On April 5, 2016, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) initiated an inquiry to review the potential benefits and challenges presented by the Internet of Things (IoT). In its Notice and request for public comment (RFC), NTIA is seeking input on the current IoT technological and policy landscape with a goal of developing recommendations—in the form of a Green Paper—as to whether and how the federal government should play a role in fostering the advancement of IoT technologies.

Comments are due on or before May 23, 2016 at 5:00 p.m. eastern; parties across industry sectors are encouraged to comment.

The inquiry is part of the Department of Commerce’s Digital Economy Agenda through which the agency seeks to help develop a free and open Internet and innovation in the digital economy while promoting privacy, security, and broad access.

NTIA describes the IoT as “the connection of physical objects, infrastructure, and environments to various identifiers, sensors, networks, and/or computing capability.” It notes that there has been some early policy focus by some federal agencies, such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration with connected cars, and the Food and Drug Administration for connected medical devices. A major driver for NTIA is assessing the IoT policy landscape from a more “holistic, ecosystem-wide view that identifies opportunities and assesses risks across the digital economy.”

NTIA sees its role as encouraging IoT innovation and economic growth while addressing novel issues raised by the deployment of the IoT. To that end, the RFC requests comments on the following topics:

  • General: What should be the definition of the IoT for these purposes? Are there ways to divide the IoT into subparts to improve policy- and other decision-making? What novel challenges are presented by the IoT? Are there current or planned laws that strike an appropriate balance between innovation and protection? Are there those that unnecessarily inhibit the IoT?
  • Technology: What technological hurdles, including interoperability and spectrum availability, hinder the development of the IoT? What can or should be the government’s role here? What factors should the government consider when prioritizing technical activities with respect to the IoT?
  • Infrastructure: What demands will the IoT place on existing infrastructure? How can we prepare for these demands? How can we minimize disruptions to the infrastructure by the IoT? What is or should be the government’s role with respect to infrastructure?
  • Economy: What is the best way to measure or quantify the IoT economy? Is this something the government should be doing? What impact will the IoT have on industrial practices (e.g., manufacturing, supply chains, agriculture)? On the U.S. workforce? What is or should be the government’s role with respect to addressing workforce issues raised by the IoT?
  • Policy Issues: What are the main policy issues related to the IoT? How should the government address such concerns, including cybersecurity, privacy and consumer protection? How could the IoT impact or itself be affected by economic equality?
  • International Engagement: What factors should the Department consider in its international engagement relating to the IoT? Upon what issues should the Department focus? What factors could impede the growth of IoT outside of the U.S. and what, if anything, should the government do to alleviate the impact of those factors on the space?
  • Other: Are there IoT areas appropriate for multistakeholder engagement? What role should the Department play with respect to the IoT within the federal government? How can and should the private sector and government collaborate on issues raised by or in connection with the IoT?