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L’Internet des objets

Pierre-Jean Benghozi
Sylvain Bureau
Françoise Massit-Folléa

The Internet of Things


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1Today the Internet is host to billions of connections and exchanges. As a result it is the most powerful tool for information-sharing that has ever been invented. In just a few decades, it has become the driving force behind dramatic changes in the lives of companies, individuals and institutions. This momentum will inevitably continue : engineers, technicians, industrial and service companies, researchers in all fields and also politicians worldwide are even now designing the Internet of the Future1.

2The prospect now is of a world with even denser connections between both humans and objects – a permanent connection which will become increasingly invisible, evoking equal reactions of fear, and hope for new inventions. This again brings into play the links between innovation and the market, technical resources and service applications, and also between security and liberty. This world of connectivity sustains and reinforces the need for “transparent, multilateral and democratic” governance, as discussed at length in the World Summit on the Information Society2. The key challenge is to respond to industrial and regulatory unknowns, and to answer ethical questions on accessibility, cultural diversity and respect for liberties.

3In the light of technological progress and unfamiliarity with potential uses, and also of the difficulty of harmonising standards and the unpredictability of economic competition, the European Union faces three major challenges :

–  linking networks and applications equitably, permanently and more cheaply

–  guiding innovation and promoting economic growth, and

–  ensuring that a network of networks designed to be “ubiquitous” does not become excessively intrusive.

4The Seventh European Framework Programme for Research on Information and Communication Technologies is a milestone. It is principally devoted to the networks and services of the future3. Four particular aspects are examined :

–  New network infrastructures (very high bandwidth, wireless, and mobile technology)

–  The development of software and service platforms

–  The exploration of 3D Media technologies

  • 4 For greater convenience the acronym IoT will be used hereafter.

–  The integration of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification Systems) chips and IP addresses resulting in what is now known as the “Internet of Things4”.

5Given the variety of players and the potential divergence of their interests, it is difficult to decide if this is technical “revolution” or technical “evolution”. The Semantic Web, nanotechnologies, and Next Generation Networks will soon change the face of the Internet. However in this study we have chosen to focus our initial analysis on the use of the Internet of Things – whether effective or emerging – and then to look at future evolutions. This is why the research is devoted to the Internet of Things, clearly now in a process of dissemination. It is the subject of many current research projects, not only in the fields of science and technology, but also in the domain of the social sciences. It also raises urgent and immediate questions in the public debate.

  • 5 Radio Frequency Identification.

6The way in which the IoT is perceived today is greatly influenced by the infrastructures available (networks and Internet protocols), by existing processes (barcodes in particular) and by the main parties involved (developers, trusted third parties). However, its development is clearly not limited solely to the technical characteristics of RFID technologies5. The issues at stake are economic and social, as well as political, philosophical, cognitive, legal and ethical. Perception of these matters on the part of the general public and the various authorities can be somewhat confused. The panorama that we propose here comprises a pluridisciplinary approach, thus enabling the differing elements to be examined simultaneously. It also aims to call for action to design and promote balanced governance and therefore to succeed in furthering the development of the IoT in Europe.

7Following our definition of the Internet of Things (Chapter 1), we will endeavour to explain the implications of the crucial concerns at hand (Chapter 2). We will then evaluate the degree to which the technology has developed (Chapter 3) while stressing the need for standardization. Next we will question the conditions that lead to the emergence and success of the IoT market (Chapter 4) and analyse the representations that condition its deployment by companies, citizens and governments, with a focus on the issue of privacy (Chapter 5). In the final chapter (6) we will present the essential questions that must be dealt with by politicians in Europe and beyond so as to design and build a profitable, acceptable and “governable” Internet of Things.


1 European Future Internet Portal :,



4 For greater convenience the acronym IoT will be used hereafter.

5 Radio Frequency Identification.

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