miércoles, 18 de marzo de 2015

Grasping #IoT opportunity requires political actions

There are enough evidence of the contribution of broadband to dynamization of the global economy. We only need to remember a few data. For instance, it is said that a 10% increase in broadband penetration increased GDP growth by 1.4%. Other example, the estimation that bringing mobile broadband in the developing world to the levels of the industrial world could add $400 billion annually to global GDP. And this is only the starting point. In the same way that the impact on the economy of the road network is not comparable to the impact of the  logistics enabled by the roads, the impact of broadband on the economy will be dwarfed by the impact of the applications enabled by broadband.

The massive digitalisation based on a world of data and sensors is on the brink of bringing to the world a whole new economy based on collaboration. According with the last book written by Rifkin, the combination of broadband, big data and sensors will accelerate the coming of an economy based on zero marginal costs. This would implies a world based on abundance instead of scarcity and therefore the promise of the end of poverty. Nevertheless, reaching this point would be only possible once some obstacles are overcome.

To begin with we need to have a really abundance of data. And this condition is not as obvious as it may seem. Certainly, there are evidences of a growing amount of digital data. It is said that only in 2011 the amount of information created and replicated surpassed 1.8ZB (1.6 trillion gigabytes). Furthermore, some people estimates that 90% of the world's data has been produced in just the last two years. Nevertheless, this provisional abundance of data, especially the more useful one, could be a mirage based on ignorance. One of the main sources of data is our personal usage of the Internet and mobile apps. Up to the point, people is giving its personal information without a really awareness of their act. As the digital literacy grows, we can expect the same reluctance to give personal information in the digital world as in the physical world. How would you react if shopkeepers asked for the same permissions as apps?

Even in the case we can guarantee in the future the current flow and abundance of data, there is not any assurance that the usage of the pools of data would be the more innovative one. The pools of data are isolated and the usage of each pool of data only allowed to the company who has compiled it based on the usage of its services. Google and Facebook are the most obvious case. As these pools of data are an important input for the digital economy its access should be open, in the same manner that there are regulations that oblige incumbent telecom operators to open its access networks.  Fairness would be that incumbent digital platforms would have an equivalent treatment as the incumbents in other markets.

Last but not least, we need the people who can exploit the mix of data and sensors. And this is a growing need in every sectors as we are populated with sensors any physical items, from buildings to power plants. To give one example of many let us look to the field of cars. We are approaching the point where 90% of the car is software based on 10% of sensors. The connected cars power will not be unleashed without a critical mass of developers. And this is almost certain in any "smart" device area.

The world of data and sensors, what some people called Internet of the Things, is one of the doors of prosperity. Nevertheless, grasp this opportunity requires actions to guarantee abundance of data, access to the data and usage of the data generated by sensors. In the current updating of the Digital Agenda for Europe, the European Commission should not forget planning actions in the IoT arena.

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