You are here

Remarks of Deputy Assistant Secretary Simpson at Fostering the Advancement of the Internet of Things Workshop

September 09, 2016

Remarks of Angela Simpson
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information
Fostering the Advancement of the Internet of Things Workshop
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
September 1, 2016

--As Prepared for Delivery--

Thank you all for being here today for a very productive discussion. I feel that we could’ve gone on and on for each topic, which I think is a sign of a timely workshop. We convened this event to listen and learn and to go beyond some of the issues identified in our request for comment.

There are many beneficial ways that the Internet of Things can be utilized: from real-time analysis of inventory in retail stores to the use of sensors inside the cab of a truck that that can help improve fuel efficiency, to the use of connected technology that allows you to adjust your thermostat from your office so your house is cool when you arrive home.  And I think the potential distinctions between industrial and consumer IoT was a very interesting recurring theme today.

One of the things we tried to do at this event was to drill down deeper into the potential policy issues by exploring specific recommendations and discussing what types of government engagement might be beneficial. I think we have advanced the discussion on these issues today so I want to thank all of the speakers, presenters, and audience participants for helping us do that.

Earlier this morning, Assistant Secretary Larry Strickling had a very insightful discussion with Dean Garfield, the head of the Information Technology Industry Council.  They talked about the enormous societal benefits of the Internet of Things and discussed ITI’s concerns about the need for thoughtful government engagement and investment.

We also heard about the technical building blocks that will enable IoT such as the availability of spectrum, the need for voluntary, interoperable standards, ID management, technological neutrality, and cybersecurity.

The Department of Commerce is well positioned to discuss these issues given, for example, NTIA’s work to make more spectrum available for wireless broadband and efforts to promote broadband access and adoption and NTIA and NIST’s work on cybersecurity.

We also heard a thoughtful discussion today about the potential challenges related to IoT.  Again, issues like cybersecurity and privacy rose to the forefront.  We have been using the multistakeholder process to get at some of these challenges, and they will continue to be priority issues for the Department and NTIA as part of our mission to ensure the Internet remains an engine for economic growth, innovation, and free expression. I was particularly interested in CDT’s framing of “data feudalism” and potential IOT inclusion divides today as a potential challenge we should potentially think more about.

But as was discussed during the last panel, the government has multiple potential roles in the IoT space: as a consumer of IoT (such as NOAA’s use of connected technologies to measure weather information), as an enabler of IoT, and as an educator about IoT. These roles extend beyond traditional rule-making and enforcement, and beyond the federal level to the state and local level and even the international level. We got some helpful insights today on the potential roles the government should play to help foster IOT.

It is becoming more and more clear to me that we need to work across sectors, across agencies, to build a coherent model for the government to engage in IoT.

Commerce’s International Trade Administration, NIST, PTO, and NTIA, are actively engaged in these spaces to both promote positive policy choices, as well as to promote American innovation and trade around the globe.

So before you leave today, let me outline a bit where we go from here. We plan to incorporate the valuable information we received from today’s discussion as we finalize a Department of Commerce policy green paper on IoT, which will identify next steps for the Department and recommendations for the next Administration.

In addition, we are also actively addressing cybersecurity related to IoT, which we discussed here today and was one of the top issues identified by commenters in the RFC. Earlier this summer, we announced that we plan to launch a new multistakeholder process to support better consumer understanding of IoT products that support security upgrades.  We are looking at the third week of October, most likely outside of the beltway, to launch that initiative. Stay tuned for more info on that.

Also, stakeholders involved in NTIA’s process aimed at developing guidelines related to the disclosure of cybersecurity vulnerabilities are making good progress and appear on track to wrap up their work before the end of the year.

I want to thank you all again for your participation in this event. We look forward, to remaining engaged as we continue the conversation on this very exciting and important topic.