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The Internet of things: Making the most of the second digital revolution: A report by the UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser

The Internet of Things describes a world in which everyday objects are connected to a network so that data can be shared. But it is really as much about people as the inanimate objects. Many millions of us already carry ‘smart’ phones in the UK but a phone is not smart. It helps its user to make smarter decisions. Smartphones are only the beginning. In the future we will carry sensors that measure our health and how we move around the environment in which we live. These will help us to socialise and navigate the world in ways that we can barely imagine. There is a danger of trivialising the importance of the Internet of Things through examples that are used to stereotype it – for example, the ‘fridge that orders fresh milk’. The Internet of Things has the potential to have a greater impact on society than the first digital revolution. There are more connected objects than people on the planet. The networks and data that flow from them will support an extraordinary range of applications and economic opportunities. However, as with any new technology, there is the potential for significant challenges too. In the case of the Internet of Things, breaches of security and privacy have the greatest potential for causing harm. It is crucial that the scientists, programmers and entrepreneurs who are leading the research, development and creation of the new businesses implement the technology responsibly. Equally, policy makers can support responsible innovation and decide whether and how to legislate or regulate as necessary. Everyone involved in the Internet of Things should be constantly scanning the horizon to anticipate and prevent, rather than deal with unforeseen consequences in retrospect. At the 2014 CeBIT Trade Fair in Hanover, the Prime Minister commissioned the Government Chief Scientific Adviser to review how we can exploit the potential of the Internet of Things. An advisory group, seminars and evidence from more than 120 experts in academia, industry and government have informed this review.