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Industry calls for regulatory overhaul as new IoT network goes live

Industry calls for regulatory overhaul as new IoT network goes live

New framework needed to manage the IoT explosion

A new Internet of Things (IoT) community network in Sydney’s Barangaroo precinct that went live on 6 September has highlighted the growing need for widespread regulatory reform, according to industry stakeholders.

The free ‘Barangaroo Community Network’ gateway in Sydney was developed in partnership between the IoT Alliance Australia (IoTAA), KPMG, International Towers Barangaroo, and IoT integration specialist, Meshed.

The network is aimed at giving up to 1,000 IoT devices within a five-kilometre radius to connect to the internet. It is expected to help local community, business, and research facilities to connect devices and “explore the potential of IoT technology” through prototyping, testing, solution development, and learning.

Operating in the 915MHz industrial and scientific spectrum, the new network is based on the LoRaWAN open standard for low power, long-range IoT deployments.

While the launch of the new IoT network is set to provide new opportunities for businesses using IoT devices, it also highlights the pressure that the explosion of the IoT ecosystem is putting on the existing regulatory framework around connected devices, bandwidth requirements, and data management practices.

John Stanton, CEO, the Communications Alliance, and chair of the IoTAA Executive Council.
John Stanton, CEO, the Communications Alliance, and chair of the IoTAA Executive Council.

“The IoTAA’s mission is not only about grabbing opportunities, it is also about managing the risks to network integrity and personal privacy that could occur if we are not vigilant and well-prepared,” said John Stanton, Communications Alliance CEO and chair of the IoTAA Executive Council, when the network was launched.

“A third aim of necessary activity is to review the Australian regulatory framework through an IoT lense – current regulations were typically not designed to cope with the requirements and challenges that IoT-based networks can present,” he said.

Of particular concern is the diminishing bandwidth availability, according to Andrew Maggio, founder and technical director at Meshed, who suggests that business innovation is moving at a pace much faster than regulatory bodies are able to keep up with.

“The kind of innovation that’s going on in this space at the moment means that companies like us are coming along and deploying networks that make use of this available bandwidth,” Maggio told ARN.

“If a lot of that was to happen at the one time, we might find ourselves in a situation where Australia is out of bandwidth.”

While Maggio suggests that the existing bandwidth is not likely to become exhausted any time soon, it could be a real problem further down the track.

With this in mind, the IoTAA is in the habit of meeting regularly with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to discuss how the bandwidth should be structured going forward, and which guidelines should be used to prevent future bandwidth shortages.

“With the proliferation of IoT devices that are expected to come…we need to make sure now that we’ve got plans for bandwidth to be able to put those devices on the network,” he said.

“We don’t want to find out in five years’ time that we have a problem.”

Bandwidth is not the only problem looming over the horizon for the local IoT landscape, with information security and data privacy, which are already concerns, set to become core considerations in the future of IoT locally and around the world.

“There needs to be some standardisation around privacy and security, and there needs to be some agreement on how security is – from a privacy perspective – managed. We need to decide what’s considered to be an acceptable level of privacy.

"This is particularly important when humans are not involved, and machines are making transactions,” said Maggio.

The network deployed by Meshed at Barangaroo was designed and implemented to be ‘secure by default,’ with data encrypted at the device and decrypted once it arrives at the application using it. Maggio stresses the need for such mechanisms to be considered and implemented at the very beginning of any IoT project.

“Everything starts with an infrastructure that is secure and private by default. Really, that’s the only way to do it,” he said. “While you address these things as they come up, from the start, you try to build a network that is as secure as it can be.”

For Ben Johnson, national business manager, Data Insights at IT services provider, Empired, the security question is tied in with consumer privacy.

He suggests that one of the big issues with IoT infrastructure is how organisations using the technology handle consumers’ information.

“The growth of Australia’s IoT market brings opportunities for innovation,” said Johnson. “Data is growing exponentially, and the value this can bring us is exciting. But it also has risks.

“It is important that the regulatory framework around IoT is continuously addressed to ensure that organisations manage a balance between experimenting and innovating with data, and ensuring adequate privacy and security of data,” he said.

Johnson views the burgeoning tendency for businesses to accumulate consumer data via IoT devices as being a central concern driving the need for the regulatory framework around connected devices and data needs to be overhauled.

“Regulatory framework must address three key concerns and ensure that organisations are aware and accountable for their IoT data; what data can be collected and stored, whether that data can be stored on premise, and whether storage should be restricted to Australian territory,” he said.

According to Johnson, industry, government, and consumer groups need to continue collaborating to pin down a regulatory framework that reflects the best interests of Australian citizens, business, and government.

This is something the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has looked at in depth, with the regulator releasing proposed changes to the management of available bandwidth late last year.

The proposed changes, which are aimed at making it easier for operators of machine-to-machine (M2M) wireless communications links to access available spectrum, are expected to remove technical barriers to the operation of narrowband low-powered wireless networks in the 900MHz, 2.4MHz, and 5.8MHz ranges.

These bands support applications such as data telemetry, machine data and monitoring, and sensor networks.

“The changes should encourage innovations in the M2M and IoT spaces,” said ACMA chairman, Chris Chapman, at the time.

“The proposals are a part of our work in looking at Australia’s state of readiness for IoT and identifying areas where the ACMA can further assist IoT developments.”

The local industry's calls for regulatory changes to handle the influx of IoT devices in Australia come as industry analyst, Gartner, predicts that 21 billion IoT devices will be in use by 2020.

As a result of this influx, according to Gartner, infrastructure and operations leaders must update their network access policies and review their enterprise network practices.

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