The first part of the report looks at the current state of the technologies which define the IoT and analyse potential barriers to their wider use and dissemination. Technologies do not emerge in a vacuum. They require standards and protocols which depend, in turn, on the willingness of firms to share certain knowledge while competing with each other over market share. Thus standard setting involves a delicate balance of cooperation and competition. The report weigh ups arguments for and against the view that a common or open standard will be needed in order for the IoT to develop. It also explores the economics underlying take up of the IoT and the role of government in encouraging its transition to general purpose technology with the potential to transform products and markets.
The second part of the report looks at data protection and privacy issues. The IoT is emerging at a moment when there is growing concern over privacy and data security issues arising from use of internet-based technologies. It is possible to overstate the dangers posed by the IoT to privacy since many of its applications will involve closed systems. However, part of the economic value of the IoT to business firms is likely to lie in the opportunities it provides for the commercialisation of personal data. If risks to personal privacy from this process are not addressed, the take up of the technology may be delayed by a combination of legal liabilities and consumer distrust. The solution to this problem is likely to lie, the report suggests, in a combination of regulatory experimentation and the development of technologies which provide consumers and citizens greater control over personal data.
The third part of the report looks at the relationship between the IoT, human agency, and trust. The report identifies threats to human autonomy and freedom in a transformational technology such as the IoT which, while providing new opportunities for wealth creation and for the enhancement of personal and societal well being, may also disrupt core institutions, including those underpinning citizen voice and participation in democratic decision making. The report argues that these risks need to be clearly accepted and addressed as the IoT develops. The future of the IoT is not preordained, and choices made in the early stages of its emergence will decisively influence its future development.