Thursday, October 6, 2016

PF Nov 2016 - The Internet of Things vs. Personal Privacy - Pro Position

Resolved: On balance, the benefits of the Internet of Things outweigh the harms of decreased personal privacy.

Pro Position

The Pro debater is burdened with advocating the Internet of Things (IoT) yields benefits which outweigh the harms; specifically the harms of decreased personal privacy. Of all the possible harms which could arise from the rapid expansion of the IoT, Con needs to only focus on this narrow class of harms. So, if Con claims, a hacker could get into an industrial control system and shutoff a power generator resulting in losses of a myriad nature, you may be able to simply claim, hey, even though that is a harm with a real dollar value, that is not necessarily a harm arising from decreased personal privacy. (We shall deal with these kinds of arguments more fully when we look at the Con position because maybe it is from decreased personal privacy.) Unless the Con speaks first, we cannot be too sure about what the Con will claim as harms and how broadly they will attempt to interpret the resolution. Later, as happens so often in PF Debate, things will begin to settle into a fairly standard set of arguments that all teams are running on both sides. So, for this initial pass at producing a Pro position, I want to focus on generating a "grab-bag" of benefits because even if Con can broaden the impacts to show that harms arising from hacking, industrial espionage, terrorism, etc. are indeed harms arising from decreased personal privacy an effective counter-strategy would be to swamp the Con with copious numbers of benefits.

I do urge you to use a little caution and avoid citing technical terminology and concepts which may not be well known or understood by even seasoned judges. Moreover, if the discussion should get technical, make sure you fully comprehend what you are talking about because you never know when you may have a judge who actually understands the tech better than you. You may need to clarify points by asking questions during the cross-fire and if someone asks you a question, make sure you know your topic and your evidence.

Regardless, of how this debate plays out, Pro is required to provide some kind of weighing mechanism for the judge. Establishing benefits in terms of real-world dollars and cents is an effective weighing mechanism since most judges have little problem understanding money and it is with that thought I begin this analysis.

Benefits to the General Economy

The so-called Industrial Revolution which began in the late 1700's, completely transformed the world in terms of innovation, production of goods, economic growth and it profoundly impacted the life-style of millions of individuals. And while we can point to certain disadvantages such as pollution, resource depletion and global warming, we could easily argue that the methods created which augment innovation and research is enabling development of technologies which are working to solve those problems and the overall benefits of that industrial revolution outweigh the harms.  Today we are witnessing another quantum shift as the IoT is at the vanguard of the next 'industrial revolution'.

Cohen (2016):
The Internet of Things has been given the label of the next Industrial Revolution as it is going to bring about a staggering change to way in which people work, live, travel and entertain themselves. Not only that, it will also change how the businesses and governments will interact with the entire world. The revolution has already started!

What we are seeing right now through the development of connected wearable devices, smartphones, medical sensors, and industrial devices is an explosion in fast and accurate data management which is driving new innovations which fundamentally changes the way will live and work. Connectivity conglomerate GSMA calls this revolution the "Connected Life" and predicts major beneficial impacts as the IoT grows.

GSMA (2014):
As the Connected Life will have a fundamental impact on the way we live and work, there will also be major social and environmental benefits, such as improved healthcare, safer and more efficient transportation and logistics, better education and more efficient use of energy. With the ability to capture real-time usage information and provide remote control, embedded mobile connectivity can make a wide range of devices, machines and vehicles more efficient and effective, dramatically reducing waste and improving time productivity.[4]

Clearly GSMA is excited about the direction the next industrial revolution is headed because they are already well-positioned in that business space. Therefore we look to their assessment of the projected financial impact of the IoT.

GSMA (2014):
The connected devices market will open-up new revenue streams, facilitate new business models, drive efficiencies and improve the way existing services across many different sectors are delivered. The global business impact of the Connected Life can be split into two broad categories: ‘new revenue opportunities’ and ‘cost reduction and service improvements’6:
■ In 2020, revenues from the sale of connected devices and services, and revenues from related services, such as pay-as-you-drive car insurance, will be worth US$2.5 trillion, US$1.2 trillion of which could be addressed by mobile operators and the remainder by the broader Connected Life ecosystem.
■ Cost reductions and service improvements relate to less direct, but tangible, benefits to organisations, governments and consumers through the evolution of the Connected Life. In 2020, this could be worth approximately US$2 trillion: US$1 trillion from cost reductions, such as smart meters removing the need for manual meter readings; and US$1 trillion from service improvements, such as clinical remote monitoring for patients with chronic illnesses.

There are many reports supporting the claim, the Internet of Things is and will continue to experience huge growth and like the previous Industrial Revolution, contribute to creation of jobs, revenues, and opportunities on a global scale. In 2015, the U.S. Senate heard testimony from Senior Research Fellow, Adam Thierer, who puts specifics on the economic impact.

Thierer and Castillo (2015):
the coming decades will be characterized by the introduction of billions of "smart" devices, millions of job opportunities, and trillions of dollars in economic growth and cost savings. The total number of connected devices in use globally-including such items as smart home appliances, "wearables", smart metering systems, and autonomous vehicles-is projected to grow from 10 billion in 2013 to anywhere from 19 billion to 40 billion by 2019. The cost savings and productivity gains generated through "smart" device monitoring and adaptation are projected to create $1.1 to $2.5 trillion in value in the health care sector, $2.3 trillion to $11.6 trillion in global manufacturing, and $500 billion to $757 billion in municipal energy and service provision over the next decade. The total global impact of IoT technologies could generate anywhere from $2.7 tri;llion to $14.4 trillion in value by 2025.[1]

Benefits to Medical Technology

In the world of medicine, access to accurate and timely information, especially regarding patient conditions and history is vital.  Not only can it make a difference in rapid and correct treatment, it can make a huge difference in how insurance claims are later reported. Without the IoT, medical reporting is entirely a human-driven endeavor.

Niewolny :
As Kevin Ashton explained a decade after first using the phrase at a business presentation in 1999, “Today computers—and therefore, the Internet—are almost wholly dependent on human beings for information. The problem is, people have limited, time, attention and accuracy—all of which means they are not very good at capturing data about things in the real world.”  The solution, he has always believed, is empowering devices to gather information on their own, without human intervention.[2] 

Niewolny explains emerging IoT-powered technology, "can be used to help enable preventive care, allow prompt diagnosis of acute complications and promote understanding of how a therapy (usually pharmacological) is helping"[2]. but perhaps just as importantly, IoT devices removes humans from the data stream.

Niewolny :
The ability of devices to gather data on their own removes the limitations of human-entered data—automatically obtaining the data doctors need, at the time and in the way they need it. The automation reduces the risk of error. Fewer errors can mean increased efficiency, lower costs and improvements in quality in just about any industry. But it’s of particular interest/need in healthcare, where human error can literally be the difference between life and death.[3]
Removing people from the burden of transcribing data is vital to reducing life-altering mistakes. But there are numerous other benefits that the IoT offers to the medical field including advanced telemetry devices, drug dispensing devices, etc.  The Pro debater will have little trouble finding a wealth of information as to how the IoT is revolutionizing patient care with home monitoring devices and strap-on devices which connect patients directly to health provider services.

Benefits to Traffic and Fleets

In a position paper on the IoT Cisco and DHL collaborated to express many of the advantages and benefits derived from the IoT. One particular focus was upon traffic and fleet management. Obviously there are benefits in personal automobile connectivity. Cars can relay location info as a deterrence to theft as well as relay various telemetic data which could aid in smart navigation which avoids traffic jams or road hazards. But, the real advantages are reaped in municipal traffic and commercial fleet management.

Macaulay, et al(2015):
For many municipalities, smart parking is the “killer app”: parking is a source of important government revenues, but also a cause of process “friction” that yields inefficiency and citizen dissatisfaction. Beyond frustrated drivers, this friction has important implications. It is estimated that as much as 30 percent of all urban traffic is the result of drivers looking for parking. Parking in unauthorized spaces has reached epidemic proportions in many major urban centers, with approximately one third of all parking occurring outside designated (pay or free) spaces. This adds to congestion and undermines city revenues. On a global scale, inefficient parking also contributes to billions of dollars in lost citizen productivity and millions of tons of greenhouse gases.[6]

Already, commercial shippers are yielding benefits through improved efficiency in tracking their fleets and cargo. The port of Hamburg in Germany, one of the largest in the world, is using IoT technology to improve efficiency through use of traffic sensors on roadways and in the water for ships. As a result, the port of Hamburg is expanding to handle more goods. (Maccaulay 2015:8) Another important benefit is in the area of freight theft management.

Macaulay, et al(2015):
FreightWatch recorded 946 cargo theft incidents across the United States in 2012 and 689 in Europe,37 with organized crime targeting ports and rest areas. Theft costs shippers and logistics providers billions of dollars each year, from the impact of inventory delays as well as the cost of stolen goods. Through IoT, logistics providers will gain clear visibility on the movement of goods — meter by meter and second by second — as well as item-level condition monitoring to ensure that goods arrive in time, at the right place, and intact.

Benefits to Mining and Safety

In those business sectors which are involved in historically hazard enterprises, the IoT reduces risks and lessens the exposure of worker to hazards.  The mining industry is one such enterprise that is leading the charge in reaping the advantages of the IoT.

Lee & Prowse (2014):
The integrated nature of IoT solutions means that mining companies can seize all of the opportunities at once. The driverless trucks initiative of BHP Billiton will not just help improve safety, but it will increase productivity as the trucks will be operational for more hours. How? Part of the answer is predictive maintenance. C. Prasanna Venkatesan notes that the solutions of Cisco and its partners can provide “failure predictions up to two months in advance with an 85% confidence interval so that preventive action can be taken.” This will result in less downtime and fewer disruptions to mining operations. Dr. Joerg Benndorf argues that all of the technologies that have matured over the past 10 to 15 years and get deployed today will make mining more efficient, safer and more environmentally friendly overall.

Large segments of the mining process are being automated, reducing the exposure of workers to danger.  Mines are already using the IoT to track worker locations and control operations in such a way to improve safety while becoming more productive.

Macaulay, et al(2015):
DPM [Dundee Precious Metals] is using IoT to connect its end-to-end mine operation, including vehicles, mobile devices, cameras, programmable logic controllers (PLCs) on conveyer systems, lights, fans, power, and more. Supervisors can track equipment and miner movements throughout the mine. The mine’s blasting system is integrated with location-tracking applications to ensure the blast site is cleared of personnel and equipment. The result is greater safety for miners and increased mine production — from half a million tons to two million tons per year [10]

Benefits to Manufacturing

Nearly all manufacturers can benefit from the IoT, utilizing new, intelligent technologies to improve operating efficiency, reduce downtime, provide management with the tools the need to react quickly to production and market conditions.
Wakefield (2014):
According to Nesi, one of Rockwell’s food and beverage clients, King’s Hawaiian, was able to put out an additional 180,000 pounds of bread every day, doubling their previous production amount, after installing new technologies. King’s Hawaiian installed 11 connected machines into a new factory. The machines were linked to FactoryTalk, software that lets the company’s employees have remote access to both historical and real-time data and features production dashboards that provide a comprehensive picture of the whole system so they can monitor performance. All of this software and hardware resulted “in faster time to market, improved asset utilization and optimization, lower total cost of ownership, workforce efficiency, enterprise risk management and smarter expenditures,” Nesi says.

Intel, one of the world's leading computer chip manufacturers has also see direct benefits through employing IoT automation technologies in manufacturing operations. A pilot program they implemented at its Penang facility in Malaysia resulted in reduced maintenance downtime. (Intel 2015:2)

Intel (2015):
As a result of the automation system, Intel recouped several million dollars in Penang through better decision making. Key performance metrics included:
  • Yield losses due to test and assembly manufacturing inefficiencies down 25 to 50 percent.
  • Spare parts costs cut by 20 percent 
  • Maintenance time reduced by 50 percent
  • Classification of defects completed 10 times faster

And So On

I have little doubt that Pro debaters will find a great deal of information supporting their position.  In this analysis I have tried to intentionally avoid focus on personal information technologies so as not to trigger, Con disadvantage scenarios. Granted, there may be a fair amount of hype in the evidence from those services who are hoping to sell IoT devices but all-in-all most of the sources agree in terms of benefits.  Favor those sources which evaluate the benefits in real-world terms, such as dollar, tons, percentages, and so on. These metrics are effective weighing mechanisms.

More About The Framework

As you research you will be aware of a number of less favorable aspects to the IoT.  The explosive growth it pressing against limits in Internet bandwidth (basically the capacity to handle large quantities of data flowing over the wires, fibers, and wireless channels.) There is the problem of how to manage the vast amounts of data which will be produced, and of course there are a number of security issues as we have seen recently in the distributed denial of service attack, against Krebs. Pro acknowledges there are challenges ahead and no doubt hackers seem to thrive on discovering exploits in new technologies.  The debate, nevertheless is focused upon harms due to decreased personal privacy and this is a key limitation, in my opinion. Do not let the Con poison the well, and expand the debate well beyond the resolution wording.  Perhaps, definitions and observations will be more important than usual so establish a framework which lays out your interpretation of the resolution and maintain it as you rain down a flood of benefits in the round.

For the Intro and Con position or for more information on past topics or Public Forum debate in general, click the Public Forum tab at the top of this page, for additional links.


Cohen, S (2016), Internet of Things as the next Industrial Revolution - How it will change the industry in 2016, Huffington Post, 07/13/2016, accessed 10/2/16 at:

GSMA (2016), Understanding the Internet of Things (IoT), GSMA Connected Living, July 2014. Accessed 10/2/2016 at:

Intel (2015), The Internet of Things optimizes factory floor operations, Intel case-study, September 2015, accessed 10/3/2016 at:

Lee J, Prowse K (2014), Mining & Metals + Internet of Things: Industry opportunities and innovation, Connected World Market Insights Sries, 13 Nov 2014, accessed 10/3/2016 at:

Macaulay J, Buckalew L, Chung G, (2015), The Internet of Things in Logistics,A collaborative report by DHL and Cisco on implications and use cases for the logistics industry, 2015, DHL Trend Research | Cisco Consulting Services; accessed 10/3/2016 at:

Niewolny, D. (undated), How the Internet of Things Is Revolutionizing Healthcare, NXP White paper, accessed 10/2/2016 at:

Thierer A, Castillo A, (2015), Projecting the growth and economic impact of the Internet of Things, Economic Perspectives,  June 15, 2015, Mercatus Center, Georgetown University; accessed 10/3/2016 at:

Wakefield KJ, (2014), How The Internet Of Things Is Transforming Manufacturing, Forbes, Business, Jul 1, 2014, accessed 10/3/2016 at:


  1. What questions would you ask the con on the economy and medical technology contentions

    1. Ummm. Maybe I'm missing something. Why would the Pro ask Con questions about Pro contentions?

    2. oh In my league we ask the opponents questions on are contentions so we can make them agree with it

  2. If the idea is to get the Con to concede, ask them if life is a paramount value. Ask if jobs and economic prosperity are more important than a few people risking a decrease in privacy (not a loss of privacy - a decrease as the resolutions states). Ask why we have an expectation of privacy in the first place, when Internet connectivity is a choice, not a requirement.

    1. but my asking if life is a paramaount value aren't you just asking if the most important thing in life is life?

  3. Thank you to inform us by this informative post.

  4. Very informative article. It is true that IoT has the power to transform life by touching different aspects of like medical care or traffic/ transportation. The pros may outperform the cons and people may be ready to make a sacrifice of their privacy. But one thing to keep in mind is that we should always be on the edge and make sure to keep them as secured as possible. A single attack of virus like ransomware can ruin everything.


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