The European Commission describes the Internet of Things (IoT) as, “the next step towards the digitisation of our society and economy, where objects and people are interconnected through communication networks.” From connected cars that reduce insurance premiums, to energy meters that automate central heating, to watches that track our health, such innovations are already starting to have a profound impact on society and the economy.

According to the analyst firm Gartner, a typical family home in a mature affluent market could have more than 500 smart devices by 2022. By 2020, the number of IoT connections within the EU is expected to have a market value exceeding €1 trillion.

The V-Pet by Vodafone. Picture rights: Vodafone

In order to make the most of these opportunities, European citizens and businesses must be confident that IoT devices are reliable and secure. Europe will not be able to unleash the power of IoT without ensuring an adequate level of trust in the technology.

In order to ensure that our IoT innovations meet these needs, Vodafone has been collaborating with Consumers International, a global consumer association, to create Trust by Design principles specific to consumer IoT.

These are intended to help manufacturers create safe and trusted smart devices for consumers in relation to six key areas: security; privacy; transparency; user-friendliness; and the ethical nature of smart devices. They provide useful, practical guidance to manufacturers, with case studies and checklists to encourage implementation.

While guidelines are a step in the right direction, this does not preclude the need for an updated regulatory framework to support IoT.

Building on proactive industry measures, we also need  harmonised rules at European level to ensure a true digital single market for IoT services.

This framework should be tailor-made for handling IoT products, rather than trying to retrofit regulations designed for the telecoms sector onto these services.

A single authorisation regime would facilitate European sales.

Most importantly, consumers should be protected when using IoT devices whatever the underlying technology.

Vodafone will continue to develop further product specific guidance for developers and will use its work with Consumers International to provide workshops for developers, to help them understand consumers’ concerns and comply with these essential requirements. This is a unique example of industry and consumer associations working together proactively to ensure trust is designed into IoT products.

Lisa Felton is Head of Services Regulation at Vodafone Group, with expertise in consumer, payments and telecom regulation. Lisa has over 20 years’ experience as a lawyer and in policy both within Vodafone and in private practice.

 

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