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Tuesday, 15 October 2013 21:51

Selling the Internet of Everything

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In the past decade, technology has been pushing the boundaries in society, culture and business. In some ways, policy has yet to catch up to technology, which begs the question: will government be able to handle developments in technology that will occur in the next five to 10 years?

Carlos Dominguez, the senior VP of Cisco, was at GTEC 2013 last week to talk about these issues, particularly as they pertain to the notion of the “Internet of Everything.” The Internet of Everything is a theory that holds that at some point in the future, everything and everyone will be connected to the Internet somehow.

In his keynote speech, he gave an example of the Internet of Everything at work: a pill that, when ingested, can transmit vital signs from within the patient directly to the doctor.

With these developments, of course, come questions of privacy and ethics.

“How much information should people have? Who owns the data? We have a lot of issues like that that we need to wrestle through,” Dominguez said, adding that terms of service need to be more clear and understandable.

“The role of privacy is that we really need to allow people to understand exactly what is being done,” he continued. “Secondly, we need to have the right to opt out, and government plays a very significant role in that.”

He also touched upon other developments, such as the emerging technology of 3D printing, and the ethical dilemmas that come with them. A 3D printer is capable of producing firearms, patented objects, and human tissue and organs. It stands to reason that the government must step in and legislate aspects of this technology.

“What I would love to see is someone, or a group, that brings [public servants] up to date [on the issues],” Dominguez said. “Maybe this could be a public-private partnership. Maybe the private sector should come in and work with governments: ‘Here are the technologies that are out there that you should pay attention to, and here are the potential implications.’

“We have to address these issues, and government plays a crucial role, education plays a crucial role… so the businesses that are playing with these technologies should be brought in to talk about them and for people to understand it.”

Kim Devooght, VP of Public Sector Canada, Cisco, was careful to stress that the Internet of Everything can benefit the public service. He cited the use of sensors on pipes in Washington, DC’s sewage system to prevent pipe erosion or collapse – using methods like this, cities can avoid having to deal with minor disasters such as sinkholes.

“The role of government is to provide direct services to Canadians,” Devooght said, “or to create a regulatory environment that allows others to do that stuff.”

“When you have sensors out there, you’ll be able to detect certain things,” Dominguez added. “That will have an impact on resources – when do you put the resources, and where? And on how you serve your citizens, how you protect them. All of these technologies will enable a lot more of that.”

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Amy Allen

Amy Allen is a freelance writer and editor with Where magazine in Ottawa, and a former intern and staff writer with Canadian Government Executive magazine.

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