Why the internet of things favours dominance
POWLES J., SINGH J., Why the internet of things favours dominance, The Guardian, 24.07.2015
|Topics||Business Model, Competition, Consumer, Technology, Interoperability|
The IoT is "not just about the things, in other words – it’s about the people and environments that animate them".
For some people, IoT is bringing us to a world of consumerism. But, if this is the case, maybe IoT won't have the success expected, because - according to RIFKIN, The Zero Marginal Cost Society - people are distancing themselves from the age of consumerism.
"[T]he internet of things currently favours dominance. One of the factors contributing to the reinforcement of dominant firms and silos is the difficulty of developing and integrating internet of things applications".
The IoT world is a complex world, whose components can be deployed in a variety of environments and contexts (the author takes the example of the myriad of uses a motion sensor can be subject to). Even the web is subject to a variety of uses, but the difference is that they are realizes through well-established standards and methods of access; on the contrary, in the IoT, a different use requires a different configuration of the components. Today's developers may choose one of the three following approaches - which all tend to centralisation - in order to deal with the problem:
- they can build close systems: i.e. they build components for very specific purposes --> dominance is in the hands of operators of closed systems;
- they can build things to be part of a particular technical ecosystem: e.g. Google's Nest, Apple's HomeKit (see Apple unveils move towards health and home in new iPhone software), Brillo (see Google takes aim at the internet of things with new Brillo operating system), AllJoyn by All Seen Alliance (see AllSeen Alliance. An Open Source Project Building the Framework of the Internet of Things); here, we have interoperability, but an interoperability that may anyway cause network effects and lock-in --> dominance is in the hands of the controllers of the ecosystem;
- they can build things to be generically accessible or open: developers don't deal with specific deployments, and leave these concerns to system integrators, who currently tend towards cloud-based services, which aggregate data and make them accessible and searchable --> dominance is in the hands of system integrators for open systems.
Also data flows tend to be centralized.
"[T]he end-user's controls are left to whoever controls the centralised environment".
There is need for a more decentralised IoT, in order to reduce the dominance, power, and control existing in the IoT. A technical tool might be the leveraging and building upon existing mechanisms for interoperability. But how to incentivise such a decentralisation approach? "To incentivise this, what is needed is robust legal, ethical and commercial recognition that the success of the internet of things depends on users having much greater and more meaningful control over data flows than they have had before, especially when they concern fundamental rights."