Smart home devices in the sights of competitors

© stockWERK -
© stockWERK –

From the health monitoring system integrated in the wristwatch to the refrigerator that automatically orders food – the development in the “Internet of Things” is extremely fast. Not only security experts see risks.

The competition watchdogs of the EU Commission see the risk of misuse of data from intelligent household appliances and body-worn computer systems and are therefore launching a market investigation. “Although the Internet of Things for consumer-related products and services is still in a relatively early stage of development, there are indications that certain corporate practices can lead to structural distortions of competition,” said the Brussels authority on Thursday. For example, there are indications that companies restrict access to certain data or prefer their own parts of the company.

For example, the study will look at watches such as the Apple Watch, fitness trackers and intelligent refrigerators, washing machines, televisions and lighting systems. In addition, information about services that are provided via intelligent devices, such as music and video streaming services or voice assistants, is also to be collected.

“Imagine you have a smart fridge that creates your grocery list, and you could simply load that list onto your smart device and then order the products from a store that has the groceries delivered to your door Voice command opens automatically, ”commented the Vice President responsible, Margrethe Vestager. To make this possible, access to large amounts of user data would be required. “So we need to make sure that market participants don’t misuse their control over this data to distort competition or otherwise exclude competitors from the market,” she said.

Security experts have long warned of other risks in the Internet of Things. “We are no longer just talking about traditional computers, but about everyday objects such as cars, toys, medical devices or heating controls,” said US expert Bruce Schneier last year on the sidelines of the “Cyber ​​Security Nordic” conference in Helsinki. “If my spreadsheet crashes, I might lose my data. But if my heart rate monitor crashes or the brakes of my autonomous car fail, I may die. ”

A smart fridge can now also catch malware and thereby become part of a so-called botnet that can be used to start attacks on the Internet, said Schneier.

However, the development can no longer be turned back. According to Vestager, there will be an estimated 180 million smart home devices in Europe by 2023. At the end of last year there were around 110 million. The market will probably grow to 27 billion euros in the next four years, said the Danish.

For the investigation, the EU Commission will now send requests for information to 400 companies that are active in the Internet of Things for consumer-related products and services in the EU. Addressees can include manufacturers of intelligent devices, software developers or providers of corresponding services.

The first results of the investigation, which has now started, are to be published in spring 2021 and the final report in summer 2022. They could also become the basis for antitrust proceedings against companies. “The investigation won’t stop us from doing other things,” warned Vestager.

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