Big Ideas paper: Policy-driven middleware for a legally-compliant Internet of Things


Internet of Things (IoT) applications, systems and services are subject to law. We argue that for the IoT to develop lawfully, there must be technical mechanisms that allow the enforcement of specified policy, such that systems align with legal realities. The audit of policy enforcement must assist the apportionment of liability, demonstrate compliance with regulation, and indicate whether policy correctly captures legal responsibilities. As both systems and obligations evolve dynamically, this cycle must be continuously maintained. This poses a huge challenge given the global scale of the IoT vision. The IoT entails dynamically creating new services through managed and flexible data exchange. Data management is complex in this dynamic environment, given the need to both control and share information, often across federated domains of administration. We see middleware playing a key role in managing the IoT. Our vision is for a middleware-enforced, unified policy model that applies end-to-end, throughout the IoT. This is because policy cannot be bound to things, applications, or administrative domains, since functionality is the result of composition, with dynamically formed chains of data flows. We have investigated the use of Information Flow Control (IFC) to manage and audit data flows in cloud computing; a domain where trust can be well-founded, regulations are more mature and associated responsibilities clearer. We feel that IFC has great potential in the broader IoT context. However, the sheer scale and the dynamic, federated nature of the IoT pose a number of significant research challenges.

In International Middleware Conference, ACM/USENIX/IFIP.

University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory Publication of the Year Award