An Internet of Things plan will be issued by the European Commission by mid-2016, but also single countries like Italy are bringing forward IoT initiatives.

The European Commission IoT plan

Thibaut Kleiner, the head of unit for network technologies at European Commission Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content & Technology (DG Connect), said the European Commission is considering now whether a specific piece of legislation is needed to address the Internet of Things or whether it would be sufficient to add elements to legislative plans already in the pipeline, like the European Digital Single Market strategy (DSM).

Mr. Kleiner recognised that while the EU had presented a strategy on cloud computing, data and the DSM, there had been little focus on Internet of Things and the European Commission would now consult with the industry on possible next steps.

The key areas that the European Commission will look into are

1. Free flow of data – the so called “open data” regulations are crucial especially for smart city technologies. And indeed we have been instructed of drafting open data regulations for a country that wants to build the smartest cities in the world.

2. Standardization – interoperability seems to be the ‘magic word’ for the IoT. There are some legal arguments under which it might be forced already under current copyright regulations, but the question is whether it shall be driven by the market or by regulators.

3. Data protection – current privacy regulations and the position taken by the European data protection authorities on the Internet of Things might represent an obstacle to the growth of the IoT. It is important that European privacy laws do not become a disadvantage for companies investing in the European Union if compared to the more market oriented approach adopted in the United States.

4. Telecommunications – there has been an innovative approach by some telecom regulators such as the Italian telecom authority in its recent position on the matter. But telecom rules are excessively burdensome and unjustified for some IoT technologies.

5. Authentication of objects – biometricts mights be used as an authentication tool, but there are a number of additional possible solutions.

The Internet of Things needs privacy by design

We had already mentioned in a previous post that the implementation of a privacy by design approach is the most effective tool in order to protect companies developing as well as those using IoT technologies from the potential risks and liabilities. And this is true especially in a context where there is a considerable uncertainty as to the applicable regulatory obligations.

According to Mr. Kleiner, the European Commission will issue a set of guidelines for companies on how to comply with EU rules when applying the ‘privacy by design’ concept. But this can only happen once the new European data protection regulation is adopted which might happen by the end of this year.

There is no doubt that pending the adoption of the new EU privacy regulation, companies shall already put in place a privacy by design approach to protect them.

And in Italy?

The Italian Ministry of the Economic Development is about to publish an Industry 4.0 plan that will provide a number of measures aimed at fostering the growth of the Intertnet of Things in Italy. However, based on a review of the current draft, some of the principles are too broad and do not specify how specific targets want to be achieved.