February 3, 2015
Ofcom, the UK Government’s regulatory body for the telecoms industry, has published its strategy to establish the ways in which the UK can have a leading role in the development of the Internet of Things. The technology, which links objects to each other wirelessly, is already installed in some 40 million devices in the UK and Ofcom predicts this number will grow in to the hundreds of millions by 2022 with more than a billion daily transfers of information. The report is calling for a collaborative programme of work led by the private sector and government to create a regulatory and business environment that encourage the uptake of the technology and drives investment and innovation. The report lays out the key criteria needed to make this a reality and presents a range of scenarios in which the technology yields discernible benefits.
Steve Unger, Acting Ofcom Chief Executive, said: “The Internet of Things will bring benefits to a range of sectors and could change the way we live our lives. As a result of this growth, we have listened closely to industry and want to develop a framework for this technology to evolve in a way which will ultimately benefit citizens and consumers.”
The report outlines four key areas of focus to achieve its ambition of driving the Internet of Things:
Spectrum availability: many IoT devices will communicate wirelessly, making the availability of spectrum – the raw material that underpins wireless services – an important factor. Ofcom’s analysis has shown much of the IoT’s short to medium-term spectrum demands are met with current initiatives. However, Ofcom will continue to monitor the IoT’s spectrum needs to help identify when additional spectrum may be needed.
Data privacy: protection of individuals’ personal information is a key part of the development of the IoT and will be covered under existing legislation, such as the Data Protection Act 1998. However, traditional approaches to data privacy may have limitations in the context of the IoT. Ofcom will work with the Information Commissioner’s Office, government, other regulators and industry to explore solutions to data privacy issues in the IoT.
Network security and resilience: as the IoT plays a larger part in people’s daily lives, secure and reliable networks and data storage will become increasingly important. With this in mind, Ofcom will investigate how its existing activities on security and resilience of the UK’s communications networks can include the IoT.
Network addressing: IoT services will likely use bespoke addressing systems or addresses based on the internet standard known as IPv6, the latest version of the Internet Protocol which is able to support connections between a significantly greater number of devices. To support this, Ofcom will continue to monitor the progress already being made by internet service providers in supporting IPv6 connectivity.