Digital Europe: The Rise of the Internet of Things and the Integration of the Single Market

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1 On July 9 th, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi inaugurated Italy s 6 month Presidency of the European Council, calling for a bold new plan to create Digital Europe. The Prime Minister and Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission and the Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, hosted a conference of leading CEOs from across Europe in Venice, and issued The Venice Declaration to bring the EU into the digital age. Jeremy Rifkin was asked to deliver the keynote address. Mr. Rifkin explained that the digitalization of the European economy involves much more than providing seamless broadband and more reliable Wi-Fi. The digital economy will revolutionize every aspect of society, disrupt the workings of virtually every industry, bring with it unprecedented new economic opportunities and business models, and create millions of new jobs. Digital Europe: The Rise of the Internet of Things and the Integration of the Single Market By: Jeremy Rifkin Introduction The emerging digital economy is ushering a new economic system onto the world stage. The sharing economy on the Collaborative Commons is the first new economic paradigm taking root since the advent of capitalism and socialism in the early 19 th century. The Collaborative Commons is flourishing alongside the exchange economy in the capitalist market and is transforming the way we organize economic life, offering the possibility of significantly narrowing the income divide, democratizing the global economy and creating a more ecologically sustainable society in the first half of the twenty-first century. The Zero Marginal Cost Phenomenon What s precipitating the great economic transformation is the unanticipated rise of the near zero marginal most phenomenon, brought on by the digitalization of the global economy. Private enterprises are continually seeking new technologies to increase productivity and reduce the marginal cost of producing and distributing goods and services so they can lower prices, win over consumers, and secure sufficient profit for their investors. (Marginal cost is the cost of producing additional units of a good or service, if fixed costs are not counted.) Economists never envisioned, however, a technology revolution that might unleash extreme productivity bringing marginal costs to near zero, making information, energy, and many physical goods and services potentially nearly free, abundant, and no longer subject to market exchanges. That s now beginning to happen. The near zero marginal cost phenomenon wreaked havoc across the information goods industries over the past decade as millions of consumers turned prosumers and began using the Internet to produce and share their own music via file sharing services, their own videos on YouTube, their own knowledge on Wikipedia, their own news on social media, and even their own e-books on the World Wide Web, all for nearly free. Meanwhile, six million students are currently enrolled in free Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) that operate at near zero marginal cost and are taught by some of the most distinguished professors in the world, and 1

2 receiving college credits, forcing universities to rethink their costly business model. The near zero marginal cost phenomenon brought the music industry to its knees, shook the film and television industries, forced newspapers and magazines out of business, crippled the book publishing market, and forced universities to rethink their business model. While many traditional industries suffered, the zero marginal cost phenomenon also gave rise to a spate of new entrepreneurial enterprises including Google, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, who reaped handsome profits by creating the new applications and aggregating the networks that allowed the emerging sharing economy on the Commons to flourish. Economists acknowledge the powerful impact near zero marginal cost has had on the information goods industries but, until recently, have argued that the productivity advances made possible by the digital economy would not pass across the firewall from the virtual world to the brick-and-mortar economy of energy, and physical goods and services. That firewall has now been breached. A new technology revolution is evolving that will allow millions and soon hundreds of millions of prosumers to make and share their own renewable energy and an increasing array of 3D-printed physical products, at near zero marginal cost, in a more inclusive digital economy, just as they now do with information goods. The Internet of Things To grasp the enormity of the economic change taking place, we need to understand the technological forces that have given rise to new economic systems throughout history. Every great economic paradigm requires three elements, each of which interacts with the other to enable the system to operate as a whole: a communication medium, a power source, and a transportation mechanism. Without communication, we can t manage economic activity. Without energy, we can t power economic activity. Without logistics and transport we can t move economic activity across the value chain. Together, these three operating systems make up what economists call a general purpose technology platform. In the 19 th century, steam-powered printing and the telegraph, abundant coal, and locomotives on national rail systems meshed in a seamless general purpose technology platform that gave rise to the First Industrial Revolution. In the 20 th century, centralized electricity, the telephone, radio and television, cheap oil, and internal combustion vehicles on national road systems converged to create an infrastructure for the Second Industrial Revolution. Now, the Communication Internet is converging with a digitalized renewable Energy Internet and a digitalized Logistics and Transportation Internet, creating a super Internet of Things (IoT) platform for a Third Industrial Revolution that is going to fundamentally alter the global economy in the first half of the 21 st century. Billions of sensors are being attached to every device, appliance, machine, and contrivance, connecting every thing with every human being in a digital neural network that extends across the entire economy. Already, 14 billion sensors are attached to resource flows, warehouses, road systems, factory production lines, the electricity transmission grid, offices, homes, stores, and vehicles, continually monitoring their status and performance and feeding big data back to the Communication Internet, Energy Internet, and Logistics and Transportation Internet. By 2030, it is estimated there will be more than 100 trillion sensors connecting the human and natural environment in a global distributed intelligent network. Connecting every thing and every one via the Internet of Things offers enormous economic benefits. It also raises risks and challenges, not the least of which is protecting personal privacy and ensuring data security. The European Commission has already begun to address 2

3 these issues by establishing the broad principle that privacy, data protection, and information security are complimentary requirements for Internet of Things services. In this expanded digital economy enterprises and prosumers will be able to connect to the Internet of Things and use Big Data and analytics to develop predictive algorithms that can speed efficiency, increase productivity, and lower the marginal cost of producing and distributing physical things to near zero. For example, the bulk of the energy we use to heat our homes and run our appliances, power our businesses, drive our vehicles, and operate every party of the global economy will be generated at near zero marginal cost and be nearly free in the coming decades. That s already the case for several million early adopters who have transformed their homes and businesses into micro-power plants to harvest renewable energy on-site. After the fixed costs for the installation of solar and wind are paid back often as little as 2 to 8 years the marginal cost of the harvested energy is nearly free. Unlike fossil fuels and uranium for nuclear power, in which the commodity itself always costs something, the sun collected on rooftops and the wind travelling up the side of buildings are free. The Internet of Things will enable prosumers to monitor their electricity usage in their buildings, optimize their energy efficiency, and share surplus green electricity with others on the Energy Internet. Similarly, hundreds of thousands of hobbyists and startup companies are already infofacturing their own 3D-printed products using free software, and cheap recycled plastic, paper, metal objects, and other locally available feedstock at near zero marginal cost. By 2020, prosumers will be able to share their 3D printed products with others on the Collaborative Commons by transporting them in driverless electric and fuel cell vehicles, powered by near zero marginal cost renewable energy, on an automated Logistics and Transportation Internet. The distributed, peer to peer nature of the Internet of Things platform allows millions of small players small and medium sized businesses, social enterprises, and individuals to come together in a global Collaborative Commons, erecting lateral economies of scale that eliminate the remaining middle men that kept marginal costs high in the Second Industrial Revolution dominated by vertically integrated global corporations. In an all-encompassing digital economy, everyone becomes a potential prosumer, producing and sharing energy and physical goods and services more directly with one another, on the Internet of Things, at near zero marginal cost and for nearly free. This fundamental technological transformation in the way economic activity is organized and scaled portends a great shift in the flow of economic power from the few to the multitudes and the democratization of economic life. The transition to a fully digital economy and Third Industrial Revolution results in a leap in productivity far beyond the productivity gains achieved by the Second Industrial Revolution in the 20 th century. During the period from 1900 to 1980 in the United States, aggregate energy efficiency the ratio of useful to potential physical work that can be extracted from materials steadily rose along with the development of the nation s infrastructure, from 2.48 percent to 12.3 percent. The aggregate energy efficiency leveled off in the late 1990s at around 13 percent with the completion of the Second Industrial Revolution infrastructure. Despite a significant increase in efficiency, which gave the United States extraordinary productivity and growth, nearly 87 percent of the energy we used in the Second Industrial Revolution was wasted during transmission. Even if we were to upgrade the Second Industrial Revolution infrastructure, it s unlikely to have any measurable effect on efficiency, productivity, and growth. Fossil fuel energies have matured and are becoming more expensive to bring to market. And the technologies designed and engineered to run on these energies, like the internal- 3

4 combustion engine and the centralized electricity grid, have exhausted their productivity, with little potential left to exploit. New studies, however, including one conducted by my global consulting group, show that with the shift to an Internet of Things platform and a Third Industrial Revolution, it is conceivable to increase aggregate energy efficiency to 40 percent or more in the next 40 years, amounting to an unprecedented increase in productivity in the next half century. Cisco systems forecasts that by 2022, the Internet of Things will generate $14.4 trillion in cost savings and revenue. A General Electric study published in November 2012 concludes that the efficiency gains and productivity advances brought on by a smart industrial Internet could resound across virtually every economic sector by 2025, impacting approximately one half of the global economy. The Rise of the Collaborative Commons In the digital economy, social capital is as important as finance capital, access trumps ownership, sustainability supersedes consumerism, cooperation ousts competition, and exchange value in the capitalist market place is increasingly replaced by shareable value on the Collaborative Commons. Millions of people are already transferring bits and pieces of their economic life from capitalist markets to the global Collaborative Commons. Prosumers are not only producing and sharing their own information, entertainment, green energy, 3D-printed goods, and enrolling in massive open online courses on the Collaborative Commons at near zero marginal cost. They are also sharing cars, homes, and even clothes with one another via social media sites, rentals, redistribution clubs, and cooperatives, at low or near zero marginal cost. Forty percent of the US population is actively engaged in the sharing economy. For example, millions of Americans are now using car sharing services like Uber, Lyft, and RelayRides. Each car share vehicle eliminates 15 personally owned cars. Concurrently, millions of apartment dwellers and home owners are sharing their dwellings with millions of travelers, at near zero marginal cost around the world, using online services like Airbnb and Couchsurfing. In New York City alone, Airbnb s 416,000 guests who stayed in houses and apartments between 2012 and 2013 cost the New York hotel industry 1 million lost room nights. In a near zero marginal cost digital economy, extreme productivity decreases the amount of information, energy, material resources, labor and logistics costs, necessary to produce, distribute, and recycle economic goods and services, once fixed costs are absorbed. The shift from ownership to access also means more people are sharing fewer items, significantly reducing the number of new products sold, resulting in fewer resources being used up and less global warming gases being emitted into the earth s atmosphere. In other words, the headlong push to a near zero marginal cost society and the sharing of nearly free green energy and an array of basic goods and services on the Collaborative Commons is the most ecologically efficient economy achievable. The drive to near Zero Marginal Cost is the ultimate benchmark for establishing a sustainable future for the human race on earth. The Internet of Things infrastructure enables Europe to achieve its objectives and its long-term 2030 and 2050 goals of creating a low-carbon society. Recent surveys underscore the broad economic potential of the Collaborative Commons. A comprehensive 2012 study found that 62 percent of Gen Xers and Millennials are attracted to the notion of sharing goods, services, and experiences in Collaborative Commons. These two generations differ significantly from the baby boomers and World War II generation in favoring access over ownership. When asked to rank the advantages of a sharing economy, respondents to 4

5 the survey listed saving money at the top of the list, followed by impact on the environment, lifestyle flexibility, the practicality of sharing, and easy access to goods and services. As for the emotional benefits, respondents ranked generosity first, followed by a feeling of being a valued part of a community, being smart, being more responsible, and being a part of a movement. How likely is it that the Collaborative Commons will disrupt the conventional business model? According to an opinion survey conducted by Latitude Research, 75% of respondents predicted their sharing of physical objects and spaces will increase in the next five years. Many industry analysts agree with these optimistic forecasts. In 2011, Time magazine declared collaborative consumption to be one of its 10 ideas that will change the world. Net Neutrality The critical policy question now raging around the world is who will control the new IoT infrastructure of the digital economy and reap the vast benefits brought on by extreme productivity? The struggle to capture the IoT platform is being aggressively waged among governments, capitalist enterprises, and champions of the Collaborative Commons, in courtrooms, legislatures and in the public arena. The outcome of this epic struggle will largely define the political landscape and the nature of economic activity as we move further into the twenty-first century. At issue is the concept of Net Neutrality. The Internet of Things is a hybrid infrastructure made up of three primary stakeholders the government, the private sector, and civil society. Until the present, the Internet has been managed as a global Commons with all three of the primary stakeholders playing a collaborative role in its governance. Now, however, the private sector is beginning to stray from the threeparty stakeholder alliance, seeking increased income and profits by way of price discrimination a move that threatens to undermine one of the guiding principles of the Internet, network neutrality: a principle that assures a nondiscriminatory, open, universal technological Commons in which every participant enjoys equal access and inclusion. The concept of Net Neutrality grew out of the end-to-end design structure of the Internet, which favors the users rather than the network providers. While users pay for Internet connection, and the price they pay can depend on the speed or quality provided by their Internet service provider, once they re connected, their transmitted packets are treated the same way as everyone else s by the network providers. Network providers the major telecom and cable companies would now like to change the rules of the game and secure control of information exchanged over the Internet for commercial gain. That control would allow them to charge different prices for access to specific information or to prioritize transmissions, putting timesensitive packets at the front of the line for a higher price, or charge application fees, or block specific applications from their networks in favor of others, again based on exacting discriminatory payments. Proponents of Net Neutrality argue that the network should remain stupid, thereby allowing millions of users to collaborate and innovate by developing their own applications. It s this kind of distributed intelligence that makes the Internet and now the Internet of Things such a unique technology platform. If network providers were to gain centralized control over access to content and how it is delivered, it would disempower end users and undermine the creativity that comes with distributed collaboration and laterally scaled intelligence. And it s not just the telecoms and cable comapnies that are muscling in from the outside, attempting to enclose the IoT. It s coming from the inside as well. Some of the best-known social 5

6 media sites on the Web are revving up to find new ways to enclose, commercialize, and monopolize the new communications medium. Internet companies, like Google, Facebook, and Twitter, are selling the masses of transmitted Big Data that comes their way to commercial bidders and businesses that use it for targeted advertising and marketing campaigns, research efforts, the development of new goods and services, and a host of other commercial propositions. Should we worry about social media sites sharing everything they know about us with third-party commercial interests? Of course, no one wants to be pestered by targeted advertising. More sinister, however, is the prospect of health insurance companies learning whether you had been Googling research on specific illnesses or prospective employers prying into your personal social history by analyzing your data trail on the Web to spot potential quirks, idiosyncrasies, or even possible antisocial behavior. Worse, is this newest form of commercial exploitation creating corporate monopolies in virtual space that are every bit as centralizing and proprietary as the Second Industrial Revolution companies they are dislodging from power? By 2013, Google was fielding almost 6 billion searches a day, and enjoyed a market share of 67 percent among search engines in the United States, 93 percent in Germany, 89 percent in the United Kingdom, and 95 percent in France. The company s revenue topped $50 billion in Facebook has gobbled up 72.4 percent of the global market share of social networks, and as of January 2014, boasted over 1.3 billion active users that s nearly one out of every six human beings living on Earth. Facebook s revenue in 2012 was $5 billion. Twitter now has over 600 million registered users, of which 200 million are active tweeters. The company is expected to make more than $1 billion in revenue in The overtly commercial sites, like Amazon and ebay, that include Collaborative Commons features, are also quickly becoming online monopolies. According to a study conducted by Forrester Research, one out of every three online users starts their product searches on Amazon.com, compared to 13 percent who started their search from a traditional search site. Amazon has over 152 million active Amazon customer accounts, over 2 million active seller accounts, and a worldwide logistical network that serves 178 countries. By 2008, ebay had grabbed 99 percent of the market for online auctions in the United States, with a similar track record in most other industrialized countries. EBay s revenue in 2012 was $14.1 billion. A growing number of communications-industry analysts and antitrust attorneys are asking whether these new heavyweights in virtual space are really natural monopolies like AT&T and the power and utility companies of the twentieth century and therefore either legitimate candidates for antitrust action or for regulation as global social utilities. They argue that if one or both of these courses is not rigorously pursued, the great promise of the IoT as a shared global Commons is going to be irretrievably lost and, with it, the hopes and aspirations of a generation that has put such store on a peer-to-peer collaboratist ethos. The telecommunication and cable companies, and the profit-making online enterprises are not the only commercial players attempting to thwart an open, transparent, and democratically managed Internet of Things infrastructure. Already, the creation of an Internet of Things across locales, regions, countries, and continents is coming up against entrenched power and electricity transmission companies with commercial interests every bit as formidable as the telecommunication companies, cable companies, and profit-making online enterprises. Millions of small, new renewable energy producers claim that the big power and utility companies are making it difficult for them to connect their local micropower plants to the main transmission grid. The companies are also accused of discriminatory practices that favor speedy connectivity for green electricity generated by affiliated business partners and of imposing bureaucratic delays and even refusing to accept green electricity from others. 6

7 Electric utilities are also fighting on a second front, with behind-the-scenes maneuvers to design an Energy Internet that is centralized, proprietary, and closed, and in which all transmission data flows only in one direction, from the millions of small players generating green electricity to headquarters. The objective is to withhold vital information on moment-to-moment changes in the price of electricity as well as to prevent millions of small and medium sized businesses and homeowners from controlling when to upload their locally harvested green electricity onto the grid to take advantage of peak electricity prices at various times of the day It s highly unlikely that the global companies attempting to capture the Internet of Things will escape some kind of regulatory restriction by way of either antitrust action or treating them as global social utilities with appropriate regulatory oversight. The nature and extent of the oversight is still very much an open question. What s not in question is the need to address the worrisome commercial enclosure of a technology platform whose very existence is predicated on the premise of providing a universal Commons in which all of humanity can collaborate and create value across every sector of social life at near zero marginal cost. The struggle between collaboratists and investor capitalists over control of the Internet of Things, while still embryonic, is shaping up to be the critical economic battle of the first half of the twenty-first century. Many global telecom, cable, Internet, and electric power companies are determined to enclose the IoT and monopolize the flow of information, keeping the price of producing and distributing goods and services far above their marginal cost, to optimize their profits. The digital commoners, on the other hand, are increasingly banding together in lateral networks, producing and sharing goods and services on a global Collaborative Commons at near zero marginal costs, disrupting the workings of conventional markets. If there is an underlying theme to the growing cultural conflict, it is the monopolization vs. democratization of everything. Many global companies, operating in the profit-driven capitalist marketplace, will likely remain with us far into the future, albeit in an increasingly streamlined role, primarily as aggregators of digital network services and solutions, allowing them to thrive alongside the Collaborative Commons as powerful partners in the coming era. The financial sector will also play a critical part in the collaborative age, funding the build out of the Third Industrial Revolution Internet of Things infrastructure. The capitalist market, however, will no longer be the exclusive arbiter of economic life. Rather, it will have to share the economic stage with a new economic system. We are entering a world partially beyond markets where we are learning how to live together in an increasingly interdependent global Collaborative Commons. The Digital Economy and the Integration of the EU Single Market The European Union is potentially the largest internal market in the world, with 500 million consumers, and an additional 500 million consumers in its associated partnership regions, stretching into the Mediterranean and North Africa. The build-out of an Internet of Things platform for a Third Industrial Revolution, connecting Europe and its partnership regions in a single integrated economic space, will allow a billion people to produce and share information, renewable energy, 3D printed products, and a wide range of services in a hybrid digital economy part capitalist market and part Collaborative Commons at low or near zero marginal 7

8 cost, with vast economic benefits for society. The Venice Declaration for a more Digital Union during the Italian Presidency of the Council of the European Union is a critical first step on the road to establishing an integrated single market. Erecting the Internet of Things infrastructure for a digital Third Industrial Revolution economy will require a significant investment of public and private funds, just as was the case in the first and second industrial revolutions. The European Union currently invests $740 billion Euros each year in infrastructure-related projects, much of it to shore up a second industrial revolution general purpose technology platform that is outmoded, and whose productivity potential has long since been reached. If just fifteen percent of these funds were redirected and earmarked in every region of the European Union to the build-out of an Internet of Things infrastructure, the Digital Union could be phased in between now and The EU communication network will have to be upgraded with the inclusion of universal broadband and free Wi-Fi. The energy infrastructure will need to be transformed from fossil fuel and nuclear power to renewable energies. Millions of buildings will need to be retrofitted and equipped with renewable energy harvesting installations, and converted into micro power plants. Hydrogen and other storage technologies will have to be built into every layer of the infrastructure to secure intermittent renewable energy. The electricity grid of the European Union will have to be transformed into a smart digital Energy Internet to accommodate the flow of energy produced by millions of green micro power pants. The logistics and transport sector will have to be digitalized and transformed into an automated GPS-guided driverless network running on smart roads and rail systems. The introduction of electric and fuel cell transport will require millions of electric refueling outlets, connected to the Energy Internet. Smart roads, equipped with millions of sensors, feeding real-time information on traffic flows and the movement of freight will have to be installed. The scale up of a smart digitalized Internet of Things infrastructure across the European Union, and its partnership regions, will put Europe back to work, generate new business opportunities in both the market economy and on the Collaborative Commons, dramatically increase productivity, and create an ecologically oriented post-carbon society. Infrastructure investment always creates a multiplier effect that reverberates across the economy as a whole. The employment of millions of workers stimulates purchasing power and generates new business opportunities and additional employment to serve increased consumer demand. The build out of the Internet of Things platform makes possible a paradigmic increase in productivity across the value chain, again, advancing the multiplier effects throughout the economy. The alternative, staying entrenched in the sunset of the Second Industrial Revolution, with fewer economic opportunities, a slowing of GDP, diminishing productivity, rising unemployment and an ever-more polluted environment is unthinkable, and would set Europe on a long-term course of economic contraction and decline in the quality of life of its citizenry. Lest skeptics think such a proposition utopian and unrealizable, China is already making it a reality in Asia. Premier Li Keqiang and the new leadership of China has embraced the Internet of Things platform and the Third Industrial Revolution economic vision that I have outlined, and in December 2013, announced a four year initial commitment to erect an Energy Internet across China, so that millions of Chinese people and thousands of Chinese businesses can produce their own solar and wind generated green electricity and share surpluses with each other. Plans are also afoot to erect a Pan-Asian Energy Internet and Internet of Things platform that will stretch across the continent, allowing 2.7 billion people, or nearly forty percent of the human race, to produce and share renewable energy, information, and logistics and transport in a unified single market. The European Union s plan to establish an Internet of Things platform for 8

9 a digital economy opens up the prospect of joint collaboration with China in the creation of a single integrated economic space across the Eurasian landmass to foster the transition into a Third Industrial Revolution. We are on the cusp of a promising new economic era, with far reaching benefits for humankind. What s required now is a global commitment to phase in the Internet of Things platform to facilitate the transition to a Zero Marginal Cost Society, if we are to create a more just, humane and ecologically sustainable society. Jeremy Rifkin is the author of The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism, and The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World. Mr. Rifkin is an advisor to the European Union and to heads of state around the world, and president of the Foundation on Economic Trends in Washington, DC. 9

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