The future of consumer IoT products: testing the interaction of competition policy and sector regulation in the digital economy
The European University Institute (EUI) is pleased to invite you to the 2022 edition of the Florence Autumn Competition Conference. During the conference, the new Centre for a Digital Society (CDS) at the European University Institute (EUI) will be officially presented.
The conference aims to gather academics, practitioners, officials from national competition authorities, EU institutions, as well as industry representatives to discuss the interaction of competition policy and sector regulation in the context of consumer IoT products. The Autumn Conference takes place in parallel to the 2022 edition of the Florence Competition Autumn School: Participants in the residential track of the Autumn School may attend the Autumn Conference free of charge.
Nowadays, an increasing number of electronic devices ‘talk to each other’ in the contest of the so-called Internet of Things (IoT). In particular, consumer IoT products, such as smart home and wearable devices, as well as voice assistants increasingly exchange personal and non-personal data concerning their users. The market share of consumer IoT devices is expected to double in the course of the coming years.
In January 2022, the European Commission published the result of a sector inquiry on consumer IoT devices. According to the report, the industry is characterised by a number of entry barriers, which affect its competitive dynamics. Voice assistant services, in particular, are provided by a limited number of vertically integrated firms, such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri. By collecting a large amount of data from different smart devices, vertically integrated firms generally have preferential access to users’ data. Secondly, by defining the eco-system rules, vertically integrated firms generally restrict the interoperability of different IoT devices and limit the degree of industry standardization. Similar findings had also been achieved by the German Bundeskartellamt in 2020, at the conclusion of its sector inquiry on smart TVs. The recent sector inquiries on consumer IoT products show increasing attention by competition enforcers vis a vis this sector. Although no antitrust authority has so far carried out any investigation in this industry, this might happen in the future.
In addition to possible antitrust investigations, consumer IoT products are affected by the sector regulation currently developing at the EU level. First of all, the recently approved Digital Markets Act (DMA) mentions IoT smart devices and voice assistant services as ‘core platform services’; in the future, digital gatekeepers providing consumer IoT products will be subject to the DMA obligations. Secondly, while the transfer of personal data between IoT devices is subject to the requirements of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the flow of non-personal data might be incentivised in the future by the Data Act, proposed by the European Commission in February 2022. Finally, the European Commission is currently considering the adoption of a legislative proposal to clarify the licensing framework of Standard Essential Patent (SEPs), in order to foster standardisation process in a number of industries, including the IoT sector.
Key topics of debate
The Florence Competition Autumn Conference aims at discussing the growing interaction of EU competition policy and sector regulation in relation to the digital economy, by looking at the case of consumer IoT products. Firstly, the Autumn conference will discuss what are the key competitive dynamics and entry barriers in this industry, and how competition policy and sector regulation may tackle such barriers. Furthermore, a general question discussed at the Autumn Conference concerns the degree of coherence of the new EU regulatory framework, and how such framework may be enforced in the future in parallel with EU competition rules.
Yvo Volman, Director of the Data directorate in the Directorate General for Communication Networks, Content and Technology of the European Commission will deliver the keynote speech.
Invited speakers will be mostly present at the EUI campus in Florence.
The audience will be able to follow the conference via Zoom, free of charge. Please note that online registration is required to receive the Zoom credentials.
A limited number of participants will also be able to attend the event in person, in Florence. The registration fee to join the event in person is 200 €. The fee covers the cost of the refreshments (2 coffee breaks, and 1 lunch). In addition, a shuttle bus between Florence city centre and the EUI campus will be organized for the registered participants. On the other hand, The registration fee does not cover travel and accommodation expenses in Florence.
The Autumn Conference will take place on October 28th (9.30 – 17.15). The time indicated in the programme refers to the Central European and Eastern Time (CEST) zone.