Published: Mon, 05 December 2016
1) What do you see as the most important area of EU legislation (currently on the books) for big data and the internet of things?
Having been at the negotiation table for the General Data Protection Regulation on behalf of the ITRE committee, I’m convinced that this piece of legislation is crucial as we move towards a more digitalised and data driven world. Industry stands to greatly improve processes and increase efficiencies from the better use of big data and data analytics which should lead to increased growth and employment. However, we must ensure the utmost protection of personal data during this digital transition.
2) What is the most urgently needed piece of legislation or regulation to help encourage European businesses to digitally transform industrial activity faster than competitors in Asia and North America?
I think that ensuring the free flow of data in the EU is crucial if we want to keep pace with Asia and North America. Data localisation rules in different Member States inhibit growth and are a barrier to the much needed investment in infrastructure and innovative products and services. The Free flow of data across borders in the EU is needed, and should go hand in hand with the rigorous implementation of the measures in the GDPR to protect personal data.
3) One of the main anxieties around digitisation is a potential for loss of jobs, and this is particularly sensitive in the industrial space. Do you think some jobs will inevitably be lost in the digitisation of industry? What safeguards should be put in place to ensure that these digital transitions don’t increase unemployment or compromise safety?
I prefer to see digitalisation as an opportunity rather than a threat. We have gone through changes before – look at the rise of Information Technology in the 80s and 90s – and these have been for the better in the long run in terms of job creation. Maybe some low-skilled jobs will become replaceable, but there will be different jobs in their place. I do believe we should prepare well for this and better promote e-skills and technical skills. By 2020 could be short up to 825,000 ICT professionals in the EU; we must ensure our workforce is equipped with the skills to meet the needs of the digital transition.
4) Will the digital transformation make industrial processes safer, or more dangerous, for people working in these sectors?
While the transformation should make processes more efficient and hopefully safer, we cannot ignore the fact that there will be a greater risk of cyber-attacks – this is a fact, there are malware programmes now being designed to target industrial processes. Cybersecurity will be crucial in this regard and there will be a big need for protective measures, highly sophisticated network technology, and effective systems to identify threats and security gaps. Increased R&D efforts into IT security measures will be important, along with comprehensive training schemes focused on working safely with digital processes.
5) Lots of different types of companies are getting involved in this space. What advantages do big industrial companies come to the table with, and what weaknesses? Likewise, what advantages to small start-ups bring, and what weaknesses?
Industrial companies can take advantage of greatly increase efficiencies – the boost could be up to 8% in manufacturing efficiency gains, this along with better data analytics and faster production speed can greatly increase productivity. Smaller start-ups can drive innovation in this field, and increased flexibility in production though automated systems and the greater potential for customisation can allow smaller players to grow quickly.