Is the Race for Connected Devices Fair and Transparent?

Isabella De Michelis Blog

Within the last ten years, our world has witnessed an explosion in the Internet of Things (IoT) and connected devices — from smartphones to smart homes, autonomous vehicles and smart cities. Millions of us now own at least one virtual assistants, in our pocket or our home. But the big question is who is actually listening when we talk to them?

We all understand that the IoT describes the network of devices that are connected via the Internet. In other words, because they are connected, these smart devices are able to share data with and amongst each other. Statista forecasts that 30.73 billion connected things will be in use in 2020 globally and that the total will reach 75.44 billion by 2025. Intel’s projection is even bigger — 200 billion connected devices by 2020.

Whether the estimation is true or false, a tremendous volume of data will be produced — 33 zettabytes in 2018 to 2,100 zettabytes in 2035. “New oil” is how some have to referred data, but for me, data is like air, an infinite resource that powers the IoT, striving to deliver the Internet’s promise of making the world a connected place.

So much so that our data-driven world is based on tracking, monitoring, listening, watching, and observing. The more advanced the data-processing systems, the better the output can be, which can be used to improve decision-making, enable innovation, empower personalization, and boost business revenue.

In other words, to reach data’s full potential, businesses need advanced data-processing systems, which most are incapable of. The data market is highly dominated by GAFAM — the five tech giants of Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft.

Due to the introduction of GDPR, they now have an exclusive opportunity to gain consent to track and analyse most of their customer’s behavior, click, touch and voice commands. This gives them enormous power in the advertising market, publicly practising monetising the user’s data, as they can provide companies with the best-fitting target groups through their advertising and targeting services.

It is intriguing to see that even though the end-users and their engagement data are so precious to the data economy, they are not part of the transaction, and are left with no clue as to how much their data are worth.

With regard to the announcement of the bill lodged in the US Congress to potentially oblige Google and Facebook to disclose every 90 days how much users data are valued – how would it be fair to only oblige Google and Facebook?

How about other private companies which are publicly economically benefiting from their users’ data, shouldn’t they disclose the information as well?

And shouldn’t the users be economically compensated for generating data value for those gigantic corporations and their third-parties?

In other words, the user’s role should be recognized and acknowledged as a significant digital value creator, and the new right should be enforced and strengthened — the right to monetise.

During the panel discussion on “Are you listening, Alexa? Security in connected devices” at ITU Telecom World 2019 in Budapest this September 11, I will once again address this data commercial issue, how soon advertisement search will be based on voice, and how quickly the GAFAM will dominate that market again – and finally, I will emphasize the right to monetise as the ultimate solution.

About the Author


Isabella De Michelis

Isabella is the CEO and founder of ErnieApp. The company, headquartered in Ireland (Dublin) has developed an innovative consumer privacy “on the go” software solution (Privacy Knowledge Manager| PKM) that was launched in Nov 2018 in Europe and which forges the GDPR principles together with the Right to Monetize notion, an additional consumer framework right which Isabella has authored and promotes to be adopted as public policy in Europe and other parts of the world. Before at ErnieApp, Isa founded High Pulse, a strategy consulting company focusing on advising private and public clients on broadband and digital transformation projects. In 2014 she became a member of the Prime Minister Task Force in Italy which led to the adoption of the Government Ultra-Fast Broadband Strategy (BUL), a public-private partnership action plan which allocated public capital injection (7 Billion EUR between Government and EU funds) for fiber (NGN) deployment in Italy. Prior to this, she served as group Vice-President Government Affairs at Qualcomm Inc., the Government and EU funds) for fiber (NGN) deployment in Italy, as well as roles at US networking giant Cisco Systems, Telecom Italia, Telespazio, and Elsacom. She started her career as an intern at the European Commission, DG Competition after graduating from IUHED (1990) in Geneva in International Relations, where she majored in international financial law and European competition law. She gained an Executive Telecoms MBA from University (UCL) London in 1996.

Share this