The Department of Commerce released a “green paper” earlier this month proposing steps the Department can take to advance and support the Internet of Things (“IoT”).  The report includes recommendations based on comments submitted to the Department in response to an April 2016 Request for Comment as well as feedback from a September 2016 IoT workshop.

The paper states is goal as identifying “elements of an approach” for the Department of Commerce to adopt to “foster the advancement of the Internet of Things.”  The paper recognizes the risk of “premature and excessive regulation is notable given the size of the potential economic benefits [of IoT] to U.S. producers and consumers.  At the same time, it states the Department received a “strong message” from commenters that “coordination among U.S. Government partners would be helpful,” give the “complex, interdisciplinary, cross-sector nature of IoT.”

The paper identifies four key areas of engagement:

  • Enabling Infrastructure Availability and Access: Fostering the physical and spectrum-related assets needed to support IoT growth and advancement.
  • Crafting Balanced Policy and Building Coalitions: Removing barriers and encouraging coordination and collaboration; influencing, analyzing, devising, and promoting norms and practices that will protect IoT users while encouraging growth, advancement, and applicability of IoT technologies.
  • Promoting Standards and Technology Advancement: Ensuring that the necessary technical standards are developed and in place to support global IoT interoperability and that the technical applications and devices to support IoT continue to advance.
  • Encouraging Markets: Promoting the advancement of IoT through Department usage, application, iterative enhancement, and novel usage of the technologies; and translating the economic benefits and opportunities of IoT to foreign partners.

It also outlines a number of next steps in specific IoT areas.  For privacy, it states the Department will work to “address the need to protect consumer privacy in the IoT environment and continue to support baseline privacy legislation, as well as an engineering approach to privacy.”

For IoT cybersecurity, the Department will proactively support and promote cybersecurity policy for the IoT environment, promote the use of strong encryption as a key tool for addressing IoT cybersecurity concerns, and collaborate with industry to educate consumers about limiting risk.

In connection with the paper, the Department also issued a Request for Comment on the approach and engagement strategies it contains.  Comments are due by February 27.  In particular, the Department seeks input on whether there are important IoT issues not addressed in the paper, whether the paper takes an appropriate approach to advancing IoT, and any suggestions by commenters for next steps for the agency in fostering IoT advancement.

In addition, the Department also recently announced that the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (“NTIA”) will convene a virtual meeting in its multistakeholder process on January 31.  That meeting is to focus on IoT security upgradeability and patching.