FGV law professor analyzes the impact of the ‘Internet of Things’ on society
The Brazilian Department of Science, Technology, and Innovation (MCTI) held a public inquiry for the National Plan for the Internet of Things (IoT) in Brazil for two months. The plan will define the measures to be taken for the country to promote the so-called ‘Internet of Things’ as a development model for the country’s automotive, agricultural, and urban development industries, among others, and received over 2,000 comments. Eduardo Magrani, professor at Rio de Janeiro Law School (Direito Rio) and researcher at Center for Technology and Society (CTS), shares his thoughts on the matter.
“Despite the significant number compared to previous online public inquiries, it still shows people’s lack of political engagement in online environments; even worse, it reflects the population’s lack of awareness regarding how this hyper-connectivity scenario will impact our lives going forward,” he said.
Magrani, whose PhD thesis concerns the Internet of Things, points out that the number of connected devices – increasingly present in people’s daily lives – will gather, transmit, store, and share a huge amount of largely personal and sensitive data.
“The IoT could significantly change the way we live. With an exponential increase in the use of such devices, which are already or will soon be on the market, we must be aware of the risks that this may bring to the privacy and other fundamental rights of users.
The researcher explains that the impact of this phenomenon has been pegged to the concept, still under development, of a Fourth Industrial Revolution, characterized by a ubiquitous (omnipresent) and mobile Internet, sensors and devices that become increasingly cheaper and smaller, and the advancement of artificial intelligence. For instance, a glimpse into the future shows us smart bracelets and insoles that can tell how far someone walked on foot or rode a bike, or interconnected health devices that allow steadier and more efficient monitoring, in addition to streamlining doctor-patient interactions.
“Every day, new ‘things’ are connected to the internet with the ability to share, process, store, and analyze huge chunks of data among them. Research shows that we will have approximately 100 billion connected smart devices by 2020,” he said.
The professor also points out that the overall estimated economic impact of the IoT is over USD 11 trillion by 2025, and that the Internet of Things emerges as a possible solution for new public management challenges, promising even more effective solutions to problems such as pollution, traffic jams, crime, and production efficiency, among others, based on the use of integrated technologies and massive data processing.
“For this reason, one of the main technical and regulatory challenges that Brazil will now face relates to the role of the State in the ever-so-closer reality of hyper-connectivity. The Brazilian regulatory ecosystem needs to adapt quickly to this shifting scenario. It is possible to pass laws that protect individual rights, create efficient markets, and encourage innovation nationwide. But we all need to actively join this debate in order to achieve this goal,” he concluded.