The Internet of Things (IoT) was already expected to change the way we live and work long before COVID-19 began spreading around the globe in late 2019. After a year in which human to human contact has been necessarily constrained, contact between all manner of devices has become more important than ever. A growing amount of economic activity is taking place remotely, and whilst some of this may shift back to an “offline” mode once the pandemic recedes, the move towards a greater dependence on internet connected devices long predates the pandemic, and so will almost certainly outlast it.
The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to transform societies and economies. Such widespread transformation is bound to attract increased regulatory and legislative scrutiny. Here we explore the issues on which governments are most likely to focus their attention.
Covid-19 and the concerted push by European governments to develop contact-tracing apps has revealed the difficult trade-offs between privacy and public health. Like in previous debates, policymakers and Big Tech find themselves on opposite sides of the argument, although their roles have reversed, with US giants now positioning themselves as the guardians of their users’ privacy by refusing to facilitate centralised apps.
The spread of tiny chips into more and more everyday items promises a cumulative leap in convenience for consumers and productivity for businesses. Yet as ever more consumer devices become hooked up to the internet and the line between hardware and software blurs, the question of consumer protection and the need for new consumer regulations will receive greater attention.