Telefónica and Intel wade into IoT debate as shadow cabinet officer says there is ‘chaos’ around data sharing

Executives from Telefónica and Intel have addressed the broad gamut of issues surrounding how the internet of things (IoT) could impact society, as the government’s shadow cabinet office minister, Chi Onwurah, called for an ethical framework to deal with the “chaos” around data sharing.

Telefonica's Thinking Things product

Speaking at the Westminster eForum earlier today, Onwurah, who is also the co-chair of the Parliamentary Internet, Communications and Technology Forum, said that while IoT could signal the “biggest transformation in the way we live since electricity”, the government needs to take a bigger role in controlling it.

“The government has a role to play in supporting and enabling citizens to have greater control over their data and how they manage their smart homes,” she said.

“There is chaos with regard to how and why data should be shared, and it is time we developed an ethical framework to support that”.

Meanwhile, Telefónica’s machine-to-machine (M2M) managing director, David Taylor, admitted that for IoT to be “unleashed as a successful business model” there are a number of issues that need to be addressed, not least the need for mobile networks to work together.

“The IoT is going to be enabled by a range of network technologies,” he commented. “This is simply because some technologies do a better job than others. Some in fact are going to need multiple networks to work together”.

Taylor added that while Telefónica feels its network is already in a good position to meet the demands of M2M applications, he admitted that more will need to be done to handle the transition from M2M to IoT.

“We do recognise that we are going to have to evolve it [the network] further in order to support IoT, particularly around the latency and signal load that all of the millions of devices could put on the network.”

Telefónica is currently looking to trail RFID networks and wifi to complement its mobile networks, and is working with the University of Surrey to see how 5G could help support IoT in the future.

Towards the end of last year the network launched Thinking Things, its first IoT product, which enables mainstream consumers to connect almost any device wirelessly to the internet. It is the first step in the company’s plan towards rolling out Thinking Things Open, an ecosystem that will allow any other company to manufacture its own connected products.

On security and data privacy, Intel EMEA’s head of security Richard Curran said that the industry is in need of “modernisation” and argued that today’s security environment was “probably set up to support an industry that was around in the 90’s,” as hackers and cyber terrorists take advantage of the increasing number of so-called ‘attack surfaces’ that IoT inevitably brings.

“If you look at the growth in devices… they will be open to hackers and from that perspective we are looking at this changing threat landscape,” he said.

“Threats expand because the number of attack surfaces are expanding at a tremendous rate. What we’ve got within our industry today is a security based environment that is probably set up to, or support, a server or an industry that was around in the 90’s. We’re not prepared today to look at how we can deploy those security based solutions that actually is for IoT and that is going to become imperative.”

In its latest earnings report Intel said that IoT accounted for $2.1bn in revenue in 2014, up 19 per cent from 2013. By comparison its mobile and communications division dropped a dramatic 85 per cent year on year to $202m, generating 10 times less than Intel’s IoT group.

Telefónica’s global ad chief Daniel Rosen previously revealed to The Drum that he believed the company is poised to “power” IoT and the wearable ecosystem.

Natalie Mortimer

I look after all things creative.

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