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Internet of Things: Examining Opportunities and Challenges

The Administration is working with stakeholders to understand and harness the benefits of connected devices while also assessing and addressing potential challenges.

Through the integration of computers, sensors and networking in physical devices, the Internet of Things (IoT) fuses the physical and digital worlds to develop new capabilities and services, which in turn create new jobs, businesses and opportunities. Innovators and entrepreneurs across the country are leading the development and deployment of IoT systems and services, extending the Internet beyond laptops and smartphones to everyday devices of all types—from cars and clothing to homes and factories—while adding the sensors and computing capabilities that make them “smart." More than ever, we will need to work together to promote the advancement of these connected devices while also ensuring they are secure, safeguard our privacy, and remain worthy of our trust.

While IoT devices incorporate many technologies Americans have used for decades such as microprocessors, cameras, and other sensors, the truly ubiquitous nature of these devices present new opportunities and challenges for the nation. Small, ordinary-looking devices placed in homes and businesses can help keep us secure, but they also open important privacy questions; sensors in cars, trucks, airplanes, and ships help identify and prevent failures or accidents before they happen but also open new cybersecurity vulnerabilities; and complex IoT software and operating systems may contain bugs or are not updated regularly, raising questions about safe deployment in critical health, infrastructure, and even everyday uses. 

In order to address some of these opportunities and challenges, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is hosting a workshop on August 31 to help understand trustworthiness in IoT and Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS). Among the most important characteristic of any connected device is trustworthiness—it must be safe, secure, reliable, resilient, and privacy-enhancing. Trustworthiness is one of nine fundamental ‘Aspects,’ or dimensions, of IoT and CPS as described in the recently-released Framework developed by NIST’s CPS Public Working Group.

In addition, the National Telecommunications and Information Agency (NTIA) is hosting a workshop on September 1 to discuss ways to help foster the growth of IoT. The workshop will build on the comments NTIA received this spring that called for public input on what elements, if any, are necessary for strategic government engagement related to IoT. It will help to inform the Commerce Department’s forthcoming issue-spotting, agenda-setting green paper on IoT. The NTIA workshop will feature panel discussions on privacy, security and technology issues related to IoT, as well as a discussion on the potential role of government and whether there should be a national strategy related to IoT.

The workshops this week are one of several examples of the Administration taking bold action to ensure both safety, privacy and innovation as the IoT market continues to grow. As part of the Administration’s Cybersecurity National Action Plan released earlier this year, the Department of Homeland Security is collaborating with industry partners to develop a Cybersecurity Assurance Program to test and certify networked IoT devices. The Administration is also working with and recognizing the importance of external security researchers through programs like the Department of Defense’s Hack the Pentagon program, the first bug bounty in the history of the federal government. The Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) Program has two Federal interagency working groups that examine IoT R&D areas. And through the Smart Cities Initiative, the Administration is investing more than $160 million in Federal research and forging new cross-sector collaborations to help communities use technologies like IoT to tackle key challenges such as traffic congestion, pollution and crime. To take new steps to advance the Smart Cities, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has issued a national call to action for new specific and measurable public and private actions to accelerate the development of smart cities.

Your input is critical to fostering the promise of IoT, and we want you to hear from you about this week’s workshops. You can watch the NIST workshop online and email your thoughts to, and also tune into NTIA’s workshop and learn more about its multistakholder process on IoT.  


Afua Bruce is the Executive Director of the National Science and Technology Council

Dan Correa is a Senior Advisor on Innovation Policy in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Suhas Subramanyam is a Special Assistant and Policy Advisor in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy