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ISSN: 1463-6697

Online from: 1999

Subject Area: Industry and Public Sector Management

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Putting things to work: social and policy challenges for the Internet of things

Document Information:
Title:Putting things to work: social and policy challenges for the Internet of things
Author(s):William H. Dutton, (Professor, based at Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK)
Citation:William H. Dutton, (2014) "Putting things to work: social and policy challenges for the Internet of things", info, Vol. 16 Iss: 3, pp.1 - 21
Keywords:Communication technologies, Consumers, Internet of Things, Open systems, Social behaviour, Surveillance
Article type:Conceptual paper
DOI:10.1108/info-09-2013-0047 (Permanent URL)
Publisher:Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Acknowledgements:The author wishes to thank a number of colleagues for their advice and recommendations of key reports and other publications, including John Varney, Susan Clark and all members of the Technology Strategy Board’s Special Interest Group on the IoT. The author is particularly grateful to Miranda Mowbray, Rich Ling, Barbara Ball and several anonymous reviewers for their comments on an earlier draft.

Purpose – This paper aims to provide a critical assessment of the Internet of things (IoT) and the social and policy issues raised by its development. While the Internet will continue to become ever more central to everyday life and work, there is a new but complementary vision for an IoT, which will connect billions of objects – “things” like sensors, monitors, and radio-frequency identification devices – to the Internet at a scale that far outstrips use of the Internet as we know it, and will have enormous social and economic implications.

Design/methodology/approach – It is based on a review of literature and emerging developments, including synthesis of a workshop and discussions within a special interest group on the IoT.

Findings – Nations can harvest the potential of this wave of innovation not only for manufacturing but also for everyday life and work and the development of new information and services that will change the way we do things in many walks of life. However, its success is not inevitable. Technical visions will not lead inexorably to successful public and private infrastructures that support the vitality of an IoT and the quality of everyday life and work. In fact, the IoT could undermine such core values as privacy, equality, trust and individual choice if not designed, implemented and governed in appropriate ways.

Research limitations/implications – There is a need for more multi-disciplinary research on the IoT.

Practical implications – Policymakers and opinion formers need to understand the IoT and its implications.

Social implications – If the right policies and business models are developed, the IoT will stimulate major social, economic and service innovations in the next years and decades.

Originality/value – This paper pulls together discussions and literature from a social science perspective, as one means to enable more multidisciplinary studies of emerging developments.

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