Margrethe Vestager has started researching the Internet of Things industry. As confirmed in a press release, the European Commission has launched a sector inquiry whose objective is to know what products are sold, how these markets work, what data is collected, how they are used and how companies make money from them. It is precisely for this reason that the Commission will pay particular attention to voice assistants, namely Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant.

According to Vestager, “the results of this research should help us to detect situations in which companies may have infringed competition rules“He further notes that it will provide useful information that” can feed into the Commission’s regulatory initiatives “that affect the IoT and, finally, send” an important message to the powerful operators in these markets that we are watching them. “

184 million devices by 2023 and fragile competition

According to the European Commissioner, the Internet is increasingly penetrating the objects we use every day. So much so that at the end of 2019 there were 108 million devices and it is estimated that by 2023 there will be 184 million. It is a juicy market, since as Vestager assures, “the market value of smart homes is expected to almost double in the next four years to more than 27,000 million euros”. This includes any IoT device, from watches and bracelets to connected refrigerators.

At the center of this ecosystem are voice assistants, such as Siri, Google Assistant or Alexa. For the commissioner, the potential of these devices is incredible, although we will only have all the benefits (“low prices, extensive options and innovative services and products”) if the market continues “open and competitive“. The problem, they explain from the Commission, is that” competition in digital markets can be fragile“.

“When big companies abuse their power, they can quickly push markets past the tipping point, where competition becomes a monopoly. We’ve seen that before. If we don’t act on time, there is a serious risk that it will happen. new to the Internet of Things. “

One of the keys to this market is data. Voice assistants and, therefore, connected devices, collect a “large amount of data” about us and, according to the commissioner, “there is a risk that large companies may misuse the data collected through these devices, to cement its position in the market in the face of the challenges of the competition “.

To find out what the market situation is and what companies are doing with the devices they sell and the data they collect, the Commission will send a series of questionnaires to 400 European, Asian and American companiesboth large and small. According to Vestager, “We are asking about data – how it is collected, how it is used, and how companies make money from the data they collect. And we are asking about how these products and services work together, and about the possible problems with making them interoperable. “.

More information | European Comission