Today, the European Commission launched a sector inquiry into the Internet of Things for consumer-related products and services in the European Union.
Many of us are aware of the increasing number of ways in which the internet is embedded in the objects we use in our daily lives. In a press conference announcing the new antitrust competition inquiry, Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager illustrated this with the example of an afternoon shopping trip. You have forgotten your shopping list, so you consult your smartphone which tells you what is in your fridge; when you get home you may even unlock your door using a word or your face; once you have unpacked the shopping, you sit down in front of a smart TV and ask it to stream your favourite show; and as you settle down to watch it your heart rate is being monitored by a fitness tracker, which knows that you are now relaxed.
The Commission's inquiry into the consumer Internet of Things will focus on products and services used by consumers which are connected to a network, and can be controlled at a distance (using a mobile device or voice assistant, for example). It will cover products such as wearable devices and smart home devices such as fridges, washing machines, smart TVs, smart speakers and lighting systems. It will also look at services available via smart devices (such as music and video streaming services), as well as the voice assistants we use to access them.
Areas highlighted for the inquiry to consider include the collection and use of data in this sector, as well as interoperability between devices.
The Commission expects to publish a preliminary report based on these replies for consultation in spring 2021, with a final report to follow in summer 2022.