European Commission Launches Internet of Things Probe Targeting Siri, Alexa and More
The European Commission says that it's aiming to prevent big companies from becoming "gatekeepers" of the Internet of Things through market domination and data collection.
The potential is incredible. But we'll only see the full benefits - low prices, wide choice, innovative products and services - if the markets for these devices stay open and competitive. And the trouble is that competition in digital markets can be fragile. When big companies abuse their power, they can very quickly push markets beyond the tipping point, where competition turns to monopoly. We've seen that happen before. If we don't act in good time, there's a serious risk that it will happen again, with the Internet of Things.
And one of the key issues here is data. Voice assistants and smart devices can collect a vast amount of data about our habits. And there's a risk that big companies could misuse the data collected through such devices, to cement their position in the market against the challenges of competition. They might even use their knowledge of how we access other services to enter the market for those services and take it over.
It's important, says the European Commission, to ensure that smart devices are "truly interoperable" with one another as the Internet of Things market grows, allowing customers the freedom to find the best product on the market without worrying which about which devices it might or might not be compatible with.
The sector inquiry into the Internet of Things will allow the European Commission to "spot problems" and then "take action while there's still time." Right now, the European Commission is seeking data and has sent questionnaires to 400 companies in Europe, Asia, and America that sell smart home appliances, wearables, and voice assistants, along with businesses that provide services that can be used through the aforementioned devices.
The European Commission is questioning companies on how smart products work together and possible problems that might arise making them interoperable. The results of the questionnaires will let the commission find situations where "companies may have broken the competition rules" and will provide information for future regulatory initiatives.
Apple's Siri voice assistant was specifically mentioned in the commission's letter, and the Cupertino-based company will also likely have to answer questions about HomeKit, its smart home framework that supports HomeKit-connected devices.