The Internet of Things in Europe

The Internet of Things in Europe

European institutions are engaged in fostering the development of the Internet of Things (IoT), as several recent initiatives reveals.

As part of its digital single market strategy for Europe, published on 6 May 2015, the European Commission launched several public consultations in late 2015, including one on the review of the Telecoms Package, another on connectivity needs beyond 2020, and one on standardisation in Europe. All three addressed issues pertaining to the Internet of Things. While the first consultation included questions on the Internet of Things’ requirements (spectrum and numbering resources, numbering plans, over-the-air SIM card provisioning), the second questioned among other topics on connectivity needs in regard of the Internet of Things and the third sought to determine standardisation priorities for Europe.

The Body of European Regulators of Electronic Communications (BEREC) – which is made up of national regulatory authorities (NRA) from across the EU, and which advises European institutions upon request or on its own initiative –  published a report on the Internet of Things on 29 February 2016, after having devoted part of its 3rd stakeholder forum in October 2015 (video) to the topic. This report, which Arcep contributed to, analyses questions relating to:

• managing the scarcity of technical resources needed for the Internet of Things (frequencies, numbers, IP addresses);

• changes that need to be made to Europe’s regulatory framework to enable the IoT’s emergence: definition of electronic communications services, roaming obligations, switching operators, network security, etc.;

• other key considerations that fall outside NRAs’ purview (privacy, data protection, standardisation, etc.) and so will require collaboration with partner institutions.

In its report, BEREC issues a call to ensure that the future European framework is compatible with the prerequisites to the IoT’s development, but also that special attention be paid to aspects such as roaming, the ability to switch providers, privacy and data protection. As a follow-up to this report, a public event organised by BEREC and gathering the other European entities involved (RSPG, Article 29 Working Party, ENISA, etc.) will be held in autumn 2016.

Subsequently, on 19 April 2016 the European Commission published a communication along with a working document on the Internet of Things. The latter provides a detailed snapshot of the sector today and its evolution over the years. It also pinpoints the challenges that lie in the path of the IoT’s future development. Here, the Commission includes changes that will be brought as much to the value chain as corporate organisation, the lack of common standards, interoperability and public policy coordination on a European scale. This working document then zeros in on those links along the Internet of Things value chain that will require particularly close attention: connectivity, data protection, trust, security, etc.

Prior to the publication of the Digital Single Market strategy, on 4 February 2015, IoT stakeholders and the European Commission had mounted an initiative called the Alliance for Internet of Things Innovation (AIOTI) whose aim is to foster dialogue over innovation and standardisation efforts between economic stakeholders. Its members therefore include leading operators, manufacturers and service providers from a range of sectors. AIOTI reached a major milestone one year after its creation, with the publication of recommendations on the future of the Internet of Things, broken down into 12 thematic reports. Each of these reports is geared to realising future, large-scale pilot projects whose ultimate purpose is to suggest different ways to meet the industrial and societal challenges posed by the Internet of Things. These reports will provide valuable fuel for the 2016-2017 work programme for meeting the challenges that will arise between now and 2020.

Lastly, most of European Union Member States are involved in the work that the OECD is doing on the Internet of Things. In 2015, the OECD devoted a chapter of its Digital Economy Outlook to the Internet of Things. In addition, the OECD committee on digital economy policy is working on a report on The Internet of Things in the run-up to the ministerial meeting in 2016. The goal of the report is to define regulatory best practices, to encourage and provide a secure framework that will allow the Internet of Things to flourish.