Cars, clothes, thermostats, medical devices, even our pets — all of the things we interact with each day are increasingly connected to one another, allowing the exchange of real-time information and enabling machines to predict what we’ll need next.
FTC Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen and Sen. Richard Blumenthal joined experts March 25 at the Washington Post to discuss how the fast evolving Internet of Things is altering our daily lives. Follow below for the latest updates.
Post Live editor Mary Jordan and FTC Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen joined Jules Polonetsky, executive director and co-chair of the Future of Privacy Forum, and Michael Sutton, Zscaler’s vice president of security research, on stage.
Polonetsky noted the existence of something he called the theory of creepy. “Somebody’s ‘creepy’ is somebody’s ‘cool’ gadget,” Polonetsky said, citing devices from history like Caller ID that were once also thought of as creepy. There’s a clear need to balance security and privacy, he said, tasking app and technology developers to consider consumer privacy when developing.
“We will never be able to keep up with technology,” Sutton said on current and future legislation and regulation. He said the hardware industry should look to the software industry for security, in an Internet of Things age.
Up next, Post editor Mary Jordan talks to FTC Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen.
Ohlhausen was sworn in as a commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission on April 4, 2012, to a term that expires in September 2018. She participated in an FTC Internet of Things workshop in November 2013. Read her remarks here.
Prior to joining the comission, Ohlhausen was a partner at Wilkinson Barker Knauer, where she focused on FTC issues, including privacy, data protection and cybersecurity. She also previously served at the FTC for 11 years.
Ohlahausen said she likes to practice something she’s termed “regulatory humility.”
“When we face new technology, new challenges, we as regulators try to educate ourselves,” she said. “So we know, how do we have more knowledge before we act.”
NSA revelations from Edward Snowden have made people more sensitive to privacy and issues that the FTC follows, the commissioner said.
Ohlahausen said she also fears that one bad incident by device manufacturers early on in development can reap huge regulatory reaction.
“I really encourage businesses to pay close attention to these issues,” she said. “[The Internet of Things] has great benefits. But if you mess it up early on, there’ll be great consequences.”
Cory Haik is the executive producer of digital news for The Washington Post. She’s moderating this next panel about connected devices.
On stage now:
Hawkinson is the CEO of the company SmartThings, an app that can connect everything in your home and ultimately turns your smartphone into a remote control.
Hawkinson says the industrial Internet is the third wave of the Internet. If your home is aware that it’s snowing, and you haven’t shoveled, maybe it can order someone to clear it, he says.
Icke joined MC10 as CEO in March 2009. MC10′s aim is to provide human capability enhancing, conformal electronics, to every person.
Icke says, “Access to information can change behavior; allows people to be more informed and proactive.”
Markwalter is senior vice president of research and standards for the trade association known as CES, or the Consumer Electronics Association.
“Young designers can’t even imagine designing a product that doesn’t connect,” says Markwalter.
For a view on legislation, Post editor Mary Jordan interviewed Sen. Richard Blumenthal.
Blumenthal (D-Conn.) was sworn in to Congress in January 2011. Among other committee assignments, Blumenthal is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. He served five terms as Connecticut’s attorney general and was previously a state senator, state representative and the state’s U.S. attorney.
“People should have a right to decide what’s done with their data,” Blumenthal told the forum audience.
Internet privacy has been a pet issue for Blumenthal in Congress, and as an attorney general. “Whether anything these days passes in Congress is certainly problematic. Seemingly non controversial bills don’t make it through,” he said of the Personal Data and Protection Breach Accountability Act he re-introduced in February. The bill was originally poised to be introduced in 2011, but was never enacted.
Blumenthal says he’s a consumer advocate. “What happens in your home shouldn’t be open to everyone just because you want to turn on your air conditioning in your office,” he said. “I am extremely concerned about the government collecting metadata.”
With technology constantly changing, some argue that companies should take it upon themselves to design privacy protections into their policies and that lawmakers should avoid taking a one size fits all approach. Blumenthal says that’s a valid point. ”I think we want whatever’s done by the government, at whatever level by whatever agency, to avoid inhibiting innovation,” he says.
Our first conversation of the morning touches on what’s at stake for the economy as an industry powered by connected things comes to fruition.
Our moderator is Washington Post Live editor Mary Jordan. She’ll interview Michael Mandel, chief economic strategist at the Progressive Policy Institute — the Washington based think tank sometimes referred to as former President Bill Clinton’s “Idea mill.”
Mandel’s research has included work on the data-driven economy and the impact of regulation on innovation. He has a Ph.D in economics from Harvard and is the author of four books.
“The extension of the Internet to the physical world is a huge step for theworld because we live in the physical world,” he says.
Mandel tells the All Things Connected audience that we can discuss the economy of the Internet of Things with three numbers.
Twenty percent is the estimate of the GDP that comes from the digital industry.
“That means that 80 percent of the economy is about physical industries,” says Mandel.
0.5 percent is the productivity gain of 2013 over 2012.
Mandel says it’s impossible to have a viable debate if the country’s productivity is that slow. He says not only have we not transformed the productivity of digital industries, but also the productivity of physical industries have been lagging.
6.7 percent is the unemployment rate. “We’ve grown used to thinking of technology as a job destroyer,” says Mandel. There’s a delayed step in this technological revolution, he says citing a skills mismatch associated with the expense of training.
We’re entering the next phase of the Internet, the beginnings of a world in which tens of billions of things — cars, clothes, door locks, lights, medical devices and even cows (yes, cows!) – are connecting to one another, to the Internet and to us.
Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group predicts there will be 25 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2015 and 50 billion things by 2020.
With all the technological foundations and potential for innovation, the fast-evolving Internet of Things is on the verge of altering our daily lives. But integrating connectivity into nearly everything raises challenging questions about security, consumer privacy and polices to ensure both.
This morning, The Post gathers business leaders, tech entrepreneurs and security experts, including FTC Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), to discuss the opportunities and concerns that come with an increasingly interconnected world.