IGF 2016 – Dynamic coalition on the internet of things

6 Dec 2016 10:45h - 12:15h

Event report

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The session started with a presentation from Maarten Botterman, Chairman DC IoT and Director of the Board, ICANN. He reminded us about the work of the Dynamic Coalition on IoT, and development of the Good Practice Principle which can be found on the IGF website. Global good practise is needed across the stakeholder groups. He presented the main questions that the panel would try to tackle: explaining the ethical perspective, addressing societal challenges, awareness raising, and securing the IoT infrastructure in the midst of recent worldwide cyberattacks by Internet of Things devices. There is also value in having an ontology for IoT to understand privacy, security and safety, he added.

The first speaker, Megan Richards from the EU Commission, pointed out that the Commission is dedicated to research and innovation in the field of IoT. She also mentioned the Alliance for Internet of Things Innovation project initiated by the European Commission in 2015, whose mission is to contribute to a dynamic European IoT ecosystem. It covers issues related to the Internet of Things, including ethics, standards, research activities and innovation, and the way all the different actors work together.

Wolfgang Kleinwaechter reminded the audience about the origins of the Dynamic Coalition on IoT back in 2007, when they wondered whether the coalition could find its place among many other foras discussing IoT issues. The main part of the discussion was related to a single stakeholder in the field.

The true value of this Coalition is in its multistakeholder design. This can help us escape from the silos in which discussions are held. He urged not to make quick decisions until we fully understand the issues behind this.

Karen Rose from the Internet Society added that with the emergence of IoT, passive interaction with the Internet can change into a full convergence between the Internet and the real world. Governments will try to react by implementing policies. The issue of security is more delicate since IoT devices might in future run entire cities so best practices need to be in place. The question is how to avoid duplication of best practises and how to implement them. She added that the users’ informed choice on security and privacy issues is most important.

Olga Cavalli from the ITU’s The Global Standards Initiative on Internet of Things presented the case from undeveloped countries, especially those in Latin America. Big cities in Latin America have big problems, and they are looking forward to IoT solutions as an element in improving the lives of people, and as a possible development enablers. She also pointed out smart agricultural projects as a good example in this area. IoT solution needs to be doable and meaningful in order to be fully implemented and help the undeveloped countries. All meaningful projects in Latin America emerged from the multistakeholder model.

Jari Arkko, Ericsson, Chair IETF, pointed out that in the case of connectivity and connected devices, the question of quality is more important than the question of quantity. From the technical perspective, there are a few things that still remain to be discussed. Even the IETF is satisfied with the work on standards for having different devices exist on the same network, but there is still work to be done on interoperability on the application level. We need to standardise our ‘smart house’ so that Microsoft light sensors can work with Apple light bulbs, he said. He further added that the mounting numbers of IoT devices puts the spotlight on security questions. This is not just a technical issue. It is also a policy, legal and liability issue he added. He wondered whether the IETF could write the baseline RFC requirement stating that no one could deploy devices with default passwords.

At the beginning of his presentation, Internet pioneer, Vint Cerf remarked that a massive number of future IoT devices will need a massive address base, urging us to keep developing and implementing the IPv6 protocol. Regarding the safety of devices, Cerf urged device manufacturers to make devices attentive to the safety of things connected to the communication system. But the task of safety is not fully in a hands of the programmers, the users themself have some responsibility as well.

Grace Abuhamed, from NTIA, added that the US Department of Commerce understands that there is a difference between the scope and the scale of the effects that IoT policies can have, they therefore strongly support the multistakeholder approach to the IoT solution policies. She reminded us about the NTIA’s call for comments to the stakeholder community. NTIA also launched six multistakeholder processes, in particular – focused on an IoT patchability.

Max Senges, Google, pointed out that interoperability is a key point for Google. He mentioned the scheema.org project and Google’s plans to revive this platform and expand the semantyc interoperability to theworldwide web. He also added that ‘informed users is what we want’, and the whole notion of a shared responsibility might be something that can be more explicitly addressed. He further mentioned that issues of security and safety are high on the list of Google activities, and that they are trying to be a part of the solution for these problems. He invited all interested parties to participate in Google programmes. He also mentioned work on a new method that can help policy makers – the development of balanced briefing materials for certain policy groups.  

Joseph Alhadef, ORACLE, Chair ICC BASIS, emphasised the issue of societal challenges that IoT brings to light. Writing policies may be futile when everything you write can be outdated in a matter of months. He called for changing the paradigm and approached this issue from a ‘not so hi-tech’ point of view. Many low tech solutions in IoT can improve the lives of a great number of people. He pointed out that we need more education at user level and the importance of consumers understanding both the benefits and the risks from these applications.  

In a discussion with the audience, there were several issues raised, one of the main issues being the accountability of actions from everyone. Moreover, IoT’s future will certainly have some dilemmas and trade-offs in the area of privacy. It has also been pointed out that a IoT solution can play a significant role in improving the condition of people with disability, finally enabling them to use mainstream solutions.  

At the end, Botterman added that a call for an open platform is still there and asked to think about the use of technology (e.g. algorithms, cryptography, blockchain) in solving complicated issues. Once more the importance of capacity development is marked as being substantial.

by Arvin Kamberi