Communications regulator Ofcom has announced its plans to get involved with the Internet of Things (IoT) in the UK, in partnership with industry and the government, starting with the introduction of a regulatory environment for the burgeoning market.
A phrase initially coined to refer to the internetworking of 'smart' devices, Internet of Things has moved from a simple machine-to-machine network into the latest buzzword for everything from keyrings that can report their location via GPS to mattress covers with in-built heaters controlled from a smartphone app. With industry watchers predicting that the IoT market will grow to be worth billions in the near future, there's little surprise that Ofcom is getting involved.
'The Internet of Things will bring benefits to a range of sectors and could change the way we live our lives,
' claimed Steve Ungor, Ofcom's acting chief executive, following the publication of the regulator's latest report. 'As a result of this growth, we have listened closely to industry and want to develop a framework for this technology to evolve in a way which will ultimately benefit citizens and consumers.
One of the biggest concerns raised in the report is that of spectrum. With many IoT projects relying on wireless networking - because nobody wants to have to run CAT5 to their bedside lamp - an increase in the number of devices will result in the requirement for increased spectrum. Although Ofcom claims that medium-term demands are met by current allocations, it has admitted that continual monitoring will be required to ensure this doesn't change in the long term - potentially including the opening up of additional 'white space' spectrum for commercial exploitation to support the expectation of up to 50 billion 'smart' IoT devices being connected to the internet by 2020.
The working group at Ofcom also highlighted issues with a lack of address space in the current Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4), suggesting that IPv6 will be required to support the increasing numbers of IoT-enabled devices expected to hit the market. Privacy concerns also form a section of the report, with the group claiming that 'traditional approaches to data privacy may have limitations in the context of the IoT.
Ofcom's full report, titled Promoting investment and innovation in the Internet of Things: Summary responses and next steps
, is available from the official website