The Internet of Things (IoT) describes an emerging global network connecting everything around us: from what we wear, to the homes we live in, and even medical devices embedded in our bodies.
IoT encompasses everyday objects as well as complex data systems in cities and industries. This so-called “third wave” of the Internet is often defined by orders of magnitude: “billions of devices connected, trillions in generated revenue, zettabytes of multi-directional data.”
The advent of IoT will amplify many of society’s digital issues. Computing will be ubiquitous and physically connected to us, resulting in the Internet becoming even more personal, sensitive and pervasive.
At this critical moment, the widespread and unique consequences of IoT demand that we look not at what is possible, but at what is responsible. As often as the Internet is used to foster learning and promote justice, it’s also used to exert control and exacerbate inequality.
In 2016, NetGain is focused on understanding the public interest issues that arise with IoT and what philanthropy can do about it. We identified five interrelated opportunities and challenges of IoT for society, which are explored in this paper:
Savings and efficiency
Improving public services
Enabling citizens with data
Democratizing product development
Growing the movement for “open”
Erosion of privacy
Surveillance on a global scale
Inequity and reinforced social divides
Threats to safety and security
Centralization and monopolies
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