There is an increasing demand for reaching global consensus on how to effectively tap into the immense potentials IoT (or the Internet-of-Things) can deliver, allowing for solutions to scale beyond today’s functionalities and create a more holistic, inclusive and intelligent society.
The demand is firmly rooted in recognizing the need to go further passed connectivity, operational applications and economic productivity, and to address issues of socio-economic inclusion and equity. It also recognizes the scale of the opportunities that can be unlocked by combining IoT and digitalization with transformative innovation.
It is a pertinent reminder that our impact on the wider society is directly proportional to how we view the challenges that we are facing and the solutions we provide in response.
The Internet of Things is an extraordinary and powerful tool that has the potential to deliver a world that is not only more integrated and subsequently intelligent, but one that is also truly unique with the ability to improve the quality of life, improve individual wellness and increase overall productivity.
This is the promise of the internet of things or IoT.
However, with all the potential of this transformative technology, there is also the question of data privacy and societal marginalization.
The risk lies in how IoT will continue to be developed in a socially responsible and inclusive manner to enable this technology to deliver its greatest potential.
The reality is that society is not going to be prepared for the kind of change that could potentially emerge as we embark on this new era of connectivity. And there is also no certainty that governments around the world will be fully capable of proposing new legal frameworks in time to address the rapid emergence of this new connective technology.
In order to establish the notion for such frameworks, I have formulated the below compelling questions to provide more insights:
What will the new internet look like?
We now live in a world where we connect to other devices, from our smartphones and smart wearables to sensors that measure our health. These IoT devices or ‘objects’ have become indispensable to our lives, allowing us to perform many of our day-to-day tasks on our own and seamlessly integrate into the physical world around us. IoT also provides the environment in which our connected devices can interact with each other and the wider internet and make that interaction much more expedient.
In the coming years, we can therefore expect to see common household items, such as refrigerators, light bulbs and thermostats becoming increasingly connected. At the same time, we can also expect to see the spread of internet-connected devices becoming more applicable to healthcare diagnosis and emergency response. The economic opportunities are tremendous, but unfortunately the privacy, security, and reliability challenges that arise from this soon-to-come explosion of data are enormous as well, not just the issue of inclusivity.
Many disruptive innovations have consequently contributed to the exponential growth of the internet, such as the inception of cloud computing, big data and 5G networks — all becoming tremendously important for the future of an interconnected society. But in order to truly realize the impact of such transformative technologies, we must go beyond a general acknowledgment of their promise. In fact, I believe we must move toward making them a reality by ensuring that the opportunities they offer are more open and accessible to everyone, not just some.
Will the new internet be (more) accessible?
People around the world who are least able to access the internet such as those in remote locations and developing nations, can only become more marginalized as IoT becomes more and more prominent in our everyday lives.
It is therefore immensely critical that governments around the world work towards ensuring the connectivity of everyone, both within their borders and beyond. Doing so can only help bridge economic, cultural, and geographic divides — which are all important factors when considering how the new internet is projected to benefit those who need it most.
Companies such as Starlink, Kuiper Systems and OneWeb are already working towards achieving the above by launching ‘low-latency’ orbital satellite constellations that will provide 1.3 Billion people on earth who do not have (adequate) access to the internet, with affordable and efficient broadband for optimum connectivity.
Hence, as the internet continues to evolve due to growing interconnectivity and becomes more accessible, the more the potential it has to create significant societal benefits.
What should happen next?
With the IoT’s immense global promise and countless opportunities, the future of digital inclusion will be defined by how rapidly, holistically, and consistently businesses and organizations deliver solutions that are inclusive, allowing for individuals and devices to work, play, and learn in an interconnected ecosystem of wholesale digital engagement.
Therefore, to enable a seamless and agile ecosystem of interconnectivity, service providers need to subsequently open up their networks and expose their data to more customers on communications platforms that are more secure and reliable. Organizations should also leverage the power of IoT technologies to deliver innovative solutions to (local) communities such as digital literacy and remote healthcare consultations, to better connect everyone to the emerging digital world.
This would mean going beyond the use of mobile technologies and ensuring access to the technologies needed to connect businesses to customers and consumers alike.
Unlocking inclusive connectivity can have a massive and lasting impact on the future of the next internet, while also creating massive economic benefits for society at large.