Several countries have recognised the importance of the Internet of Things for future economic growth and sustainability. From 2006 onwards the European Commission launched public consultations and stimulated widely open discussions on RFID and the Internet of Things, especially regarding critical policy issues such as governance, privacy, and resilience/security. These initiatives reached their climax in 2008 when the French Presidency of the European Union organised a Ministerial Meeting in Nice to address the Internet of Things within the broader context of the Future Internet. During the same period, the U.S. Government commissioned a series of studies that emphasized the strategic importance of Internet of Things for U.S. relative wealth and economic power. In 2009, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao himself announced China’s intention to push national industry to make a breakthrough in wireless sensor networking, seen as a key technology in the Internet of Things.
At the Final Conference of the EU-funded CASAGRAS1 coordination and support action ,which took place in London on 6-7 October 2009, the project leaders noted that their work had proved without doubt that
“There is the need and will for international co-operation. China, Japan, Korea and the USA are on board. Europe has taken the lead and now needs to drive the initiative as a truly global partnership. It has also been shown that governments, industry and business lacked awareness of the Internet of Things and of what it offered. Awareness and education programmes are key requirements in creating a better understanding of the potential and benefits, and these programmes should be especially directed at the SME community.”
The European Union
The concept of Internet of Things was adopted by the European Union in the Commission Communication on RFID, published in March 2007. But it had been beforehand debated at a workshop organised in Brussels by the European Commission’s Information Society and Media Directorate-General (DG INFSO) on 6 and 7 March 2006.
The Council conclusions of November 2008 on Future Networks and the Internet:
- recognised that “that the Internet of Things is poised to develop and to give rise to important possibilities for developing new services but that it also represents risks in terms of the protection of individual privacy”
- invited Member States and the Commission to “deepen, with respect to the Internet of Things, the reflection on the development of decentralised architectures and promoting a shared and decentralised network governance” and “contribute to ensuring the confidentiality, security, privacy and ethical management of the data that will be exchanged on the Internet of Things, for example by promoting where appropriate the possibility of deactivating RFID chips or any other way which provides empowerment and user control.”
The United States
In April 2008, the U.S. National Intelligence Council published a report on “Disruptive Civil Technologies – Six Technologies with Potential Impacts on U.S. Interests out to 2025”. These technologies are: Biogerontechnology; Energy Storage Materials; Biofuels and Bio-Based Chemicals; Clean Coal Technologies; Service Robotics; The Internet of Things.
A few months later was published the fourth instalment in the National Intelligence Councilled effort to identify key drivers and developments deemed likely to shape world events a decade or more in the future . This report highlighted once again the importance of the Internet of Things, also named Ubiquitous Computing, i.e. the widespread tagging and networking of mundane objects such as food packages, furniture, room sensors, and paper documents:
“Such items will be located and identified, monitored, and remotely controlled through enabling technologies – including RFID, sensor networks, tiny embedded servers, and energy harvesters – connected via the next-generation Internet using abundant, low cost and high power computing (…) These technologies could radically accelerate a range of enhanced efficiencies, leading to integration of closed societies into the information age and security monitoring of almost all places. Supply chains would be streamlined with savings in costs and efficiencies that would reduce dependence upon human labour.”
The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), which operates the largest and most complex supply chain in the world, awarded in January 2009 a contract for 429 million dollars in DASH7 infrastructure. This represents a major development in terms of global adoption of an ultra low power wireless sensor networking technology based on a single global standard.
In the second half of 2009, a number of significant public speeches were delivered about Internet of Things in China. On 7 August, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao made a speech in the city of Wuxi calling for the rapid development of Internet of Things technologies. On that occasion, he provided the following interesting equation: Internet + Internet of Things = Wisdom of the Earth. This equation suggests that the Internet and the Internet of Things can be used to help humans understand the consequences of individual actions, and the relationship between those actions and physical laws (“wisdom of the Earth”). For example, we can choose to let a million vehicles idle on the highway, but in doing so we cannot escape the social consequences in terms of the environment and health.
Wen Jiabo followed up with another speech on 3 November at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, in which he called for breakthroughs in wireless sensor networks and the Internet of Things.
It is expected that in 2010 China will push forward with major policy initiatives to speed up the development of its national industry. At the same time, Chinese provinces, municipalities and industrial parks will release supporting policies. In December 2009, Zhou Hongren, executive vice chairman of the Advisory Committee for State Informatization (ACSI), advised that Guangdong Province use the Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) first around China, because the IPv4 resources will be used up by 2012, which will somehow block the growth of the Internet of things in China.
Japan’s involvement in the general field of ICT has been spelled out in the New IT Reform Strategy (January 2006) and Priority Program 2008 (August 2008) at the Strategic Head quarters for the Promotion of an Advanced Information and Telecommunications Network Society (IT Strategic Headquarters). The goal is “to realise ubiquitous and universal network society where everyone can enjoy the benefits of IT.”
The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) promotes R&D and standardisation of ICT for enhancing Japan’s international competitiveness. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) promotes research in important fields such as life science, information technology, nanotechnology and materials, and the utilisation of quantum beam. In the field of ICT, one of the main goals is a safe ubiquitous network society, such as next-generation electronic tags. In January 2010, MEXT has released a White Paper on Science and Technology 2009. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI)
started in 2008 the Green IT Project aiming at a balance between environment and economy.
In February 2009, Japan’s METI and European Commission’s DG INFSO concluded a Memorandum of Cooperation on RFID, wireless sensor networks and the Internet of Things. Besides a joint commitment to developing a regular dialogue, the two entities will cooperate on social acceptance (accessibility, consumer convenience, privacy, etc), networked RFID and future Internet of Things, health and environmental impact, and harmonisation issues (code system, definition of messages, development of open global standards and/or harmonisation of regional standards, interoperability between different systems).
Smart City perspective
The initiatives of IBM (Smarter Planet: “instrument the world’s systems, interconnect them, make them intelligent”) and Cisco (Intelligent Urbanization: “using the network as a utility for integrated city management”), already mentioned, but also General Electric (Ecomagination: “solve today’s environmental challenges and benefit customers and society at large”) and other multinational companies, are typical examples of the contribution of the Internet of Things to the development of Smart Cities.
By 2050, 70% of people on Earth will live in cities, which suggests that more than states, regions or perhaps even nations, cities are increasingly for businesses the central measure for success or failure. New Songdo City in Korea is still today the most famous smart city project so far, covering all aspects from infrastructure to architecture, transportation, utilities, density, open space and parks, in short everything that defines the substance of an urban area. There has been also the Ubiquitous Network Project of Tokyo University Professor Ken Sakamura, which started in 2007 with a field test in Tokyo’s Ginza shopping district where more than 1,200 chips, 270 infrared spotlights, and 16 Wi-Fi stations were placed on lampposts, flower beds, stores, and underground subway tunnels.
Many other smart city projects have emerged over the last few years in different parts of the world. They concern the rise of “new cities” – e.g., King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) in Saudi Arabia, (MASDAR) in Abu Dhabi, “Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT) in India”, the Infocomm Development Authority (iDA) of Singapore – or the modernization of existing cities – e.g., Amsterdam CITYNET in The Netherlands, Borlänge City in Sweden, San Francisco TechConnect in California, U.S., Yangzhou in China’s Jiangsu province, Santander in Spain. Using Internet of Things technology that offers wireless communication and realtime data such as temperature, pressure, vibrations, and energy measurements between the devices which surround us, endless applications are being developed aiming at positioning cities as attractive global investment nodes for advanced manufacturing and service industries.
The development of Smart Cities is often – not always – carried out through a partnership between the local public authorities and the private sector (e.g., Cisco-KAEC, GE-City of Yangzhou, IBM-Stockholm).
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