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The Internet of Things can truly benefit society if the right kind of governance is in place. The rapid but relatively uncoordinated evolution of the Internet of Things, a technology that makes our essential machines and devices smarter by connecting them to the web, has led to decentralized systems that lack proper governance. In order for the IoT to realize its potential, these fragmented systems have to find a way to effectively interact with one another. This requires governance that takes stock of the broader context. While the IoT does benefit from a certain level of governance, it is not at a level that can foster sustained growth. There is technical governance in the form of standards, for example, yet over-standardization has led to as many problems as it has tried to solve by spawning infighting and incompatibility. One of the IoT’s biggest opportunities is therefore also one of its biggest challenges: diversity. One, single set of standards must be created that works equally well for dishwashers, autonomous cars, and smartwatches. The obstacles to this are considerable, however; every object, service, or network has its own design considerations, and within any given industry there may be several conflicting standards. There is therefore a serious need for both corporate and international governance in the world of the Internet of Things. The real challenges are to determine how much governance is too much, and to create the right incentives to bring all interested parties to the table. The IoT requires a significant amount of investment to be of real use, and as a result it is primarily being deployed in relatively wealthy, well-resourced places - even though it is the less well-to-do areas that truly stand to benefit from the efficiency improvement and cost savings the IoT can facilitate. Anyone working to boost the adoption of the technology has to try to ensure that the IoT tide lifts all boats, rather than sending a tidal wave of disparity in the direction of the most vulnerable. Ultimately, the Internet of Things could create societal value that aids progress in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, established in 2015 to guide responsible global development until 2030. Mobility services powered by the IoT can reduce vehicle ownership, fuel consumption, and emissions, for example, while IoT-enabled monitoring of agriculture and supply chains can ensure that the food being produced is not wasted, and gets to the people who need it most.

Making the Rules for a Beneficial IoT

KEY TRENDS

Internet of Things