TTIP can help reap the rewards of the ‘Internet of Things’

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

John Higgins [DigitalEurope]

The Internet of Things – also known as Industry 4.0 – is rapidly becoming reality, driven by the convergence of increasingly connected devices.  TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, can help reap the rewards it promises, writes John Higgins.

John Higgins, Director General of DIGITALEUROPE explains some of the concrete benefits that technological innovations could offer to over 800 million people on both sides of the Atlantic, following a successful conclusion to the TTIP.

Does it matter that Americans typically have whiter teeth than Europeans? Probably not. But would it matter if an American firm developed a technology that made an important breakthrough in the diagnosis of life-threatening medical conditions, but couldn’t offer it to European citizens due to conflicting technical regulations and a lack of common technical standards? Probably.

In the next five years, we are more likely than not to see major breakthroughs in the fields of electronic and mobile health technologies (e-Health and m-Health) that will dramatically improve our ability to diagnose and track diseases.

Similarly, how would the visually impaired in the US feel if people with similar disabilities in Europe were enjoying far easier access to the Internet, thanks to new home-grown e-accessibility technologies?

Regardless of whether the company is American or European, it is clear that over 800 million consumers on both sides of the Atlantic share very similar needs and wishes when it comes to healthcare, helping those with disabilities, and the technology-driven innovations that are transforming these and other important areas.

There aren’t many tariffs obstructing the trade in technology products between the two markets. However, there are reams of regulations and forms that need to be handled in order for companies to be able to gain access to a market so similar to their own in terms of consumer needs and expectations.

It may come as a surprise to many readers that the US imposes just as many – if not more – red tape on importers than European countries do.

And contrary to what the protesters say, we in Europe have a lot to gain from getting rid of those barriers – especially small and medium-size European enterprises, which are the backbone of the European economy.

The Internet of Things – also known as Industry 4.0 – is rapidly becoming reality, driven by the convergence of increasingly connected devices. It is pushing manufacturing and automation industries to new levels of service and process integration, driven by ICT technologies.

EU and US negotiators must adopt a coordinated approach to this exciting new field if our two economies are to reap the rewards the Internet of Things promises.

The TTIP, like all bilateral trade agreements, aims to remove barriers to trade so that both sides benefit. Independent research estimates that the TTIP could boost the EU economy by up to €119 billion a year – equivalent to €545 per year for a family of four. To overlook the concrete benefits of freer transatlantic trade would be to sell European citizens and companies short.

[DIGITALEUROPE, and its equivalent in Washington DC, the Information Technology Industry trade association (ITI) co-signed a position paper outlining what should be included in the TTIP in order to share the benefits of the technology available already, as well as the innovations coming down the pipeline. Suggestions focus on specific areas like e-health and e-accessibility, e-labelling.]

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