EC Predicts Internet-Enabled Yogurt Pots (And Smart Meters)

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But only with IPV6 in place and the help of a truly international ICANN says the European Commission

The European Commission believes that within five to ten years the number of devices connected to the internet will increase dramatically, including everything from energy efficient smart meters to yogurt pots capable of recording their own temperature.

But while the European authority is optimistic about the future of the internet, it claims the developments will require support for emerging protocol IPV6 and is also continuing to question the US dominance of ICANN – the body which manages much of the Internet’s domain system.

In a statement released this week, the EC said that it is launching an action plan ‘internet of things’ to make sure that Europe is well placed to take advantage of the increase in devices that are internet enabled and the benefits for industry and society.

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“Every day we see new examples of applications that connect objects to the internet and each other: from cars connected to traffic lights that fight congestion, to home appliances connected to smart power grids and energy metering that allows people to be aware of their electricity consumption or connected pedestrian footpaths that guide the visually impaired,” said Viviane Reding (pictured), EU commissioner for Information Society and Media. “The promise of this new development of the internet is as limitless as the number of objects in our daily life it involves. However, we need to make sure that Europeans, as citizens, as entrepreneurs and as consumers, lead the technology, rather than the technology leading us.”

The EC maintains that in the future it won’t only be computers and smartphones connected to the internet, “simple everyday items like yogurt pots that record the temperature along their supply chain, or two prescription drugs that warn patients of a possible incompatibility” will also be web enabled the European body claims.

The commission has outlined 14 actions to promote its idea of the “internet of things’ including the standardisation, better funding for research, and measures to protect privacy and data security.

The EC has also pledged further support for IPV6 – the latest iteration of the main transport protocol for internet traffic – which creates the potential for significantly more IP addresses than version 4 which is the current standard.

“The Commission is also working to make sure there are enough internet addresses (which are needed to connect every object to the internet just as they are for websites) for this new wave of connected objects to emerge,” the EC said. “This requires the roll out of the latest source of internet addresses (IPv6), setting the conditions for its widespread take-up that will allow objects like household items to have their own internet protocol addresses to connect to other devices.”

However while the EC is talking up the potential of IPV6 to help revitalise the internet’s development, it is not quite as taken with ICANN, the organisation which manages internet’s domain system. This week the EC repeated calls for the US to release its grip on ICANN and enable it to become a multilaterally managed body.

In a report released today called ‘Internet governance: the next steps’, the EC said it is calling on the US to make governance of the internet more open, transparent and inclusive. “The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers is approaching a historic point in its development. Will it become a fully independent organisation, accountable to the global internet community? Europeans would expect so, and this is what we will push for. I call on the United States to work together with the European Union to achieve this,” said Reding.

ICANN currently operates under a joint agreement with the US Department of Commerce which is set to expire on 30 September 2009. “In the view of the European Commission, future internet governance arrangements should reflect the key role that the global network has come to play for all countries,” the EC said in a statement.