus strengthening their dominant market position;
- the lack of interoperability due to the use of proprietary technologies to the extent that voice assistant providers could also limit the operational features of third-party software.
SOURCES AND IN-DEPTH ANALYSIS
- Wikipedia – IoT definition: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_of_things ;
- Google chairman: “The Internet Will Disappear”: https://www.businessinsider.com/google-chief-eric-schmidt-the-internet-will-disappear-2015-1?r=US&IR=T ;
- Interview with Kevin Ashton – inventor of IoT: Is driven by the users: https://www.avnet.com/wps/portal/silica/resources/article/interview-with-iot-inventor-kevin-ashton-iot-is-driven-by-the-users/ ;
- What is Internet of Things (IoT)?: https://www.zdnet.com/article/what-is-the-internet-of-things-everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-iot-right-now/ ;
- IoT Observatory in Italy – research 2021-2022: https://d110erj175o600.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/13111734/Business-Scenario-2022-La-crescita-dellInternet-of-Things.pdf ;
- Internet of Things (IoT) Security: Challenges and Best Practices: https://www.apriorit.com/dev-blog/513-iot-security ;
- The next generation Internet of Things: https://digital-strategy.ec.europa.eu/en/policies/next-generation-internet-things ;
- REPORT FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE COUNCIL AND THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, Final report – sector inquiry into consumer Internet of Things (20 gennaio 2022): https://competition-policy.ec.europa.eu/system/files/2022-01/internet-of-things_final_report_2022_en.pdf ;
- REPORT FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE COUNCIL AND THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, Final report – Sector inquiry into consumer Internet of Things . Accompanying the document: https://competition-policy.ec.europa.eu/system/files/2022-01/internet-of-things_final_report_2022_staff_working_document_0.pdf
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