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The Internet of Things in 2020

Executive Summary:

This report outlines the results of the workshop “Beyond RFID – The Internet of Things”. The workshop was initiated and jointly organised by the Commission and EPoSS and more than 80 invited experts with expertise in different fields of related technologies and research attended the event. This report is not confined to summarising the discussions and conclusions of the workshop, but also elaborates on themes identified at the workshop to substantiate what the Internet of Things might become in the future.

Radio Frequency Identification techniques (RFID) and related identification technologies will be the cornerstone of the upcoming Internet of Things (IoT). While RFID was initially developed with retail and logistics applications in mind in order to replace the bar code, developments of active components will make this technology much more than a simple identification scheme. In the not too distant future, it can be expected that a single numbering scheme, such as IPv6, will make every single object identifiable and addressable. Smart components will be able to execute different set of actions, according to their surroundings and the tasks they are designed for. There will be no limit to the actions and operations these smart “things” will be able to perform: for instance, devices will be able to direct their transport, adapt to their respective environments, self-configure, self-maintain, self-repair, and eventually even play an active role in their own disposal.

To reach such a level of ambient intelligence, however, major technological innovations and developments will need to take place. Governance, standardisation and interoperability are absolute necessities on the path towards the vision of things able to communicate with each other. In this respect, new power efficient, security centred and fully global communication protocols and sustainable standards must be developed, allowing vast amount of information to be shared amongst things and people. The ability of the smart devices to withstand any kind of harsh environment and harvest energy from their surroundings becomes crucial. Furthermore, a major research issue will be to enable device adaptation, autonomous behaviour, intelligence, robustness, and reliability. The general organisational architecture of intelligent “things” will be of fundamental importance: whether it should be centralised or totally distributed.

Another central issue of the Internet of Things will be related to trust, privacy and security, not only for what concerns the technological aspects, but also for the education of the people at large. The growing data demand and higher data transfer rates will require stronger security models employing context related security, which in return will help the citizens to build trust and confidence in these novel technologies rather than increasing fears of total surveillance scenarios. The dissemination of the benefits that these technologies can bring to the general public will also be essential for the success of this technology on the market. The real advantages of the IoT have to be shown convincingly, all citizens’ concerns must be addressed and taken into account when developing innovative solutions and proposals.

It is therefore expected that the Internet of things will become a reality over the next 20 years; with omnipresent smart devices wirelessly communicating over hybrid and ad-hoc networks of devices, sensors and actuators working in synergy to improve the quality of our lives and consistently reducing the ecological impact of mankind on the planet.


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