EU wants to harness the power of data at the edge, make it accessible union-wide

EU wants to harness the power of data at the edge, make it accessible union-wide

With China already in full control over its tech companies and citizens’ private data, the European Union is taking a serious stance on digital development while maintaining interest in data privacy protection. The EU wants to be more competitive globally, so it is planning on creating a single market for industrial and commercial data to be freely used among key sectors across the Union to drive the digital economy, according to the European Commission’s latest European Data Strategy.

“For the development of many products and services, data needs to be widely and easily available, easily accessible, and simple to use and process,” the document reads. “Data has become a key factor of production, and the value it creates has to be shared back with the entire society participating in providing the data. This is why we need to build a genuine European single market for data — a European data space based on European rules and values.”

The goal is to make industrial data collected by sensors widely available for innovation in both the economy and in society. A shared data set can be used to develop wind power optimization plans or boost the efficiency of jet engines, for example, while ensuring users’ control over the data and abiding by European privacy, data protection, and competition law. By leveraging industrial data analytics and creating a single market for data, the Commission says some 730 million hours and €20 billion ($22 billion) in labor costs could be saved through real-time traffic avoidance navigation, to enumerate a just one beneficial application.

The EU wants to implement clear regulations for data access and re-use and invest in advanced tools and infrastructures to store and process data. According to its research, global data volume will grow fivefold by 2025, to some 175 zettabytes from just 33 zettabytes in 2018.

Leveraging data generated at the edge

“Today 80% of the processing and analysis of data takes place in data centers and centralized computing facilities, and 20% in smart connected objects, such as cars, home appliances or manufacturing robots, and in computing facilities close to the user (‘edge computing’). By 2025 these proportions are likely to be inverted,” it reads. “It is an essential resource for startups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in developing products and services. The availability of data is essential for training artificial intelligence systems.”

The EU predicts that while in 2018, some 80% of data was processed in centralized computing facilities and only 20% by smart connected objects, these figures will be reversed by 2025, when some 80% of data will be processed at the edge.

Connectivity, a critical pillar of digital transformation, will be a key focus for the EU in upcoming years as it actively invests in solutions for interoperability in key digital infrastructures, including 5G and 6G networks.

“Gigabit connectivity, powered with secure fibre and 5G infrastructures, is vital if we are to tap into Europe’s digital growth potential,” reads the report. “To this end, adequate investments at EU, national and regional levels are necessary to achieve the EU 2025 connectivity objectives.”

However, there are a number of risks and costs associated with digital technologies, as users are no longer feeling in control of their data and identity, and regular cyberattacks and data breaches affect trust levels. The EU is committed to protecting the integrity and resilience of its data infrastructure, networks, and communications, and to provide more transparency into how information is shared and processed online. “What is illegal offline must also be illegal online,” reads the report.

Not only is the EU interested in promoting its own tech companies, establishing a people-centric internet and leverage data gathered from connected objects, but it wants to no longer rely on digital solutions developed outside of its framework.

In its five-year plan of making edge data accessible across industry sectors and union-wide, the question remains how the EU will secure data and keep it anonymized while ensuring AI edge innovation, interoperability, and data quality.

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