Globally, we are experiencing a digital revolution, one with the potential to dramatically improve the quality of citizen’s lives.
The Internet of Things (IoT) has become, sometimes even without realising it, an integral part of our daily lives; just as the regular internet has.
In simple terms, the IoT is made up of connected devices, ranging from simple sensors to smartphones or wearables.
By combining these devices with automated systems, it becomes possible to gather and analyse information then create an action that should help someone with a particular task or to learn from a process. It is mostly about networks, devices and data.
The IoT allows devices on closed private internet connections to communicate with each other, bringing those networks together.
That provides the opportunity to communicate not only within local network but across different networking types, creating much more interconnected world.
The quality and quantity of data that the IoT provides creates the possibility for much more complex and responsive interactions with devices, with subsequently greater potential for change.
Each device collects data for a specific purpose, which may be useful and have an impact on wider economy.
This is related to such important areas such as delivering better healthcare, smart transportation, security, sustainable usage of different energy resources, agriculture and climate change mitigation.
For example, sensors on product lines within industrial applications can significantly increase efficiency and reduce waste.
The IoT gives us an opportunity to be more efficient in how we do things, saving time, financial resources and reducing emissions at the same time.
It helps companies re-think how they produce goods and governments and various authorities how they deliver public services.
“In order to successfully create IoT environments, every EU citizen must have the opportunity to access to the internet”
On the other hand, IoT is increasingly connected to simpler day-to-day issues such as finding a parking place or linking the home entertainment systems, as consumers increasingly expect.
The IoT merges the physical and virtual worlds and creates smart environments. The European Commission has already taken a number of steps to contribute to the digitisation of the EU.
One of the most important elements was the creation of the Alliance for Internet of Things Innovation (AIOTI) in 2015.
It demonstrated the Commission’s intention to work closely with all major IoT stakeholders in establishing a competitive European IoT market and creating functioning business models. AIOTI is currently the largest European IoT Association.
In the same year, the Digital Single Market (DSM) strategy was adopted. This includes elements that will accelerating developments on IoT in Europe.
In particular, it underlines the need to avoid fragmentation and to foster interoperability for IoT if it is to reach its possible potential.
To meet the strategic needs the Commission published a staff working document in April 2016 entitled ‘Advancing the Internet of Things in Europe’.
This is part of the ‘Digitising European Industry’ initiative and specifies Europe’s IoT vision, which is based on a thriving ecosystem, a human-centred approach and a single market for IoT.
For a better understanding of the ecosystem, in 2019 the Cluster Study investigated the landscape of physical and virtual clusters of enterprises, research organisations and academia working on the innovation, development and market deployment of IoT technologies and applications.
“The IoT gives us an opportunity to be more e icient in how we do things, saving time, financial resources and reducing emissions at the same time”
Major steps that the Commission needs to take for IoT in the near future are related to the security and compatibility standards, the availability of the internet - particularly in remote rural areas of Europe - as well as sustainable financial support for research and development projects in this area.
Those will help EU to become a leader of the ongoing digital revolution. On the security issues, everything that is connected to the internet can potentially be hacked, with IoT products no exception.
Strengthening the security and effective regulatory framework in this area therefore needs to be considered from the outset.
There is also a need for compatible standards. Connected objects need to be able to communicate with each other to transfer data and share what they are recording.
If they all run on different standards, that becomes a challenge. By making compatibility a priority, it will allow more devices and applications to connect.
Of course, in order to successfully create IoT environments, every EU citizen must have the opportunity to access to the internet.
Currently, internet access costs remain relatively high and there is a lack of infrastructure, particularly in remote rural areas.
A number of experimental approaches are currently underway with the aim of overcoming these issues, such as a series of interlinked satellites in orbit above a specific area.
This relates to further financial support for IoT R&D. These should be important consideration when finalising the ongoing negotiations on the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 and preparing the Horizon Europe programme that will succeed Horizon 2020.