The Internet has changed the world over the past few decades in a way that few anticipated. In coming decades, new innovations will continue to shape our society in unpredictable ways. The emergence of the “Internet of Things” (IoT) has introduced a new era of innovation and promise, but not without concerns about privacy, security, safety and governance. Within the global IGF, the Dynamic Coalition on Internet of Things (DC IoT) has been active since 2010 proposing a global framework that develops “standards that take both social and economic sustainability of networks into account.”

There is undoubtedly incredible global potential for IoT, but it does not come without great risk. In order for this potential to be realized, it is essential that the we manage the risks associated with privacy, security, and safety in an ethical way, while encouraging innovation. As this “phenomenon” grows and networked technologies become more integrated with everyday objects like watches, cars, appliances and health equipment, the way we do things will radically change. Technology research firm Gartner predicts that there will be 13.5 billion IoT devices in use in the consumer sector in 2020, nearly double the current global population. In other words, it is important that we get this right.

As part of the World Economic Forum’s Outlook on the Global Agenda 2015, the Global Agenda Council explored the issues and opportunities that are ahead of us in their report, Mapping the future: The future of the Internet. In the report, they draw attention to many of the potential benefits of IoT, including improving rural medicine and authorities easily outsourcing operations like traffic control and water flow to affordable and efficient providers. However, it is well known that there are many risks and obstacles to deal with before these can be fully achieved. They identify the lack of standards in network interoperability as one of the biggest hurdles to reaching the full benefits of IoT. It was a single interoperable IP layer that enabled the Internet’s incredible growth and it is likewise important that we develop a single layer for IoT with strong privacy and security mechanisms in place.

Ultimately, as this new era of technology unfolds, one of the biggest issues to address will be who makes the decisions on the security and privacy protocols and regulations relating to IoT and the Internet. Come join us at IGF-USA 2016 on July 14th to take part in this discussion, as we look toward the future of our Internet.

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