The Internet of Things merges the physical and the virtual, offering innovative solutions and creating smart environments. Along with artificial intelligence (AI) and big data, Internet of Things (IoT) technologies are at the forefront of the world economy’s digital transformation. Data collected from sensors can be monitored and fed back to trigger an action, gain insights or respond to another connected object, hundreds of kilometres away.
European IoT and Edge Computing
IoT technologies will optimise the way we live our lives. The rollout of over 41 billion IoT devices is expected by 2025 (International Data Corporation), leading to an exponential growth of data and pushing computing operations and data analytics to the edge of the network.
With processing moving closer to the edge, we can reduce communication and storage costs as well as energy consumption. We can also apply machine learning and AI to safely identify data patterns that impact physical processes or businesses. A set of supporting policy actions have been adopted by the European Commission to accelerate the take-up of the next generation IoT and edge computing and unleash their full potential in Europe for the benefit of EU citizens and businesses.
A potential obstacle for the achievement of a single market for IoT has to do with the capacity to handle diverse and very large volumes of connected devices, as well as the need to securely identify them so they can be plugged into IoT networks. In this context, it is important to promote an interoperable IoT numbering space for a universal object identification system that transcends geographical limits, and an open one for object authentication.
The European strategy for data contributes to the creation of a European single market for IoT. This strategy proposes policy and legal solutions concerning the free flow of data across national borders within the EU. It also covers liability in complex environments such as that of the IoT, which is crucial to enhancing legal certainty around IoT products and services. In order to provide a first mapping of liability challenges that occur in the context of emerging digital technologies, including the IoT, the Commission published a staff working document on liability for emerging digital technologies.
IoT research & development and innovation
For the period of 2021-2027 under the Horizon Europe programme, the EU will invest around €95.5 million in the research, innovation and deployment of emerging technologies, building on the successes of Horizon 2020 and contributing to Europe’s green and digital transitions.
Through the Digitising European Industry (DEI) focus area, the EU prioritises ecosystem building, platform interoperability, technology integration, standardisation and validation through large-scale pilots and experimentation facilities. Complementing various policy initiatives, the Commission made available around €400 million through Horizon 2020 for efforts on platform building and large-scale piloting. Some of these projects have already come to a close, while others will continue to run into 2023.
Under its 2021-2022 calls on “World Leading Data and Computing Technologies”, the Commission is currently supporting IoT projects and other activities under Horizon Europe’s Cluster 4 Destination 3: From Cloud to Edge to IoT, boosting industrial collaboration through open platforms and standards, and achieving European leadership across the entire edge ecosystem. The Commission promotes more initiatives in support of the digitalisation of European industry through the Connecting Europe Facility and Digital Europe Programme, such as rolling out common European data spaces in vertical sectors like agriculture, energy and mobility.
Together with edge computing, the future IoT will revolutionise the way production and processes are organised and monitored across strategic value chains, giving European industry the green and digital transition it requires.