The EU’s Audacious IoT Moon Shot

There are many ways to approach the topic of ‘achieving monetization success’ in the Internet of Things (IoT), and I’ve endeavored in recent years to explore potential avenues. The recommended approaches tend benefit individual business units, not the functionality of the IoT as a whole. It can’t be emphasized enough how these tactics fail to address the greatest promise of the IoT: allowing the free flow of data across silos, companies, and entities to fully connect Things to benefit people.

For example, suppose a company offers a wearable IoT-enabled device that monitors the user’s pulse to detect health threats. The wearer of this device is away from home when a heart arrhythmia is detected. The ideal outcome for the wearer should be that an ambulance is dispatched, their primary care doctor and loved ones are notified, and the local hospital is notified of their imminent arrival. This way, their electronic medical records are immediately available to emergency medical providers and all this together can save precious minutes—and even save a life. However, the IoT does not function in an appropriately automatic and frictionless manner to make this happen today.

A couple of things are obvious in this example. Firstly, it’s an inarguably ideal set of outcomes derived from a single source event detected on an IoT device. Secondly, it’s a difficult series of events to coordinate given the number of potential actors involved, sharing highly sensitive personal data, with no ability to know in advance exactly who the actors in the scenario might be, much less to presume that all of them have appropriate business partnerships and secure data integrations pre-established with one another.

Now, to further complicate this, imagine overlaying the additional hurdles of different languages, national borders, and data privacy statutes to this already large challenge. It’s a daunting problem to solve. But addressing it is precisely, and bravely, what the European Union has begun to do.

The EU Commission has engaged PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) to produce a study to discover what actions can be taken at the highest levels of government and industry in order to lay the groundwork to open the IoT to “cross-cutting” business models that allow intricate scenarios like the one described above.

Last week, I was privileged to be invited to Brussels to participate in one of several workshops that are being conducted by PWC for this study. Leaders from various public and private IoT-related concerns shared their perspectives, suggestions, and concerns with one another, and participated in discussions and brainstorming exercises that will hopefully lay the important groundwork for the proposals ultimately to be included in the study, due out in June of this year. Additional workshops and interviews in service of the study are planned in the near future.

While no one knows what the study’s final recommendations will be (much less how vigorously they will be adopted) I’m eager to see the results of the report when it’s released, and I hope I speak for many in that regard. More than anything, I hope that the EU’s valiant effort to address this need is a clarion call to the world to do the same, because if the particular complications that come with a moon-shot like this don’t frighten an entity with so many disparate concerns, then they shouldn’t scare anyone from attempting to make it a reality.