06.02.2016Public Policy

Can grapes surf the internet?

By: Donna Epps

Except for a few rotten tomatoes, we don’t generally think of fruit as having access to the internet. But today, farmers are harnessing the power of the Internet of Things (or “IoT”) to bring their crops online, conserving resources and increasing yields in the process.

At Hahn Family Wines in California’s Monterey County, wine-growers are using data from small sensors in the fields to monitor the need for watering, fertilizer or other interventions. Real-time data is uploaded wirelessly and transmitted to Verizon’s ThingSpace dashboard, where growers can analyze conditions and target watering with precision.  

This kind of connectivity is becoming common, as more and more devices are connected to the internet. Connectivity that used to be limited to computers and mobile devices is now finding its way into everything, from appliances to automobiles to oil rigs. Gartner, a Connecticut-based technology consulting firm, estimates that by 2020 there will be over 26 billion IoT devices, and some say the number could be much higher. 

And that’s a good thing. IoT creates the potential to create more sustainable agriculture and cleaner cities. It can help deliver higher quality healthcare, bring transformative efficiencies and safety improvements to transportation, conserve water, boost productivity and, in short, improve the way people live, work and play. 

To achieve that potential, we’ll need a robust and secure underlying communications network to serve as a foundation. That network will need both sufficient spectrum to power this new wave of connected innovation and policies that will promote investment in the necessary supporting infrastructure. And we’ll need to work together to create a consistent policy framework that accelerates, rather than slows down, the growth of IoT.

That’s the message that Verizon delivered to public policy makers today in our filing to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunication and Information Administration. The filing urges government officials to focus on the following IoT priorities:

  • Additional Spectrum. We encourage all stakeholders to work together not only to develop more ways to effectively share spectrum, but also to provide federal users incentives to free up spectrum. As potentially billions of new IoT devices are deployed, they – along with the parallel growth in overall data usage by consumer devices – will require new commercial spectrum allocations, including spectrum necessary to support 5G, since 5G’s super-fast speeds and low latency will help facilitate new IoT use cases.
  • Infrastructure Investments. IoT proliferation will require the deployment of tens of thousands of small cells needed to densify existing networks. We encourage government to help advocate for removal of regulatory roadblocks to deploying these small cells and help clear a path for continued development and growth.
  • Regulatory Certainty. We encourage policymakers to resist the urge to create IoT specific regulations. Of course, some specific matters germane to a particular industry may require unique regulatory solutions, but in matters that cross all IoT devices, such as privacy and cybersecurity, we encourage the development of holistic, consistent international and domestic policies that are neutral across industries. These policies should recognize that most IoT devices are not consumer facing, and may not require utilities-style telecommunications or consumer protection rules.

Technology is transforming the way we live in a way few - if any - of us thought possible. At Verizon, we believe harnessing that technology in a way that can change the lives of people for the better will require unprecedented public-private cooperation. We’re excited to be bringing the power of the internet to help create cleaner cities, to deliver better healthcare, make transportation systems safer, conserver water, boost productivity and help grow crops, including grapes, more efficiently. That’s something to which we can all raise a glass.

About the author(s): 

Donna Epps directs Verizon’s domestic public policy team, as well as relationships with our external partners. Prior to her current position, Ms. Epps worked in Verizon’s Federal Regulatory Affairs group where she developed and advocated Verizon’s federal regulatory policy positions on key issues facing the communications industry, with an emphasis on issues related to competition, economic regulation, and consumer protection.