How will the internet of things change the future of law?

The ‘internet of things’ just sounds like an exciting concept, doesn’t it? In 2011, Futurist Anthony D. Williams made the observation that “virtually every animate and inanimate object on Earth could be generating and transmitting data”. When you think about that quote in the context of the technological leaps being made today, the future is looking very bright.

Already for businesses, there are light globes available that use heat mapping technology to determine which areas of the office are underutilised. For individuals, the increasing prevalence of smart homes is not only making life easier, but reducing resource wastage. The combination of new tech and data access are giving people the ability to make informed decisions like never before.

So how will the rise of ‘smart tech’ change the future of law?

Let’s start by looking at one by-product of this boom in IoT – data. Thanks to new tech, modern phones with health monitoring and GPS can not only track where you are and what you’re doing at any given time, they can make informed decisions based on your activity. A few examples of this include phones that block notifications when sensors determine that you’re driving, or apps that use mapping technology to send you travel times as you’re leaving the front door of your house.

Thanks to our reliance on tech, this data mountain continues to grow and with it comes some pretty important questions about privacy. “If an insurance company can track the driving habits of its drivers to determine insurance premiums and pricing on an individual basis, that absolutely has privacy implications for the customer,” says Satya Ramaswamy, Global Head of TCS Digital.

Additionally, the development of ‘intelligent and aware’ machines brings with it a whole host of ethical questions that people are increasingly turning to lawyers to help answer. One such question relates to the self-driving car. For example, if someone were to walk into the car’s path unexpectedly, should the car attempt to break sharply at the risk of killing the occupants inside or chance impacting the wayward pedestrian? Christy Burke of Burke & Company asks “if someone gets injured or killed, is the manufacturer unquestionably at fault? This is not a simple call to make. It’s a complex issue on many levels.”

According to Business Insider, by 2019 IoT device shipments will skyrocket to 6.7 billion – twice the size of the mobile phone market. As these issues (and ones like it) are increasingly raised, it’s apparent legal professionals will be some of the first we turn to for answers.

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