BCS Debate: Internet of Things raises questions on transparency

The debate saw a panel of industry experts discuss the impact of the IoT on consumers, industry, and the economy. The discussion covered everything from healthcare to lifestyle and manufacturing. The panelists considered the legal, moral and ethical issues surrounding IoT and concluded that while it offers enormous potential, it also raises concerns over privacy and security.

Chaired by Brian Runciman MBCS head of editorial, BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, the panel included Andy Stanford-Clark, FBCS, IBM distinguished engineer, Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino, founder of Goodnight Lamp and Paul Excell CEng FBCS Chair, BCS Entrepreneurs.

Andy Stanford-Clark commented, ‘We are going to see a lot of value as IoT develops in terms of interacting with the world around us. For example, organisations will be able to use Big Data to gain insight into their customers’ preferences from the sea of data created by IoT sensors and devices which will enable enterprises to run their businesses more efficiently and offer a better service to their customers.’

Alex Deschamps-Sonsino added, ‘From monitoring elderly people to measuring energy consumption we are increasingly using everyday objects to tell us what is happening in the real world. Data can now be extracted from everyday items that we buy. This data is valuable, and that raises concerns around the IoT. We need to have the debate, to get educated. Conversations need to take place within government, academia and amongst designers to discuss the next wave of innovation. Consumers also need to be informed and understand how to handle their data.’

The panel agreed that we need public consultation to develop tools to inform and discuss concerns around this topic. The infrastructure and business processes also need to be developed in order for the potential benefits to be fully realised.

The panellists also discussed how transparency of information is going to be more difficult with IoT devices that gather and store information on consumers.

As this information is potentially of value to third parties, it raises questions around security such as; how long is data going to be stored for? Where will it be stored? Who else will it be shared with, under what circumstances and to what level of detail?

The debate is online at: www.bcs.org/iot

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