Connected devices have the potential to reduce everything from traffic fatalities, to crime rates, to global greenhouse emissions. Achieving those objectives, however, is no easy feat. Public and private collaboration is key to overcoming challenges in security, standards and skills to ensure safe deployment of IoT devices, according to new research from the Software.org.
The report, “Sensor Sensibility: Getting the Most from the Internet of Things,” points to several ways the government and policymakers can help IoT securely proliferate to unleash its potential. Only about 1 percent of the things that can be connected have been connected, according to the research, but by 2020, as many as 50 billion devices will be connected. The organization calls for “smarter policies to accompany and enable this change,” and for collaboration between the public and private sectors to remove IoT barriers to that end.
“To enable a trusted device world, the private sector, technology users, and governments alike all have a shared responsibility for adopting best practices, enabling risk-appropriate security measures, and establishing the same level of trustworthiness for a connected device, as for a computer,” the report’s authors write.
The BSA (The Software Alliance), launched Software.org earlier this year as a research arm to help policymakers and the broader public better understand the impact that software has a societal level, according to the organization’s website.
Much of Software.org’s recent research pointed to the government’s role in fostering IoT adoption. It encouraged investing in long-term R&D for device security that can “keep us one step ahead of bad actors.” It recommended that companies have the flexibility to develop security technology without constraining and potentially duplicating technology mandates and that the government and policymakers collaborate with those in the industry to share information and coordinate to combat cyber threats.
In turn, researchers wrote that governments can promote IoT adoption by adopting “smart and clear’ privacy laws that facilitate innovation, as well as avoiding policies that restrict the free flow of data. Governments need to take steps to protect intellectual property —including nondiscriminatory treatment of software inventions, allowing licensing terms that the supplier and customer agree upon, and empowering American innovators with “legal tools” to defend their trade secrets. Governments should also encourage and adopt cloud technologies and encourage the development and use of interoperable consensus based global standards.
Finally, a skills gap must be overcome to drive secure IoT adoption. Right now, though, there are roughly 500,000 computing jobs currently unfilled in the United States, and fewer than 50,000 computer science students graduated from U.S. universities into the workforce last year, according to the research.
“Although the phrase ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) has been used for years, we are still only scratching the surface of what IoT may become,” researchers write in the report. “Although the potential benefits from the Internet of Things are huge, there are numerous important challenges that must be addressed that will determine how quickly these technologies advance, and how broadly their benefits are spread.”