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December 13, 2016

Data, Security Frameworks Emerge For IoT

George Leopold

The U.S. requires a national strategy to coordinate private sector efforts to deploy the Internet of Things (IoT) that includes data security and interoperability standards, according to a report released this week by the Center for Data Innovation.

“It appears that each federal agency is marching to the beat of its own drum,” noted Daniel Castro, the report’s author and director of the Washington-based think tank focused on data and public policy. The challenge for the next administration “will be to coordinate all of these ongoing efforts to ensure the federal government remains a useful partner for the private sector. The best way to do this is by developing a national strategy for the Internet of Things.”

The report recommends a handful of steps the government should take to support a private sector build out of the IoT. Among them are ensuring wireless spectrum availability, supporting research and development as well as “coordinating stakeholders” and leading efforts to develop technical standards.

Among the standards priorities are cyber security and interoperability as more devices are connected. The report notes that the National Institute of Standard and Technology (NIST) released an IoT framework that includes a reference architecture, data interoperability along with cyber security and data privacy guidelines.

The NIST framework targets a range of early IoT applications, including smart manufacturing and smart grid deployments that are expected to generated huge volumes of data that could be analyzed to improve productivity and boost capacity utilization.

NIST earlier released a “Big Data Interoperability Framework” as well as a roadmap for smart grid interoperability specs.

Along with industrial, energy and transportation applications, others federal agencies have moved to provide security standards for medical devices, including the exemption of “low-risk” but data rich fitness trackers from regulatory oversight. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also moved in last year to finalize guidance that would exempt from federal regulations connected medical devices used to store and convert medical data.

A key infrastructure management step will be freeing wireless spectrum for IoT deployments. The Federal Communications Commission has launched a series of rulemakings aimed at making more wireless spectrum available for commercial use, including IoT. Among them are efforts to free licensed and unlicensed frequencies for “connected technologies,” the report notes.

For example, a 2015 auction made 65 megahertz of licensed spectrum available for network operators, and the FCC is developing rules to improve access to a 5 GHz frequency band along with 100 megahertz of unlicensed spectrum.

“The federal government has done a great job of starting projects that will drive the deployment of the Internet of Things,” concluded Castro. “But these initiatives are likely insufficient to grow the technology as rapidly as we need to if we don’t want to miss out on the many benefits it can offer. Fortunately, both the federal government and Congress have signaled their support for a national strategy for the Internet of Things that would remedy this.”

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