Over the course of the last year, a number of U.S. technology companies and associations, including Intel, Samsung and the Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC) initiated a process dubbed “the National IOT Strategy Dialogue” the purpose of which was to develop strategic recommendations for U.S. government policymakers on the Internet of Things.

The group recently issued a white paper capturing the recommendations they advocate that the U.S. government undertake or implement.  These players suggest that for the U.S. to win the global race to test, develop and deploy beneficial IOT technologies, that the U.S. government needs a strategic roadmap.

The white paper focuses on ways to advance pro-innovation public policies, to enhance market incentives and to tweak regulatory frameworks to achieve this goal.  It also highlights that government adoption and use of IOT applications will showcase American global leadership and notes the positive social and economic potential of IOT, citing estimates that IOT is capable of producing a total economic impact of $3.9 to $11 trillion per year globally by 2025.

The white paper starts at a basic level, suggesting the Congress and the administration adopt a consistent broad based IOT definition and recommends that a national IOT strategy would be advanced by the enactment of a pending bill known as “Developing Innovation and Growing the Internet of Things” or the DIGIT Act (House version | Senate version), a bipartisan measure that prioritizes having a national IOT strategy. The group also recommends that consistent IOT standards and policies should be encouraged both at the federal level and internationally to foster harmonization.

Specifically, the white paper discourages new regulations where existing standards, best practices or effective regulations already exist.  The group recommends that:

  • The White House or Congress direct federal agencies to support and promote industry-led IOT standards efforts and that the U.S. government should engage as a key participant in those efforts.
  • The Department of Commerce is the best agency to coordinate across all federal agencies to prevent inconsistent unnecessary or duplicative IOT regulations and to focus on policies and practices that avoid creating barriers to the integration devices data and services across industry sectors.
  • The federal government advocate internationally to support global industry-led IOT standardization activities and protect the free flow of data across borders.
  • The federal government should be vigilant to prevent discrimination against U.S. companies in the applications of laws and regulations to IOT and smart devices.

Privacy and data security recommendations

Acknowledging concerns that security of IOT devices and systems is critical to acceptance and use, the group suggests that Congress and the administration incentivize multi-layer protection of IOT solutions by promoting both hardware and software integrated security features. Specifically, any legislation providing funding for IOT solutions or smart technology should include device or system security as a requirement or eligibility criteria. The government could also have policies that promote ongoing innovation and best practices for hardware and software integrated security.

The white paper encourages the federal government to continue to support multi-stakeholder activities and industry and governmental working groups to understand evolving threats and to develop best practices for IOT security and data privacy.  The Department of Commerce and its sub-agencies such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) as well as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are the entities recommended to continue to lead such efforts.  The white paper also suggests that Congress direct the Federal Trade Commission, the Small Business Administration and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), with input from industry, to develop complementary cybersecurity education and awareness initiatives for consumers and small businesses.

Recognizing that government procurement requirement can help to drive the development of secure, interoperable and scalable IOT solutions, the white paper urges Congress to direct federal departments and agencies in their procurement processes to prioritize IOT security solutions that include multilayered hardware and software level capabilities.

Infrastructure recommendations  

The group also suggests that the federal government make it a priority in any infrastructure legislation to incentivize the application of smart data-driven IOT solutions to advance federal agency missions.  For example, to modernize the nation’s transport systems, any legislation on transportation infrastructure should fund smart IOT solutions on a technology and neutral basis that will boost the opportunities for investment.

Moreover, any infrastructure legislation should promote the development of technologies, such as 5G mobile networks, that will serve as the core architecture to support IOT.  Congress is urged to direct the FCC to allocate commercial licenses and unlicensed spectrum on the technology neutral and service neutral basis across a wide range of frequencies so that there are many service implementation options available.  The group also advocates that the federal government adopt smart government building technologies and use data-driven IOT solutions to improve building automation in new construction, renovations and retrofit in civilian and military buildings.

Finally, the group suggests that the federal government invest in IOT public-private partnerships such as research and joint testbeds.  The white paper also notes that there are several leading global industry consortia that would benefit from more robust U.S. government participation and policy input.

It remains to be seen whether this call for action by U.S. technology interests will induce the federal government to take a more active lead in adopting a coherent national strategy for IOT that is consistent across agencies and in U.S. advocacy and representation internationally.  However, the white paper signals for Congress and the administration a number of areas where the federal government can partner with industry to advance U.S. economic interests globally in developing technology.