How will next generation devices like intelligent fridges communicate directly with researchers? The EU is eager to tap into thinking on how to govern these processes.

Researchers are faced with a potential explosion of possible data sources in the coming years through what’s called the Internet of Things.

ESOMAR’s Summer Academy 2012 recently featured a session by BrainJuicer’s Director of Innovation Technology, AJ Johnson, on the impact of the Internet of Things – sensors and actuators embedded in physical objects from roadways to pacemakers – which are linked to the internet allowing them to be accessed through software. This demonstrated that passive measurement via intelligent devices looks set to provide a very rich source of research data but that privacy issues associated with using these technologies could risk damaging public trust. Indeed, the business figures for passive measurement are impressive. According to the Cambiar Capital Funding Index, over the course of 2011 venture capitalists invested $26 million in passive methods and $53 million in mobile research making it one of the main growth areas in the research industry.

However, international regulators also have their eyes on the possibilities provided by new connected devices, which include RFID functionality and similar technologies.  The European Commission recently held a public consultation to investigate what the public thinks about these devices and how it can help to standardise practices in this field to improve their contribution to EU competitiveness in the world and growth of an EU knowledge economy. ESOMAR has responded to relevant parts of the consultation questionnaire with EFAMRO.

The response from the market, social and opinion research sector highlighted that the European Commission should rely on the robust data protection principles that it already adopted in its EU-wide data protection framework, rather than developing unnecessary new technology-specific principles and data protection impact assessments for the Internet of Things which could hinder innovation in this emerging space.

Nevertheless, as ESOMAR and EFAMRO agree that there could be a need for guidelines on the reliability of data and identifying the source of data, it is in the research sector’s interest to participate in any further Commission consultations on these issues. The Commission will announce next steps before the end of the year.

To access the response from the market, social and opinion research sector, see attachement below.

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