French Postal and Communications regulatory authority, Arcep, has released a white paper outlining five key issues for regulating the Internet of Things (IoT).
The white paper, titled ‘Internet of Things: Inventing innovation-friendly regulation’, sought to anticipate some of the structural problems that may come about as we seek to make IoT more mainstream, so that it could promote the creation of an IoT regulatory ecosystem.
Five key challenges are listed, including: the reliability and cost of connectivity, the spectrum available to cope with IoT, the need for standards, consumer confidence, a stronger regulatory ecosystem.
The Arcep roadmap
In its white paper, Arcep notes that the IoT is already booming and revolutionizing the lives of businesses and individuals. The regulatory body notes that the explosion of devices which are connected to the Internet creates a lot of problems regarding things like standards and data privacy. Therefore, regulators need to be paying closer attention to this technology.
What should they pay attention to according to the white paper? Firstly, it’s about connectivity. The Internet of Things requires extensive connectivity based on a diverse range of network technologies. To make IoT reliable and low-cost and low-power, among other things, regulators must consider how IoT-specific networks, like LPWAN, can complement existing fixed networks, such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
It’s also about ensuring the availability of what Arcep calls ‘scarce resources’ – nominally, frequencies. Arcep said that “while in the short term, a saturation of [frequencies] does not seem to occur, in the medium term this raises the question of the amount of spectrum to respond to the growing needs of the Internet of Things.” The white paper also questions the uniqueness of identifiers, in particular the transition from IPv4 to IPv6, which regulators will need to address.
Standards and trust
As in any sector, regulation is not always about restriction and that’s what Arcep stresses in this paper. In particular, it notes that the when standards are eventually agreed upon they should not hinder innovation. Not hindering innovation is also called out in a white paper by Baker & Mackenzie, which notes that the reason IoT is so hard to regulate is that, as yet, there is no strict agreed upon definition for what it is. As such, it is always changing and regulators must adapt with it.
One thing Arcep believes regulators can do, however, is to help the wider IoT community build consumer trust in the technology. That means ensuring “the proper management of data” and strong network security.
These are challenging issues and will thus require a team of like-minded bodies to work towards solving them. Arcep concludes that regular meetings between companies and bodies in the IoT ecosystem – around specific themes so as to break the subject down – could help to answer these problems.
Arcep consulted 30 industry players in tandem with several French partners (ANFR, CNIL and ANSII, among others). The publication of the paper coincided with a conference hosted by Arcep on 7 November, discussing five areas (connectivity, scarce resources, openness, trust and support) on the topic of ‘The Internet of Things: inventing innovation-friendly regulation’.
More analysis to follow.