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Internet of Things October 2018 Viewpoints

Technology Analyst: Guy Garrud

European Union Shaping Global Data Management?

Why is this topic significant?

The European Union has rolled out some of the most comprehensive legal protections for personal data. The responses of companies both inside and outside the European Union are likely to have a strong shaping effect on data policies worldwide.

Description

In May 2018, the European Union's general data-protection regulation (GDPR) came into force. GDPR is a revised version of previous data-privacy standards but is most notable in that it grants much larger enforcement powers against companies that violate the regulations. Under the new GDPR, companies committing violations could sustain fines of up to 4% of their global annual revenue.

Numerous websites have responded in various ways to the rollout of GDPR. Some websites, including that of the Los Angeles Times, elected to block users from European IP (internet protocol) addresses either temporarily or permanently. Many other websites are aiming for GDPR compliance through user notifications on their sites requesting consent for obtaining, handling, and sharing user data. Some sites, such as that of the Washington Post, offer users a choice between a free version of the site in exchange for tracking users and a "Premium EU Ad-Free Subscription" version with no third-party data tracking.

GDPR grants several key rights, including access to one's personal data, portability of data, and the right of deletion. The last of these rights falls under the European Union's so-called right to dereferencing (informally, the right to be forgotten), which requires that, on request, search engines not include search results relating to a specific person or incident. In September 2018, the Court of Justice of the European Union heard a case between France's data-protection regulator, CNIL, and Google seeking to establish whether this right to be forgotten applies in only one country or whether a company must omit these results globally. A finding in this case is due in early 2019.

Implications

Although GDPR has mostly affected websites, the principles governing personal data are equally applicable to any IoT platforms or services that handle personally identifiable data. Decisions about how to handle user data in countries outside the European Union may have a strong shaping effect on international common practice and, ultimately, legislation in non-EU countries.

An important distinction with GDPR is that although it is highly proscriptive in the data individuals can request, companies are under lighter obligations to disclose how they process an individual's data. For example, although companies must offer transparency about what data they collect, less pressure is on companies to disclose, say, how they have categorized a user on the basis of the user's data. This distinction will likely be important for IoT service providers, for which processing and analyzing data forms a large part of their business and therefore providing a high level of transparency may be burdensome or, at worst, mean that companies risk disclosing trade secrets.

Impacts/Disruptions

Like net-neutrality legislation, the European Union's data-protection laws are likely to have an influence far beyond the bloc's borders. Global companies face the choice of making their services EU-compliant worldwide or adopting different data-handling approaches depending on where data originate, potentially making back-end infrastructure much more complex.

Scale of Impact

  • Low
  • Medium
  • High
The scale of impact for this topic is: High

Time of Impact

  • Now
  • 5 Years
  • 10 Years
  • 15 Years
The time of impact for this topic is: Now to 5 Years

Opportunities in the following industry areas:

Journalism, web hosting, internet services, IoT platforms, data analytics, big-data platforms, cloud computing

Relevant to the following Explorer Technology Areas:

The Rise of Dockless E-Scooters

By David Strachan-Olson
Strachan-Olson is a consultant with Strategic Business Insights.

Why is this topic significant?

The rise of dockless e-scooter rental services demonstrates the disruption and innovation potential of increasingly affordable connectivity technology.

Description

Throughout 2018, the presence of dockless electric-scooter (e-scooter) rental services in major US cities has increased significantly. The most prominent companies distributing the scooters are Bird (Santa Monica, California) and Lime (San Mateo, California). The services share many similarities with dockless bicycle-sharing services (Lime also offers dockless bicycles) but use small stand-up electric scooters instead of bicycles. Users can locate a parked scooter and unlock it via an app, then ride it and park it anywhere without the need to find a docking station. In the evening, app-based workers pick up the scooters, charge them, and then redistribute them for the next day.

Dockless e-scooter rentals have raised significant venture-capital (VC) investments, and other transportation start-ups are taking notice. In the past year, Bird has received $415 million in venture funding, and Lime has received over $400 million. As part of Lime's latest investment round, it formed a business partnership with Uber. Uber will promote Lime scooters inside the Uber app, and Lime will put Uber's logo on its electric scooters. Rival ride-sharing company Lyft recently launched its own scooter-rental service in Denver, Colorado.

Implications

Low-cost processors, cellular components, and batteries are enabling companies to create dockless e-scooter services similar to those offered by dockless bicycle companies. Photographs of the internal components of a Bird scooter revealed a Particle Electron microcontroller with low-bandwidth cellular connectivity.

Similar to other service start-ups, dockless scooter companies are using VC money to expand into new cities quickly to obtain customer awareness before competitors enter the market. Dockless scooter companies offer services similar to those of one another, have similar prices, and reportedly use similar e-scooters that are manufactured by Xiaomi (Beijing, China). Under these conditions, being first to market is a key differentiator.

However, the growing number of dockless e-scooters in cities has become a nuisance to residents. Because riders can park the scooters anywhere, the scooters sometimes end up blocking sidewalks and entrances to businesses. In response, some city governments are banning dockless bicycle and scooter rentals or limiting the number of vehicles that companies can operate in a city. Many Chinese cities have faced versions of this problem with the rapid rise of dockless bicycle sharing in China through apps—including Ofo and Mobike. Some cities in China have had issues with dozens of "parked" bicycles clustered into giant piles near popular destinations.

Impacts/Disruptions

Dockless bicycle and e-scooter rentals will likely continue to grow unless local governments take action to regulate how these companies operate. In an effort to work with cities better, such companies could develop tools to help cities integrate rentals into their existing transportation networks. For instance, Bird recently released a web platform for local governments—"GovTech Platform"—that will show how Bird riders use the scooters and allow cities to geofence where customers can ride and park scooters. Although the future of dockless e-scooter rentals is uncertain, especially in the face of potential future regulation, the services have demonstrated how the availability of low-cost components and cellular services can spur disruption and innovation. Imaginably, companies could apply the business strategies employed by the e-scooter companies to other types of devices, such as delivery robots, sharable lockers, and solar-powered charging stations.

Scale of Impact

  • Low
  • Medium
  • High
The scale of impact for this topic is: High

Time of Impact

  • Now
  • 5 Years
  • 10 Years
  • 15 Years
The time of impact for this topic is: Now to 5 Years

Opportunities in the following industry areas:

Transportation networks, vehicle sharing, smart cities, local government

Relevant to the following Explorer Technology Areas: