1914 – 2014: What a difference a century makes. At this year’s CeBIT in March, German Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the trade fair with its partner country UK. British Prime Minister David Cameron remarked: “Take British ingenuity in software, services, and design, add German excellence in engineering and industrial manufacturing, and together we can lead in this new revolution.” This revolution is the Internet of Things (IoT) – an area in which both countries see huge potential.

  • The UK government has pledged an extra £45m on developing IoT technology: “I see the Internet of Things as a huge transformative development – a way of boosting productivity, of keeping us healthier, making transport more efficient, reducing energy needs, tackling climate change.”
  • With Germany’s long-standing manufacturing tradition, Industry 4.0 is also one of the projects for the future under the government’s High-Tech Strategy.
Robert Bosch, 1941

Robert Bosch, 1941: Visionary far-sightedness led to international success

This is indeed progress. But for Europe to lead in IoT, a lot more is needed. Research, large industry, or SME work needs to be done, primarily by the engineering and technological communities. They also have to become more politically engaged. I’m not making this statement out of the blue; it has been done before. I’m thinking of Robert Bosch, who, because of the strong focus on society and ethics, was able to lay the foundations for what is currently one of the largest privately held companies on Earth. It is because of the great work of responsible entrepreneurs like him that we are now – in contrast to a century ago – reaping the rewards a cross-European political, economic, and social collaboration.

I currently chair the IERC (European Research Cluster on the Internet of Things) working group ‘Societal Impact and Responsibility in the Context of IoT Applications.’ There are three sub-working groups: Co-Creation, Ethics, and Identity Management. The goal of the last group is to create a European market of innovation that opens up investment. Creating a European system provides incentive and qualifies local ecosystems that are viable at local and European levels. This can bring innovative solutions that address specific city needs. It also adds value by addressing European challenges as a whole.

In many IoT scenarios, the type of entrance to the service platform is an important enabler to hardcode security and privacy policies. We will focus on specifications, requirements, and a vision of an IoT framework using a Steve-Jobs-like service store for device platforms, which turns the passport into an ‘electronic smartphone’ with a foldable screen, NFC, P2P mesh, and secure payment. The device talks to one platform or one set of platforms, possibly using IoT-A.eu and FI-Ware. The platform hosts the service store, and citizens can manage their taxes, health, education, and so on, which potentially creates a homogeneous zone for 503.5 million people. Such an approach could lead to an inclusive smart society rather than just a set of smart gated communities or smart cities that are built to accommodate only 10,000-15,000 people.

After five years’ experience managing EU projects and as the current acting community manager of Sociotal, I think our next step in achieving a reliable and secure Internet of Things has to be building a European platform that aligns the technological realities of today with decision-making systems and is complexity-friendly (please see Stefan Ferber’s comments on governance in this article).

The kind of world that I want and that is within reach for the Internet of Things provides generic infrastructures that are open to even the smallest communities, even those consisting of only one person. Communities can then build applications, services, and personalized hardware on and from these generic infrastructures. To accomplish this, we need brave and risk-taking engineering entrepreneurs such as Robert Bosch who swim against the tide with a clear and passionately calm assessment of what needs to be done – on all levels, including politics.

I hope that among the industrial partners Bosch once again leads the way.

Snippet_ImageAre you interested in learning about the Internet of Things? April 9, 2014 is Global Internet of Things Day.

Join Postscapes and the Eclipse IoT community on this day for IoTLive #001, a series of online discussions connecting IoT individuals and communities from around the world.

The event kicks off  in Europe (1:30pm CET, 7:30am EST) and will finish on the West Coast of North America.

About The Author

Rob van Kranenburg

Rob van Kranenburg wrote "The Internet of Things - A critique of ambient technology and the all-seeing network of RFID" (Network Notebooks 02, Institute of Network Cultures). He is co-founder of bricolabs and the founder of the IoT Council (www.theinternetofthings.eu). Together with Christian Nold, he published "Situated Technologies Pamphlets 8: The Internet of People for a Post-Oil World." He currently works as Community Manager at the EU Project Sociotal. He is consultant to IoT China, Shanghai 2014. He chairs the working group "AC8 - Societal Impact and Responsibility in the Context of IoT Applications" of the IERC, The European Research Cluster on the Internet of Things. Rob is a guest author for the Bosch ConnectedWorld Blog.

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