Discussion of the formation of a
Dynamic Coalition on the Internet of Things

Session description: The Internet of Things offers “many promises of application and many dangers for freedom,” as one of the organizers behind the organization of this dynamic coalition, the late Dr. Francis Muguet, put it in an list message in 2008, adding, “please become involved in order to have a say, to raise awareness.” Remaining founding organizers of this coalition are Wolfgang Kleinwachter, Chantel Lubrement and Sophie Lepallec. The Internet of Things is the wireless networked connection of everyday objects; it could also include virtual objects in the Semantic Web. This DC is still in its organizational stage, and it is not yet recognized officially. 

How will lives change
when everything and
everyone is connected?

September 16, 2010 - Wolfgang Kleinwachter, professor at the University of Aarhus in Denmark and longtime leader in global Internet governance, introduced the topic and noted that the meeting was established to carry on the work done earlier in Hyderabad in 2008 and Leipzig in 2009 where a small group of people have been beginning to discuss the impact, governance and privacy implications of the Internet of Things.

“We are also bringing together some people have been involved in these activities the last couple of years, in particular the Euro-NF group," he said, mentioning the European think tank on the networks of the future, formed by 35 industry and academic institutions from 16 countries, formed under the 7th Framework Programme of the European Community for research in technology development.

Euro-NF project
is taking on issues

Kleinwachter noted that Euro-NF's preliminary report on the Internet of Things was just delivered and asked Markus Fiedler, a professor from the Blekinge Institute of Technology in Sweden and co-chair of the Euro-NF project, to speak.

“We have a set of joint research activities around architectural issues and performance issues," Fiedler said, "and the questions, ‘How well do certain network architectures of the future behave? What can we expect from them and how do we have to make the design choices in order to get well-performing systems?’”

“Today there are many networks appearing on top of Internet infrastructure, peer-to-peer networks, content-delivery networks, whatever you can imagine. We are facing a new situation where we have applications and service providers determining what’s happening in networks. They have their own policies, of course, they have to start with traffic and have to find business models beyond bitpipes, but we believe the Internet is such a universal transport of data of many kinds that it will be around for many years to come even though we see a lot of projects that have the so-called ‘clean-slate’ approach – trying to redefine things completely.”

He said governance and security issues are more important than they have ever been before. “I would like to make a case for having these discussions ongoing to see how we can really integrate all these different players in the market from the end user to the application provider to the service provider to the Internet provider and whatever other providers might appear in the future.”

Bringing together people from different silos for a knowledge exchange

Kleinwachter pointed out how vital it is for the technical, business, governance and civil society sectors to be sharing knowledge around these issues rather than being “disconnected.”

“The Internet of Things is a complex issue that needs the involvement of all parties,” he said. “Nobody has all the knowledge and nobody can handle the system alone. We have to find a way to bring this together, to understand what’s going on and then to make use of it, producing new services for people that respect the rights and freedoms of people while still generating all of the wealth of future growth so businesses can further evolve.

“Our planned Dynamic Coalition on the Internet of Things can create a platform where people with totally different backgrounds, now sitting in different silos, can come together and have a place for the exchange of ideas and information and knowledge.”

Technical possibilities outlined by TCP/IP innovator Kahn

Bob Kahn, an inventor of TCP/IP, the foundational underpinnings of the Internet architecture, and founder and president of the Corporation for National Research Initiatives, said the Internet of Things is really a new use of the Internet for managing a different set of human needs.

“One of the most important aspects of governance going forward is to ensure that the Internet has a good way to evolve,” he said. “Evolve to deal with the Internet of Things and to deal with any area we can imagine coming up in the future. It is very easy to get into the state of mind where you are only thinking about what exists today or what came before. Much of what we are doing and need to do is going to involve embracing new ideas, new concepts, new technologies and figuring out how to factor them into our ongoing developments going forward.”

He said a primary concern today and looking to tomorrow is security and that is going to require “the capability of knowing about people … how does a person get representation on the Net?”

“One way to do this is with a public key infrastructure – that’s the best way we have at the moment,” he said. “It is not a personally identifiable identifier – you can’t tell who the individual is from it, but that person has a private key.”

He said this addresses the concerns over how you validate trust in the system.

“The initial step in identity management that’s really critical is who is going to do the validation of individuals, to know that the person who has a certain private key is really the individual,” he explained. “It could be governments that do it – then you just have to trust the governmental bodies. It could be the private sector groups. But that’s just a preliminary stage. Once the person is vetted, a public key infrastructure can manage that person’s identity within the system. In that sense, a person is just another thing managed in the say way you would manage any thing in the system.”

Kahn shares his view of digital object management in the future

He branched out to a discussion of the organizing structure of the Internet of Things and advocated for the “handle” system. He explained that the structure used to manage publications in China is an excellent model for managing metadata, noting that the data structure should be independent of current technology, so it can still be workable in 100 years or 1,000 years. “It can’t be tied to the technology of today,” he said. “Let’s break away from the notion of files and folders and wires and individual machines and literally identify the data structures we’re talking about.”

He said there are three parts to this sort of digital object management.

• The first, “resolution architecture,” allows you to use identifiers to map the object’s transactional state and various parties can use the identifiers to classify the object in various ways. “This gives organizations and countries confidence that there is a system they can be in charge of that works well with everyone else’s system,” he said.

• The second, the notion of repository, is digital object management software that works with existing storage technologies and allows access to the information by use of the identifier only. “So if you come back in 100 years or 1,000 years you could actually access this data structure by saying, ‘Here is the identifier,’” he said.

• The third, the “digital object registry,” enables people to specify how to search for things. This can be done in different languages using a standard format. “These registries can be federated peer-to-peer or hierarchically,” he explained. “So you can do searches over sets of collections that may be beyond the ones you have yourself. Furthermore, it has security built into it both in the repository sense and in the registry sense, allowing you to deal with private information as well as information that’s available in the public context.”

European Commission is preparing report on privacy issues

Maria Badia i Cutchet, a member of the European Parliament in the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, shared a report from the European Commission on the use of radio-frequency identification or RFID.

“The Internet of Things opens up a full range of new opportunities and challenges,” she said, noting that it was launched in the U.S. in 1996 and it will revolutionize person-to-thing and thing-to-thing interaction. “We have plenty of applications already acting within the Internet of Things, we are using this technology now,” she said. “This is going to appear very quickly and bring many changes. Flexibility in making the decisions should not be considered as lack of legislation.”

She said some of the concerns raised by the Internet of Things include potential damage from radio waves (impact on health), interference from electromagnetic fields, difficulties tied to recycling, the use of small chips in small environments, and she noted in particular that one of the most important aspects of this emerging field is its impact on personal data and privacy. “This is why the European Commission is launching a new communication on privacy and trust in the information society.”

She said positives anticipated include economic opportunities, the optimization of processes and energy consumption and the generation of new jobs and services.

“We presume changes will take place, so each year we are going to do an evaluation of the situation to see that the legislation in the European Union is adequate to protect citizens,” she said. “I agree that we [legislators] have to work together with other stakeholders [to understand the issues] because members of parliament cannot just legislate on these complex scientific issues.”

Dependable, independent, trustworthy, opaque, community-aware, humanist

The event was attended by more than 20 people, and a number of audience members participated in the discussion along with the convening panel of this meeting. Among the comments by all participants:

• Among the criteria to achieve a positive vision of the Internet of Things are 1) security, and 2) an independence from the communications infrastructure (because it is likely to be replaced).

• Perhaps it should be called the Internet of Objects, not Things - is "things" appropriate?

• There will be a trillion devices and objects on the Internet, this is empowering the individual but yet the influence could be limited because governments’ trade barriers and legal requirements have not essentially permitted this new type of technology.

• There are major implications for international trade, and the current system is completely unprepared for this new technology.

• People need to think of the future in terms of flexibility and innovation because the opportunity tomorrow for this may be completely different than the opportunity today. Consider the ability to have the technology evolve to meet the needs of people.

• There was some disagreement as to whether there is or can be an agreed-upon definition of the Internet of Things. Kleinwachter suggested that it is better to define issues and criteria raised by the concept in general.

• Many people warned against new regulation and suggested it would be best to apply existing legislation as much as possible and allow innovation. “People start first with a law and then create a box and then they ask, ‘What can we put in the box?’ and this makes no sense,” Kleinwachter said. “We should start with the issues and build around the issues certain applications or regulations or whatever.” There was, however, discussion of possible adaptations in the way international trade is conducted in this new environment with new challenges.

• Cooperation at the international level is required.

• Technology should be dependable, independent, trustworthy, opaque, community-aware and humanist, giving people control in a decentralized infrastructure.

No "ICANN of the Internet of Things" is expected

Kleinwachter mentioned that in an earlier workshop about the Internet of Things there was a discussion about whether there should be an “ICANN of the Internet of Things to manage all of the addresses."

"The answer was, ‘Certainly, no, please avoid this because it reflects to you a question of decentralization. You can have several hundreds of roots – there is no need to have one single root, and yes, if the subject can be identified and defined by the objects around the individual then there is no need to have information about you as a person, only about your objects around you,'" he said. "The privacy implications here are tremendous, and we really do not yet understand what is behind all this data and information that we collect with the objects.”

Participants in the meeting briefly discussed possibilities for a dynamic coalition name and parted with the plan to put together a more concrete documentation of goals and a list of stakeholders involved and future plans.

The UN's video recording of the meeting can be found at this link:
http://webcast.intgovforum.org/ondemand/?media=workshops

The UN's official transcript of the meeting can be found at this link:
http://intgovforum.org/cms/component/content/article/102-transcripts2010/737-dc12

 - Video recorded from a remote location, captured
from the live webstream during IGF-2010 sessions

- Senior segment producer, Janna Anderson

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