Governments Should Approach Internet of Things in Light-Handed, Strategic Way

Government needs to take an active role in not only proactively planning for its own use of the Internet of Things, but also in providing innovators with the regulatory environment needed to move forward.

Public- and private-sector officials gathered in Washington, D.C., Wednesday morning to discuss the opportunities and risks surrounding the ever-expanding Internet of Things (IoT) and the part government should play in its evolution. 

With billions of new connected devices projected to come online by 2020, industry experts urged national governments around the world to approach the growing space in a light-handed and strategic way.

In a report released Wednesday, Dec. 16, by Center for Data Innovation, who sponsored the panel discussion, authors Joshua New and Daniel Castro argue that the government needs to take an active role in not only proactively planning for its own use of the IoT, but also in providing innovators with the regulatory environment needed to move forward.

“Ultimately, our report makes the case that no country will successfully capture the benefits of the Internet of Things by leaving its development solely up to the market, just as no country can capture the benefits of the Internet of Things without a robust industry unencumbered by restrictive regulations,” New said.

The report author also said that while some countries have approached the topic of the IoT, they have not developed comprehensive enough strategies for the long term. 

With discussion circling on the national scene around technological encryption and privacy, New said the desire to regulate without a clear and studied issue to resolve could ultimately hamper creativity within the marketplace. 

“Unfortunately, creating restrictive rules for emerging technology at such an emerging stage in its development without clear evidence of how it could actually end up affecting consumers can have unintended consequences that limit innovation by restricting business models or even cost,” New said.

Panelists, which included representatives from AT&T, Amazon Web Services and Qualcomm, agreed government was an essential part in not only driving large-scale deployments of technology through public projects, but also in the sense that how they regulate could make or break emerging technology.

“I think in the absence of a strategy, we run the risk of this patchwork quilt and confusion of regulation creating a lot of issues [not only] for consumers, but also for industry,” said AT&T Vice President of Global Public Policy Jeff Brueggeman.

Panelists argue that the development of a national strategy could also be essential in opening an international standards dialogue, boosting research and development efforts, and helping to ensure underserved portions of the population are not excluded from IoT.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who co-founded the Internet of Things Caucus with Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), spoke briefly to the vacuum of knowledge at the congressional level when it comes to the emerging technology. The caucus was developed as an educational resource.

“We have to find a way to create a strong, safe, reliable connectivity. And if we do, then there is an almost unlimited potential for efficiencies and, in fact, a better life for our families,” he said. “If we fail to do so and we get mired the usual government bureaucracy, we will probably succeed, we’ll just make it a lot harder.”

Eyragon Eidam is the Web editor for Government Technology magazine, after previously serving as assistant news editor and covering such topics as legislation, social media and public safety. He can be reached at