Private Sector Officials Like Bill to Foster IoT Research, Regulation

Industry leaders and business advocates in the ever-expanding Internet of Things (IoT) sector said Tuesday they support the aims of new draft legislation in the House directing the Secretary of Commerce to undertake comprehensive research on the IoT industry with an eye toward regulating it.

Private sector officials testifying at a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on digital commerce and consumer protection cautiously echoed lawmakers’ sentiments about the growing need for regulation in the IoT space, although they cautioned that lighter-touch regulation would help the sector grow more so heavier rules.

The draft bill–entitled the State of Modern Application, Research, and Trends of IoT Act, or SMART IoT Act–directs the Commerce Secretary to submit to Congress a report on the state of the IoT industry.

“No single Federal agency addresses all aspects of IoT,” a memo drafted for Tuesday’s hearing states. “There are numerous efforts to develop industry standards, best practices and ways in which the secure development of IoT can advance. However…with respect to Federal agencies, no compilation of Federal action, whether it be policy recommendations, guidelines, regulations, or the like, currently exists.”

In light of that, much of the proposed SMART IoT legislation is a mapping process. Since IoT devices collect data relevant for oversight from multiple Federal bodies, Commerce’s job will be to “develop a comprehensive list of Federal agencies with jurisdiction over entities in the IoT industry,” the memo notes.

“The smart IoT Act will create the first compendium of essentially ‘who is doing what’ in the IoT space,” said Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., chairman of House Energy and Commerce.

Industry officials echoed the sentiment that many IoT technology solutions also cut across industries, and are not siloed by divergent applications such as consumer, industrial, or smart-city uses.

“When you look across the board, our customers are looking at solutions that go across multiple industries,” said Dipti Vachani, general manager of platform management and customer engineering at Intel and vice president of the company’s IoT Group. “They’re multi-industry solutions. They don’t necessarily sit in one nice little box or vertical,” he said.

For that reason, witnesses called for Congress to leverage sector-specific insights as it evaluates any possible regulatory framework.

“IoT is already too large and too diverse to cabin in a single agency, and developing sector-specific expertise will ensure that government involvement is supported by the technical and policy knowledge needed to make the right decisions,” said Michelle Richardson, deputy director of the Freedom, Security, and Technology Project at the Center for Democracy and Technology.

At the same time, Richardson noted that technology neutrality–the idea that regulatory principles apply equally, regardless of what technology is used–is necessary for potential regulation of the IoT sector.

“We want a forward-looking tech-neutral law that will be able to cover all sorts of information regardless of the type of device or entity that’s creating it,” she said.

A representative of the largest lobbying group in the nation said that the SMART legislation will be useful to foster regulations aimed at spurring business activity.

“I think the Smart IoT act, by studying all sectors of the IoT and how they regulate technology and current policies will go a long way in cutting down overly burdensome regulations and duplicative regulation as well,” said Tim Day, senior vice president of the Chamber Technology Engagement Center at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Those private sector regulatory concerns were echoed by Rep. Bob Latta, R-Ohio, chairman of the subcommittee. “There was one thing that we heard from everyone,” he said. “We need to make sure that we have a soft-touch regulation so people can be out there innovating.”

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