by Giuseppe Porcaro
The Internet of Things could transform the political process.
Forecasts indicate that around 6.4 billion connected devices will be in use worldwide by the end of 2016, up 30% from 2015. The total will reach 20.8 billion by 2020.
These figures show the scale of the technological change, but there is little agreement on the likely consequences. Arguments about the industrial internet mix fact and science with speculation and emotion. Some warn that we are witnessing the arrival of a darker world of surveillance, consumer lock-in, and violations of privacy and security. Others predict a revolutionary, fully-interconnected “smart” world of progress, efficiency and opportunity.
The hope is that, after years of economic crisis, the internet of things will boost production and bring huge benefits for consumers. To fulfil this promise, governments are gradually adopting new regulatory frameworks and policies on issues such as interoperability, privacy, security, data storage and spectrum and bandwidth.
However, deep changes will also occur in the political realm. The availability of a wealth of data will offer new raw material for democratically accountable politicians when they are making policy decisions. At first sight, this new situation resembles little more than an upgraded version of the current approach to evidence-based policy. However, with increased automatisation and real-time data processing, the nature and use of this “evidence” will inevitably change. Synchronisation of data flows and decision making might result in the automatic selection of the “best” possible policies.