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Three Trends that May Change the Way You Think About the “Internet of Things” – Lessons from the Winnik Forum

New charging technology and more sophisticated power use are among the major new trends remaking the face of the Internet of Things, according to Aryeh Fishman, Associate General Counsel of Edison Electric Institute.  Fishman’s remarks came as leading experts in telecommunications law and policy and industry executives gathered at the Hogan Lovells 2014 Winnik International Telecomms and Internet Forum in Washington, D.C.  During a panel moderated by Hogan Lovells partner Peter Watts (London) and counsel Praveen Goyal (Washington D.C.), business executives at the forefront of the “Internet of Things” highlighted the changing nature of customers and the impact of new technologies on their respective industries.

1. Managing Power.  Both Fishman and Chris Burton, who serves as Senior Vice President of Baltimore Gas and Electric, remarked on the changing sophistication and demands of customers of electrical power.  Fishman noted that many customers now generate their own electricity and sell power to utilities and others are willing to pay higher costs for power from sustainable energy sources.  Burton commented that these preferences are contributing to changes in the industry including the development of Smartgrid communications systems, which allow customers to have sophisticated real-time energy monitoring programs and greater control over energy usage.

2.  Engaging Customers and Partners.  Panelist David Jeppsen, who is the Vice President and Chief Representative of the Washington, D.C. Office of NTT DOCOMO USA, Inc., identified a number of innovative examples of M2M (i.e. machine-to-machine communications) services being offered in Japan in partnership with operators, including services regarding health and fitness monitoring for individuals and pets, as well as a service that optimizes calf birth rates through real-time monitoring of estrous cycles.  In response to questions from Watts regarding whether mobile operators would be behind-the-scene enablers or customer-facing businesses, Jeppsen remarked that such relationships “will definitively vary between industries” and depend on a number of factors including existing relationships with customers and operator branding.

3.  Quality of Service.  Panelists Harry Lightsey, Executive Director, Global Connected Consumer, General Motors, and Tom Schaffnit, Consultant to Honda and President of VII Consortium, provided insight on upcoming changes in the automotive industry.  According to Lightsey, greater communications capabilities will be one of the driving forces of in-car connectivity and self-driving vehicles.  Schaffnit added that the development of crash avoidance technology using 5.9 GHz spectrum is likely to be one the next big changes for the automotive industry.  In response to questions by Goyal regarding unlicensed use of the 5.9 GHz spectrum, Lightsey stated that although the automotive industry is happy to “look for ways to share that spectrum,”  “there is a very critical safety need” to avoid interference on this spectrum because automobiles will be relying on the spectrum to transmit safety-of-life data.  Schaffnit added further that testing of unlicensed devices operating in the 5.9 GHz spectrum, which would be required by the FCC before authorizing unlicensed use in the band, likely would be costly and almost certainly would “delay[] deployment of these life-saving technologies.”