Hosted by TLT LLP on 21st April 2016

The World Economic Forum forecasts that one trillion sensors will be connected to the internet by 2022 and more than 50% of internet traffic will be delivered to homes for appliances and devices by 2024. Literally anything could be connected to the internet which will enable greater communication and new data-driven services based on increased analytics capabilities.

This will have huge impacts on business models as products will be designed to be ‘digitally connectable’; things will be enabled to perceive their environment comprehensively and react and act autonomously; every company could potentially become a software company.

 Speakers include:

Professor James Woudhuysen // Visiting Professor // South Bank University
The more important examples of the Internet of Things at work will be in manufacturing and other industries. In the West we face a productivity and investment crisis. We’re not bringing on the robots, and there’s no artificial intelligence really at work in industry.

So the key problem that needs solving is weak automation, not consumer apps. IT investment in the US is declining, but the home applications aren’t going to solve the West’s problem of getting decent rates of economic growth back.

It will take a long time to make the systems safe, secure, and ‘intelligent’. The Internet of Things needs to be supported by a whole lot of infrastructure – the data analytics and the people who can make sense of all that. That will be costly and could take thirty years to evolve.

Companies should look at the productivity and capital expenditure benefits, and the health and safety benefits too. They should also be looking to retrain the workforce vigorously, given the extent of the unemployment that would come with success.

Daniel Lloyd // Partner // TLT Solicitors
There’s a mismatch between the IoT and current regulations, such as the stipulation that a business must send the consumer a distance contract with the right to cancel. How do you apply that to a fridge placing an order with Sainsbury’s? Until this is worked out, businesses risk breaking the law.

The problem won’t be completely resolved by the new Digital Content Directive, which remains vague in its references to data. For instance, it stipulates that when the contract ends businesses have to return the digital data they’ve generated to the end user, but what does that mean in practice?

The IoT will create lots of issues with regard to data protection and security as it evolves. Regulators are really hot on the way businesses use personal data, and they need unambiguous consent for how that data’s processed in the home.

There’s less concern about this in the non-consumer space. In production, agriculture, technology and industry, businesses have more freedom in how they contract with each other. The difficulty is more on the technical side: what are the common standards being used, and how do you achieve certainty in a commercial and technical sense?

Ed Greig // Disruptor // Deloitte Digital
As we shift responsibility away from human decision makers to devices we have to decide who is legally responsible? If devices give you information to help you make better decisions, you’re trusting them to tell you the right thing.

Gartner predicts that by 2018, three million people will be supervised by an automated boss. There needs to be logic behind that relationship. If your robot boss tells you to do something, do you just take that on trust?

Another problem is the way we relate to our robot devices. There’s a danger that young children can grow up thinking it’s normal to talk to other people in the same way they give orders to voice interaction on websites.

We need to think about these things holistically. We can’t figure out all the unintended consequences, but we do need to take a step back and think about what we’re trying to achieve.

Paul Egan // Principal Consultant // Iotica Consulting
Nobody knows what the Internet of Things is yet. Connected products like Fitbits are still siloed, vertical applications. But we’ll soon see things actually communicating with each other.

We’ve got low cost, high performance electronics, creating new kinds of networks that will allow things to be connected over wide areas – at a fraction of the cost that the cellular operator can provide. We’re also looking at devices that can work for many years on conventional batteries.

This convergence of low cost electronics with high performance networks with very low power will bring noticeable changes. One advance will come from predictive analytics, where machines can anticipate failure weeks ahead from subtle changes in the way they operate. That will mean businesses won’t have to upgrade until it becomes necessary, saving money.

One company, Nest, has withdrawn support for some of its products, which means these will eventually stop working. Understandably that’s caused a lot of controversy. But we’re bound to that happening more, with devices suddenly becoming defunct as start-ups fail.