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Lawmakers ask GAO to conduct Internet of things study

A bipartisan group of lawmakers are calling on the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study of the Internet of Things (IoT).

That could be quite an expansive study. According to Cisco, there are 25 billion “things” in just about every sector of the economy now connected to the Internet.

The lawmakers making the request, Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H., were the same lawmakers that authored the Senate’s Internet of Things resolution last March calling for the U.S. to develop a national strategy to tap into the full potential of connected technologies.

The Internet of things – the buzz word of the digital moment – is part Jetsons and part Sky Net. It has sparked a debate in Washington about the government’s role in driving the Internet of things economy, which Cisco estimates will contribute trillions of dollars to the economy.

But with all the advantages that come with connected devices, from smart cars to smart watches to electronic health monitoring devices, there are a host of unanswered privacy and security questions and fears. The IoT will also put more demand on spectrum and the nation’s communications infrastructure.

And the technology is moving fast, so fast that government and policymakers are struggling to keep up.

“While efforts are ongoing by several groups, there is interest in the question of whether technical standards are needed for various devices to efficiently communicate with each other and with users,” the lawmakers wrote.

The questions the lawmakers ask the GAO run the gamut from what the current state of IoT technology is to which sectors it is most widely adopted, the federal governent’s experience using IoT, recommendations for any new federal laws, the impact of IoT on privacy and security, and spectrum use in the U.S., and an examination of what other governments have done to address IoT.