UK is the tech start-up centre of Europe – research

A new report from Tech Nation has crowned the UK as the European hotspot for technology start-ups, and fourth worldwide for scale-up investment after US, China and India.

While the US led the rankings by a considerable margin, the UK managed to attract 5% of global high-tech scaleup investment, with capital investments in UK firms topping £6.3 billion for 2018. Digging down into the details, Tech Nation estimate the fintech firms are doing even better, attracting £4.5 billion of investment between 2015 and 2018, with the UK leading the world.

“The UK continues to exceed all predictions when it comes to tech growth,” said Gerard Grech, CEO of Tech Nation. “This report shows how the UK is a critical hub when it comes to global technology developments, with scale-up tech investment being the highest in Europe, and only surpassed by the US, China and India. This is a testament to the innovation, ambition and tenacity of tech entrepreneurs across the UK.”

The claim itself is based on various datasets, including information from PitchBook. By identifying the number of scale-up companies in each of the determined countries, and the value of investments made into these companies, Tech Nation has drawn-up the ranking. Scale-up companies are identified as those which have either achieved employment or revenue growth of 20% for two consecutive years and have a minimum of 10 employees.

The US is leading the rankings, which will come as a surprise to few considering the dominance of Silicon Valley on the technology industry, with China coming in second and India coming in third. US firms attracted 49.3% of the world’s scale-up investment, while China accounted for 20.4%.

The total scale-up investments made in UK firms was also 2.5X the value of what would be expected for a nation the size of the UK. In fact, tech scaleup deals delivered £5 billion of the £6 billion investments made in tech companies in the UK across 2018. AI seems to have taken the crown, accounting for £1.3 billion of the total.

Critically, this demonstrates the work which has been done to attract and encourage innovation, investment and start-ups in UK society is working. Perhaps there is some method to the government madness. Looking forward, all the signs seem to be heading in the right direction. With 5G networks on the horizon, the catalyst for growth is about to emerge.

5G will not necessarily change the world overnight, but the power of the networks has the potential to foster the unicorns of tomorrow. This is a network which will deliver new services in the same way as 4G did, demonstrating the importance of being one of the first to scale the connectivity boom.

The US led the deployment of 4G networks did not spur the economy into any great revolution, but the tools offered allowed innovation. Companies like Uber scaled because evolution of the networks, while an entire new segment of the economy was allowed to flourish. Without the connectivity tools to play with, these companies would have not had the potential to scale; the same can be said about 5G.

5G offers an opportunity to create new products and services. Artificial intelligence, cyber security, latency, MEC and high-consumption/speed data-applications can all exist without 5G, but they are more attractive, practical and viable with the next evolution of the network. Uber could have existed without 4G, but it is a disruptive success because of it. Joe Bloggs cannot conceive what products and services will be available over the next couple of years, but the right tools have to be in place to ensure the innovators can scale them.

5G won’t change the world, but it will offer the opportunity for innovators to create value for themselves, customers and the national society which fosters them.

What might be a hurdle before too long are the deployment plans of the UK telcos. Having a test-bed to create these products and services in the first instance is all well and good, but soon enough these start-ups will need customers to scale the business. The faster networks are deployed, the quicker these start-ups can get to market, engage customers, tweak the proposition and potentially create the Uber of the 5G generation.

The UK Government has been looking for ways to shore-up defences against the future, hoping to give the economy and society the greatest opportunity to thrive. This is why fibre rollouts, or mobile coverage gains are so important now even if there is no immediate benefit; it’s all about making the country future-proof, ready for the unknown and resilient to the future challenges. And cultivating start-ups is a critical component.

Not only does this have the potential to address the questions surrounding wealth in-equality, it removes the UK dependence on the financial sector. Tech is the dominating growth sector in the global economy, and the best way to reap the rewards is to create an environment suitable for start-ups, the companies who could steal the headlines in the future.

The UK Government has been preaching about the world it is doing to encourage innovation and start-ups over the last couple of years; perhaps this report is vindication of the work which has been done.

UK Gov names members of AI Council

The UK government will be hoping its AI advisory board is a bit more successful than Google’s as it names the full line-up.

Bringing together experts from industry, academia and data rights organisations, the ambition is to provide a guiding light for the future of artificial intelligence. Tabitha Goldstaub, co-founder of CognitionX, will chair the council which will feature the likes of Ocado CTO Paul Clarke, Kriti Sharma, the founder of AI for Good and Deepmind’s co-founder Mustafa Suleyman.

The primary objective of the council will be to make the UK a leading name in the AI world.

Such is the promise of the technology in terms of productivity and the creation of new services, technologists will be keen to drive innovation forward, though the dangers are also high.

AI not only presents the risk of abuse through prejudice and unconscious bias, but the unknown risks should be considered as much of a danger. Such is the embryotic nature of AI, the full-potential, power and influence are anyone’s guess for the moment. This is an exciting prospect, but also should be approached with caution.

For example, back in July 2017, a Facebook AI application managed to invent its own language to speak to other applications meaning human overseers had no idea what was going on. This was a very simplistic and limited application so there was no real danger, but it was a lesson to the industry; more defined perimeters need to be created for more complex applications in the real world.

This council will aim to create a framework to take the UK into a leadership position in the AI world, but it will be critical the members do not forget about the importance of ethical and responsible development.

“Britain is already a leading authority in AI,” said Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Wright. “We are home to some of the world’s finest academic institutions, landing record levels of investment to the sector and attracting the best global tech talent, but we must not be complacent.

“Through our AI Council we will continue this momentum by leveraging the knowledge of experts from a range of sectors to provide leadership on the best use and adoption of artificial intelligence across the economy.”

The full list of members:

  • Tabitha Goldstaub, Chair and Cofounder of Cognition X
  • Wendy Hall, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Southampton
  • Professor Adrian Smith. Institute Director and Chief Executive at the Alan Turing Institute
  • Alice Bentinck, Co-founder at Entrepreneur First
  • Alice Webb, Director for Children’s and Education at the BBC
  • Ann Cairns, Executive Vice Chair of Mastercard
  • Professor Chris Bishop, Microsoft Technical Fellow and Director of the Microsoft Research Lab in Cambridge
  • Dr Claire Craig, Chief Science Policy Officer at the Royal Society
  • Professor David Lane, Professor & Founding Director of the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics
  • Kriti Sharma, Founder of AI for Good
  • Marc Warner, CEO of Faculty
  • Professor Maire O’Neill, Professor at Queen’s University Belfast
  • Sir Mark Walport, Chief Executive of UKRI
  • Martin Tisne, Managing Director of Luminate
  • Mustafa Suleyman, Co-founder of Deepmind
  • Professor Neil Lawrence, Professor at the University of Sheffield and Director, IPC Machine Learning at Amazon
  • Professor Nick Jennings, Vice-Provost Research and Enterprise of Imperial College
  • Dame Patricia Hodgson, Member of the Independent Commission on Freedom of Information and Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation
  • Paul Clarke, CTO of Ocado
  • Professor Pete Burnap, Professor of Data Science & Cybersecurity at Cardiff University
  • Priya Lakhani, Founder of edtech AI platform Century Tech
  • Rachel Dunscombe, CEO of NHS Digital Academy

UK sets wheels in motion for a more secure digital world

The UK Government has announced plans to introduce new security and privacy rules to ready the country for a flood of IOT devices.

The rules, at consultancy stage currently, will create a new standard for security, hopefully protecting consumers from the pitfalls of the unknown when it comes to the connected economy. Like many other aspects of today’s society, much regulation and legislation has been designed for a by-gone era, with many consumers unaware of the dangers of the digital economy. Such redesigns should not only create a relevant rulebook, but force providers and device manufacturers to consider security as more than an afterthought.

“Many consumer products that are connected to the internet are often found to be insecure, putting consumers privacy and security at risk,” said Digital Minister Margot James. “Our Code of Practice was the first step towards making sure that products have security features built in from the design stage and not bolted on as an afterthought.

“These new proposals will help to improve the safety of Internet connected devices and is another milestone in our bid to be a global leader in online safety.”

The ‘Secure by Design’ code of practice addresses the security oversight. Not only will security have to be built into the foundation of products and services, but firms will have to be more engaging with the consumer when it comes to security. It will force some brands and companies to extend the relationship with the consumer beyond the point of purchase, which for many in previous years, had been the end.

As part of the scheme, manufacturers who meet the criteria set forward will be able to include a label on packaging and advertising to help consumers identify products that have basic security features and those that don’t. It will create a much more transparent approach to security, and potentially make security a factor in the buying process. This in turn will ensure companies think of security as more than simply a bolt-on process at the end of product or service design.

“Serious security problems in consumer IoT devices, such as pre-set unchangeable passwords, continue to be discovered and it’s unacceptable that these are not being fixed by manufacturers,” said National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) Technical Director, Dr Ian Levy.

“This innovative labelling scheme is good news for consumers, empowering them to make informed decisions about the technology they are bringing into their homes.”

Although some might see this process as nothing more than a bit more red-tape to navigate, these are the companies which are likely to be under the greatest financial pressure and therefore those who will be more likely to do security a dis-service. Ultimately, this move should be viewed as nothing but a good thing.

With more of our day-to-day lives becoming digital, the dangers of the online world increase. The ‘Secure by Design’ code of practice not only creates more protections for consumers but brings the rule-book into the digital era. In the past we might have complained regulations and legislation are inadequate for today’s world, but progress is being made. Slowly, but surely.

French council gets sick of waiting for MNOs so goes it alone

The local government in Eure-et-Loir has seemingly got tired of waiting for the MNOs to end not-spots in the countryside, deciding to construct its own masts in the region.

Announced via Twitter, the local authority approved funding for the ‘Eure-et-Loir Mobile Networks’ project in an effort to bridge the digital divide. The scheme will create a new company, which will have a budget of €10 million and aim for 100% geographical 4G coverage, through building its own mobile infrastructure.

“The @eurelien department is the first in France to create a project company to accelerate the deployment of the #4G throughout its territory, for 2021,” Eure-et-Loir Department Advisor Remi Martial said on Twitter.

In claiming to be the first Department in France to take such action, with the move somewhat undermining government plans to tackle the rural connectivity problem. Announced back in January 2018, the ‘New Deal Programme’ was designed to tackle not-spots across the country, though it appears the Eure-et-Loir local authority has little confidence in the scheme.

Two firms bid to be part of the project, with ATC winning. ATC will now enter into a public-private-investment scheme with the Eure-et-Loir authority to improve mobile coverage. Reports have previously suggested the region is short of 100 mobile masts to provide adequate 4G coverage.

When you consider the environment, it starts to make sense why the Eure-et-Loir region is not necessarily a priority for the MNOs. With a population of 432,967 (2013) it is the 55th largest region across France, with a population density of 74 citizens per km2. Compared to Paris, 21,234 per km2 or Hauts-de-Seine, 9,042 per km2 the business case is less convincing.

That said, should the hard work be done for the MNOs, renting space to place mobile equipment is a small price to pay for meeting government demands and improving coverage. With the vast majority of capital being allocated into civil engineering aspects of the project, few will complain, even if it does give the impression of mediocrity.

 

UK finally runs out of patience with internet players

The UK Government has unveiled a public consultation which may well see stricter rules placed on the digital giants as the era of the wild-west internet draws to a close.

To date the internet giants have largely been unregulated. This was fine when everyone admired the likes of Google, Facebook and Amazon, though numerous scandals have exposed the darker side of the internet economy. Many might have seen the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos as friendly folk, out to democratize technology, though the underlying business model has shocked many, forcing slumbering politicians into action.

Today, the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Home Office have jointly launched a new public consultation on proposals which will aim to introduce a new regulatory body to govern the internet economy and create a ‘duty of care’ mandate to ensure online safety and tackle illegal and harmful activity, as well as creating a rulebook suitable for the digital economy. The new body will have the power to hand out fines should any of the internet players fall short of expectations.

“The era of self-regulation for online companies is over,” said Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright. “Voluntary actions from industry to tackle online harms have not been applied consistently or gone far enough. Tech can be an incredible force for good and we want the sector to be part of the solution in protecting their users. However, those that fail to do this will face tough action.”

The new regulator, and the soon to be created rules, will apply to any company that allows users to share or discover user generated content or interact with each other online. Those platforms who do not meet expectations will either have sites blocked or face significant fines. One of the questions which the consultation will look to answer is whether the new regulatory body should be part of an existing department, or a newly formed body which would be funded through a levy placed on the sales of the internet companies in the UK.

While this is a necessary step forward, this is going to be a very complicated process. Creating a mechanism which protects users but also maintains the principles of free speech is a delicate equation to balance. We suspect there will never be a situation where all parties are satisfied, such are the complications when dealing with opinions; who should be the judge on what is offensive and what is acceptable?

Ultimately, this is a move which is long overdue. Social media companies, such as Facebook, have slipped between the regulatory red tape for years, fitting nicely into the grey area between ‘platform’ and ‘publisher’. While these services might have started as a platform, they have certainly evolved beyond that, however, it would not be just to designate them as publishers; they are not content creators as such. A new definition is needed and only then can rules fit for the digital era be created.

Change is on the horizon, and it is unavoidable for the internet economy. That said, the lobby machine will soon be taken up a gear to attempt to minimize the impact of any new rules. Numerous European nations are swiftly moving forward to create more accountability, and the internet players will have to change their game-plan from offensive to damage limitation.

That said, the internet players have been given enough chances to clear up their act over the last few years. These are companies which have operated without the severity of the red-tape restraints of other segments, partly because governments have not understood how these businesses operate, but this era of self-regulation is drawing to a close.

“Despite our repeated calls to action, harmful and illegal content – including child abuse and terrorism – is still too readily available online,” said Home Secretary Sajid Javid.

“That is why we are forcing these firms to clean up their act once and for all.”

Bahrain surges forward with 5G innovation hub ambitions

The Kingdom of Bahrain has announced itself onto the global 5G stage, claiming to be one of the first countries globally to provide commercial 5G services by June 2019.

Bahrain has not exactly been thumping its chest with rhetoric and bold statements to date, but Minister of Transportation and Telecommunications, Kamal bin Ahmed Mohammed now claims preparations for the rollout of 5G networks are finished, with the only missing piece of the puzzle being the availability of consumer handsets and equipment.

“Bahrain’s state of readiness is a testament to the leadership of the Government of the Kingdom of Bahrain in enabling the implementation of cutting-edge technology and promoting innovation, and the continuous support of all stakeholders including the TRA and the national Spectrum Strategy & Coordination Committee (SSCC), all of which serves to highlight the Kingdom’s continued role as a regional leader in telecommunications and ICT,” the Minister stated.

The regulatory hurdles have been cleared, while licensing and spectrum allocation set to be finalised by mid-April, operators are already well on the way to rolling out the relevant infrastructure. Whether this actually means nationwide geographical coverage remains to be seen, but the country is gearing itself up to claim the title of one of the 5G leaders.

There might be a few who would scoff at the idea of Bahrain taking the lead in the 5G race, but it should come as little surprise. Bahrain has ranked first in the Arab region in the ITU’s ICT Development Index (IDI) for the last five years, and 4th globally in the UN’s Telecommunications Infrastructure Index (TII). The Bahrain Government might not have been making too much noise over the last couple of years, but it is in a strong position.

In June last year, successful commercial trials for 5G were completed, while the National Broadband Network (NBN) has ensured fibre connectivity is spread throughout the nation. By the end of 2019, the Government plans to reach 95% of households and 100% of businesses. While this does support the development of other usecases, the side benefit of having suitable backhaul infrastructure supports the 5G ambitions also.

Although it is relatively unfeasible Bahrain will be able to use these foundations to dominate the global technology economy, it could prove to be an incredibly useful resource in attracting new businesses. Like San Marino, another nation state which will experience 5G before the vast-majority, Bahrain could position itself as a test bed for numerous different segments, from autonomous vehicles to virtual reality. The right foundations are certainly in place.

As it stands, Bahrain is in an enviable position. The red-tape has been suitably ordered, the networks are almost ready, it just needs the launch of more consumer devices. How many countries can say that?

UK government grapples with bias in artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) has enormous potential for good, but with applications processing data faster than we can comprehend, how do you protect against bias?

To address this issue, the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has unveiled the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, with one of the first project focusing on the idea of programmed or learned bias in the algorithms which power AI.

“Technology is a force for good and continues to improve people’s lives but we must make sure it is developed in a safe and secure way,” said Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright. “Our Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation has been set up to help us achieve this aim and keep Britain at the forefront of technological development.

“I’m pleased its team of experts is undertaking an investigation into the potential for bias in algorithmic decision-making in areas including crime, justice and financial services. I look forward to seeing the centre’s future recommendations to help make sure we maximise the benefits of these powerful technologies for society.”

First up, the new centre will partner with the Cabinet Office’s Race Disparity Unit to explore potential for bias in crime and justice. As more applications emerge for use in the world of policing, assessing the likelihood of re-offending for instance, a lack of research on the potential of bias makes for a very dangerous scenario.

The algorithms which are in place might not demonstrate any bias at any point in the future, but implementation without understanding the risk is incredibly irresponsible. When these applications are used to inform decisions about policing, probation and parole, there is a very real-world consequence. Proceeding without such safeguards for bias in place is leaving developments down to chance.

This is of course just one application of AI, though the increased use of AI is becoming much more common. In recruitment, computer algorithms can be used to screen CVs and shortlist candidates, or in financial services, data analysis has long been used to inform decisions about whether people can be granted loans. The idea of unconscious bias can be applied to both instances with vert detrimental outcomes. In the recruitment case, there have already been reports circulating of gender bias.

Technology giant Amazon is one of those firms which got caught unawares. In 2014, Amazon began building an application which would review the CVs of the thousands of applicants it gets every week, giving each CV a rating between one and five stars. In 2015, it realised the application was not assessing the CVs in a gender-neutral manner, favouring male applicants for more technical roles.

The complication perhaps arises when machine learning applications search for attributes which are traditionally associated with roles. For a computer, data is everything and stereotypes are there for a reason, therefore it would appear to be a very logical decision to make.

This type of conundrum is one of the main challenges with AI. As these machines are driven by data and code, it is very difficult to translate ethics, morals, acceptable tolerances, nuance and societal influences into a language it understands. These are also limited applications, built for a single purpose. In the recruitment case, it looks at past attributes to decide, but does not have the ability to understand context. In this instance, the context would be sexism is not acceptable, but as the machine does not have the general knowledge or understanding of a human, how would it know?

This is the finely balanced equation which both industry and government have to assess. Without slowing the wheels of progress, how do you protect society and the economy from the known unknowns and unknown unknowns?

What is developing is the perfect catch-22 situation. The known challenges are known, but without a solution progress is a risk. Then you have the unknown challenges, those which might be compounded through progress but without anyone being aware until it is a complete disaster.

The Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation is an excellent idea to benefit society in numerous ways. But, it faces an almost impossible task.

US warns UK on efforts to cage Huawei

The UK Government feels it is capable of mitigating any risk associated with Huawei 5G equipment, but the US is not so sure.

According to the Financial Times, a US delegation has reached out to the UK Government warning its means of testing and monitoring Huawei equipment will not protect it against any curious eyes from the Chinese Government. How this warning is received could dictate the US/UK relationship over the coming months.

The UK, and generally Europe on the whole, has taken a much more pragmatic approach in dealing with the potential threat of Chinese espionage. While the US was quick to banish any Chinese equipment from critical infrastructure, European governments are implementing new regulations and conditions to heighten security requirements, theoretically mitigating risk while also allowing telcos the luxury of increased choice.

This might sound like a perfectly logical way to manage a potentially nefarious situation, but the US is not happy. Perhaps this is evidence of the eroding influence which the US has on the world and a shift in the geo-political landscape. Once upon a time, US politicians might have been able to whisper in the ears of the European political elite and achieve their aims, but this does not seem to be the case anymore.

US officials fear that because 5G networks will be software-orientated, any equipment which is embedded into communications networks could altered at a later date, creating virtual backdoors at will. Theoretically, this is a genuine risk, however, nefarious individuals at any juncture of the supply chain, in any country, for any vendor, could also create the same vulnerability.

Although the National Cyber Security Centre is yet to respond to the comments from the US, CEO Ciaran Martin played down fears during a conference speech last week.

“Huawei’s presence is subject to detailed, formal oversight, led by the NCSC. Because of our 15 years of dealings with the company and 10 years of a formally agreed mitigation strategy which involves detailed provision of information, we have a wealth of understanding of the company. We also have strict controls for how Huawei is deployed. It is not in any sensitive networks — including those of the government. Its kit is part of a balanced supply chain with other suppliers.”

While the US has been visiting various countries around the world in an attempt to convince governments to ban Chinese companies, successes are becoming less frequent. European governments in particular have seemingly been very resistant to the idea, with the US reportedly threatening Germany with consequences; should the Germans allow Huawei into their networks, German intelligence agencies would not be granted access to US intelligence databases.

This plea to the UK Government seems to be setting up a similar timeline; should the UK not react in the same manner, the US might well start thumping its chest and stamping its feet, threatening a similar exclusion.

What is worth noting, is that while the US is preaching the benefits of a total ban on Huawei and other similar Chinese vendors, it has not done so itself. Chinese companies are barred from providing products and services in most critical and sensitive products, but the White House has not gone as far as a complete ban. Perhaps the worry is over repercussions from the Chinese, though it does not seem to care whether China punishes its allies.

UK Government mulls new digital competition laws

An independent panel has submitted a new report to HM Treasury which recommends the formation of a new department to tackle anti-competition and the revamp of rules.

Led by former Chief Economist to President Obama, Professor Jason Furman, the lengthy report comes to a conclusion many are already aware of; today’s rules are not fit for purpose to effectively manage and govern the digital economy.

“The United Kingdom has an opportunity to seize the full potential of the digital sector, increasing the benefits for consumers and fostering an even more vibrant ecosystem for businesses,” the report states.

“Competition should be at the heart of this strategy, leading companies to produce better outcomes for consumers, helping new companies enter and grow, and continuing to encourage existing companies to innovate.”

In summing up the current landscape, the message is pretty clear. Furman and his team state the UK is currently reliant on rules and regulations designed for yesteryear. Considering how much society and the economy has evolved through the last decade, since the digital world has engulfed almost every aspect of our lives, rules have to keep pace to ensure fair and reasonable business practises are taking place, to offer benefit to the consumer.

The recommendation of change is based on several presumptions. Firstly, digital is good. It helps the consumer and lowers the barriers for entry for small businesses to be created and scaled. Secondly, most digital markets will be dominated by a single player. Third, there are advantages, low margins and profits can mean sometimes it is better to have a smaller number of providers. Fourth, companies cannot be trusted to self-regulate, and finally, government regulations have limitations.

These presumptions have been identified through months of research from the panel and while some might disagree with the statements, being realistic, they are fair and reasonable assumptions. Just because some will not like the outcome, does not mean it is not true. However, knowledge informs future decisions and these statements can inform more appropriate regulation in the future.

This is the problem which many governments are facing nowadays. They realise the world is changing, and rules have to change with them, but new clauses and considerations are being bolted onto regulations which have been designed for a by-gone era. It creates an incredibly complicated red tape maze, which is not help to anyone except those will well-enough paid lawyers to find the loopholes.

“This is why the Panel is recommending the establishment of a digital markets unit, given a remit to use tools and frameworks that will support greater competition and consumer choice in digital markets, and backed by new powers in legislation to ensure they are effective,” the report states.

Furman envisions this department to have three main responsibilities in the first instance. Firstly, the creation of a code of competitive conduct, which would only be applied to the most powerful companies who could be deemed a threat to the emergence or scale of smaller competitors and competition on the whole. Secondly, the team would be tasked with enabling greater personal data mobility and systems with open standards where these tools will increase competition and consumer choice. Finally, to advance data openness.

Outside of this new department, Furman recommends merger policies should be updated, implying the current framework does not take technological advancements seriously enough. Part of this will include updates to antitrust policy, as while monopolies or dominant market positions can be good for efficiencies and benefits for consumers or businesses, there does need to be a mechanism to ensure this position is not abused.

Overall, this is a report which, firstly, makes a lot of sense, but secondly, doesn’t say anything particularly new. Everything which Furman has said is correct, rules are dated, and the chasm is growing larger, but many have already been stating this for some time. Governments don’t seem to be able to take any action unless an expensive economist is given months to come to a relatively obvious conclusion.

That said, Furman’s advice should be heeded. Hopefully the recommendations of a new unit to tackle these challenges will be listened to, though we suspect new responsibilities will be bundled into an existing department and the good intentions will become lost in the mediocrity. We will be happy to be proved incorrect, though it probably is a long-shot.

US mulls bill for minimum IoT security requirements

A cross-party delegation of US politicians have introduced a bill which will aim to create minimum security standards for any IoT devices used by government agencies and departments.

Led by Democratic Congresswoman Robin Kelly and Republican Congressman Will Hurd, the bill has gained notable support already. While this is a perfectly logical step forward to ensure the integrity and resilience of government systems, the fact the politicians seem to be taking an impartial approach, not targeting a single company or country, is much more encouraging.

“As the government continues to purchase and use more and more internet-connected devices, we must ensure that these devices are secure,” said Kelly. “Everything from our national security to the personal information of American citizens could be vulnerable because of security holes in these devices. It’s estimated that by 2020 there will be 30 million internet-connected devices in use. As these devices positively revolutionize communication, we cannot allow them to become a backdoor to hackers or tools for cyberattacks.”

“Internet of Things devices will improve and enhance nearly every aspect of our society, economy and our day-to-day lives,” said Hurd “This is ground-breaking work and IoT devices must be built with security in mind, not as an afterthought. This bipartisan legislation will make Internet of Things devices more secure and help prevent future attacks on critical technology infrastructure.”

When discussing digital security, a mention of Huawei or China is never far away, but this seems to be an effort to mitigate risk on a much grander scale. Yes, the US does have ideological enemies it should be wary of, but it is critical politicians realise there are risks everywhere throughout the digital ecosystem.

It is easy to point the finger at China and the Chinese government when discussing cybersecurity threats, though this is lazy and dangerous. Having too much of a narrow focus on one area only increases the risk of exposure elsewhere. Such are the complexities of today’s supply chain, with companies and components spanning different geographies and sizes, the risk of vulnerability is everywhere. It is also very important to realise cybercriminals can be anywhere; when there is an opportunity to make money, some will not care who they are targeting. Domestic cybercriminals can be just as much of a threat as international ones.

This impartial approach, applying security standards to IOT devices regardless of origin, is a much more sensible approach to ensure the integrity of networks and safeguard sensitive data.

Of course, this is not necessarily a new idea. Many security experts around the world have been calling for a standardised approach to IOT security, suggesting certification processes with minimum standards. Such a concept has already been shown to work with other products, such as batteries, therefore establishing a baseline for security should not be considered a particularly revolutionary idea.

What is also worth noting is that while this is a good idea and will improve protections, it is by no-means a given the bill will pass into a law. A similar bill was launched in 2017, though it was quashed.