Labour MP: ‘IoT is the biggest change to our lives since electricity’

Labour MP: ‘IoT is the biggest change to our lives since electricity’

Labour MP: 'IoT is the biggest change to our lives since electricity'
Labour MP: 'IoT is the biggest change to our lives since electricity' (Image: @ChiOnwurah)

Chi Onwurah, Labour MP and Shadow Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), believes that the Internet of Things (IoT) will be the biggest change to our lives since the introduction of electricity.

Speaking at The Bio Agency’s Connected World event in Shoreditch, London yesterday, Onwurah captivated the audience with her view on IoT, the perceived barriers to adoption, and what the UK government could – and should – be doing to accelerate technological innovation in the country.

Onwurah, an engineer by trade and someone has charted technological change from the dot com bust to the ascent of Google, Facebook and Twitter, talked openly about IoT opportunities and challenges, as well as human attitudes to new innovations.

For example, she mentioned former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s brazen bid to digitize all government services by 2005 (something David Cameron’s government are still trying to tackle in 2016), as well as previous far-fetched reports of flying cars and jet packs.

“We are often over-enthusiastic with the timeline for new technology, but we still underestimate the changes it will have on our lives,” said Onwurah at the event, which Internet of Business attended.

“I believe that IoT is the ultimate example of that. I believe that IoT has the potential to transform our lives more than anything since electricity.”

Onwurah, who was the first MP to mention IoT in the House of Commons in an address on Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communications in 2011, added that the Internet of Things (IoT) offers huge immediate advantages, from improving economies to the environment, but suspects that other improvements are beyond human imagination at this moment in time.

“IoT is something we have in all our homes, and it can empower things in a way that is hard to imagine now…It literally is an opportunity to save the world.”

She hypothesized that a future with IoT (powered by M2M) could drive us to a future of integrated transport citizens, where buses stop where we want them to – rather than us having to go to a predetermined stop.

“The UK must be at forefront at developing IoT and must show leadership and that needs to happen now.”

IoT challenges

There are, however, a number of challenges. A lack of Internet addresses is one – “I think we’ve already run out”, as is introducing more, less tech-savvy citizens to the Internet.

Then there’s the issue of Amazon and Google tracking our every move and purchase, the rising threat of cyber-crime and how to manage the copious amounts of data – something that numerous others mentioned at the event.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Onwurah added that the Conservative government could and should be doing more to accelerate the development of the Internet of Things in the UK.

“This government has no real framework or principles for dealing with technology and its effect on our lives. Instead, we have adhoc and chaotic responses and spurts of funding here and there.”

Onwurah was especially keen to point out issues with data management, broadband and 5G infrastructure, and a lack of skills. She ultimately believes that a “well informed debate” is needed around these subjects, and especially on data.

“We already have huge volumes of data created by people, machines, governments and businesses – that is going to increase exponentially with IoT. I don’t think it’s surprising the existing legal ref framework isn’t designed to support that, or reflect what our values are.

“People should own their own data…but we need debate over what ownership means. We also need to set out where government and business takes ownership of that data cos value to it, and because there’s no personal data.”

Onwurah went onto praise open data, but said that data sharing is difficult. “There are 558 different ways sharing data in HMRC. There isn’t another established principles or framework, we need to do that as country, as EU indeed, position to go forward and embrace the Internet of Things.

Chi Onwurah is a keynote speaker at our Internet of Insurance conference, taking place in London on 13-14 June 2016. To learn more from Chi and high-level executives from some of the world’s biggest insurers and reinsurers, click here to register your interest in attending the event.