Internet of Things: ultimately, trust decides A panel discussion on “IoT and its impact on society” during the 48th St.Gallen Symposium explored the opportunities, snares and cultural aspects of the effects of the Internet of Things and its influence on society. 3 May 2018. Moderated by Prof. Elgar Fleisch, Professor for Technology Management (ITEM-HSG), the event’s speakers included Marianne Janik, General Manager at Microsoft Switzerland; Hiroaki Kitano, President and CEO of Sony Computer Science, and Volkhard Bregulla, Vice President of Hewlett Packard Enterprise. Bregulla noted that he is frequently asked what various apps yield for him, or why one should ask Siri or Alexa for directions instead of a person. There is no easy answer to this question, and the panellists discussed several aspects of the IoT, which provided general answers to a seemingly simple question. Technical details are vital On the one hand, technical details are obviously vital. Hardware or software? “Who wins the race?” Fleisch asked the panellists. Kitano offered a decisive answer: “In the past, you could differentiate between hardware and software. Today, that is no longer possible.” One reason for this is the rapid development of technologies. As an example, he showed a video in which a new photo lens is introduced. He said it will have a major impact on a company’s future to find the right technology. Social and cultural aspects The social and cultural aspects of the IoT present different kinds of challenges. Marianne Janik sees the IoT as one of the largest cooperation projects of the present age. New technologies and Artificial Intelligence connect worlds and reveal not only progress, but also problems and cultural differences. Europeans are sceptical about the perceived progress. We want to know what happens to our data and what algorithm is behind certain applications. In Asia, those questions are less relevant. In the US, both positions are advocated, said Kitano. The handling of data is one of the biggest challenges. Janik agreed, noting the effect of big cultural differences, but also differences between generations. Bregulla presented a similar view. “The older generation is not familiar with the problem of an old photo on Facebook jeopardising a presidential bid.” Those are developments that we still have to learn how to handle. Bregulla also demanded that we make technologies accessible for everyone and create a trustworthy legal framework. Trust is vital for using technology Janik agreed: “Ultimately, we will not use technology we do not trust. Trust is of vital importance”, she said. This is especially so for traffic, such as the medical sector and traffic. Trust will play a key role in those sectors. “We need ethical guidelines to deal with Artificial Intelligence,” Janik said. ”The development inevitably entails this. We need some more time for this, though, to fully fathom the negative aspects.” Question about the biggest effects of the IoT Even though the panellists agreed on many points, their views diverged on the question of the biggest social impact. While Kitano saw the biggest advantages of the IoT in the medical sector, Bregulla cited public safety, and Janik noted the impact technologies and machines could have on improving global food production. At the conclusion of the discussion, the audience’s hands shot up and members animatedly participated in the discussion. One of the final questions came from a student, whose question showed the insecurity we experience in Switzerland or Europe. He said that as an economics student he had no IT skills and wanted to know specifically what to do about it. The audience laughed sympathetically and the panellists reassured him. Most companies offer IT courses nowadays. The panel discussion clearly illustrated that technology influences our whole life and we are always in a learning process, trying to answer questions such as how we can best handle these challenges.