Promoting investment and innovation in the Internet of Things

About this document

Introduction

1.1 The Internet of Things (IoT) is set to enable large numbers of previously unconnected devices to communicate and share data with one another. This new connectivity has the potential to deliver significant benefits to citizens and consumers across a range of sectors, including:

1.1.1 Healthcare: Devices that monitor fitness and activity levels can help to prevent illness and encourage a healthy lifestyle. For the unwell, the IoT could enable a patient's condition to be monitored and managed remotely, allowing them to recover at home, rather than in hospital. This has the potential to both reduce healthcare costs and improve the medical treatment and care of patients;

1.1.2 Transport: Connecting vehicles to the internet could enable them to be tracked and have the performance of their engine and other mechanical components remotely monitored. Connected vehicles should be better able to avoid accidents by detecting and monitoring the presence of other road users; and

1.1.3 Energy: Connecting a wider range of household, office and industrial equipment to the IoT could enable their use of energy to be monitored and potentially changed, for example to switch to a power-saving mode or to use electricity on a cheaper tariff during an off-peak period. In these cases, the IoT has the potential to both reduce costs for consumers and the energy suppliers, and reduce environmental impacts through better management of scarce natural resources.

1.2 A significant amount of work by academia and industry to date has led to the development of a number of new and innovative IoT applications, standards and networks. The aim of this Call for Input is to allow us to develop a better understanding of these developments and of the role that we need to play to ensure that the UK takes a leading role in the emergence of the IoT.

1.3 In particular, we would like to form a more detailed view on the following points:

1.3.1 It is clear that radio spectrum will play an important role in enabling the IoT, given the need to support a potentially significant number of wireless connections. We are seeking input on the scale and nature of demand for spectrum, including how much additional spectrum may be required to support the IoT, if any; which frequency bands may be suitable; and whether an approach based on licensed or licence exempt access to spectrum is more appropriate;

1.3.2 Aside from spectrum, we recognise that the IoT has the potential to raise a number of other policy issues in which we have a role. Some IoT applications will require highly robust and reliable networks and we are therefore interested in understanding more about issues relating to network resilience and security. A specific and important aspect of network security is privacy of personal or commercially sensitive data; there will likely be a number of privacy issues and the IoT will only flourish if these are addressed;

1.3.3 IoT devices will need to be assigned one or more addresses in order to communicate with other devices. A number of address types could be used, including telephone numbers or Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. The type of address may depend on the network to which the device is connected and whether the device requires access to the global internet, or a local, private network; and

1.3.4 Finally, and more broadly, we are interested in stakeholders' views on the nature of Ofcom's role. Generally, our view is that industry is best placed to drive the development, standardisation and commercialisation of new technology. However, given the potential for significant benefits from the development of the IoT across a range of industry sectors, we are interested in views on whether we should be more proactive; for example, in identifying and making available key frequency bands, or in helping to drive technical standards.