Communications regulator Ofcom and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) are teaming up with industry and government to regulate the Internet of Things (IoT).
The IoT describes the idea that billions of smart gadgets, sensors and devices are connected to each other and to the internet.
According to Ofcom, there are already over 40 million devices connected via the IoT in the UK alone, and this is forecast to grow more than eight-fold by 2022.
According to a recent Forrester survey commissioned by barcode printing and RFID technology provider Zebra Technologies, UK businesses came top out of 16 countries in their uptake of IoT solutions. Computing Research found that UK firms are indeed placing importance on IoT, rather than dismissing it as another buzz-phrase.
Ofcom said that it wanted to “create the right environment for investment and innovation” for the Internet of Things, and has identified several priority work areas following input from stakeholders in 2014.
These include spectrum availability, in which Ofcom will monitor the IoT’s spectrum needs to help identify when additional spectrum is needed. Currently, the IoT’s short- to medium-term spectrum demands are being met with current initiatives, Ofcom said.
Another area that Ofcom wants to concentrate on is data privacy. It said that while existing legislation such as the Data Protection Act 1998 covered most of the details in order to protect individuals’ personal information, there may be limitations to traditional approaches to data privacy.
“Ofcom will work with the ICO, government, other regulators and industry to explore solutions to data privacy issues in the IoT,” it said.
The regulator believes that as IoT plays a steadily larger part in people’s daily lives, secure and reliable networks and data storage will become increasingly important.
“With this in mind, Ofcom will investigate how its existing activities on security and resilience of the UK’s communications networks can include the IoT,” the regulator stated.
Ofcom said that IoT services would likely use bespoke addressing systems, or addresses based on the IPv6 internet standard. To support this, Ofcom said it will continue to monitor the progress already being made by internet service providers in supporting IPv6 connectivity.
The regulator wants to ensure that the UK has the tools and infrastructure to allow the IoT to develop unhindered.
“Ofcom has already released spectrum for machine-to-machine uses – making the UK among the first countries in Europe to do so,” it said.
The government has also taken a keen interest in IoT. In March last year, prime minister David Cameron pledged £45m to develop the IoT arena, bringing the total amount of government funds earmarked for the IoT to £73m.
He said that he saw IoT as a “huge transformative development”, which could boost productivity, improve health, make transport more efficient, reduce energy needs and tackle climate change.