The European Commission has launched a consultation on how to make sure Europe leads on the next generation of the internet.

In its new consultation document the Commission outlined the main steps required to respond to the next wave of the information revolution, resulting from trends such as social networking, the decisive shift to online business services, nomadic services based on GPS and mobile TV and the growth of smart tags.

The report, called ‘The Internet of Things’, says that the next generation internet is on the way. Web 3.0 will be based on ubiquitous high-speed access and the development of enterprise-level web-based business applications. This will allow wireless interaction between machines, vehicles, appliances, sensors and many other devices via the internet.

The report predicts: “As the technologies needed for the Internet of Things become available, a wide range of applications will be developed. These can support policy in areas including transportation, environment, energy efficiency and health.”

Giving an e-health example the report says: “The use of RFID and sensing technologies will allow real time monitoring of patients, leading to earlier diagnosis. Vital parameters such as heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure can be measured by lightweight, intelligent sensors.”

It predicts that wearable, networked monitoring systems, able to acquire, process and transmit data on multiple health parameters, will become increasingly common. Such systems will enable automatic alerts to be immediately sent to medical staff to warn of deterioration in patients’ condition.

Smart networked devices are also predicetd to play an important role in addressing the challenges of our ageing society. Examples highlighted inclusde the use of RFID tags on pharmaceutical products that could allow monitoring to check that an ageing patient takes the right mix of drugs.

According to the report Europe is well placed to exploit these trends because of its policies to support open and pro-competitive telecom networks as well as privacy and security. A public consultation has been launched today by the Commission on the policy and private sector responses to these opportunities.

The report also unveils a new Broadband Performance Index (BPI) that compares national performance on key measures such as broadband speed, price, competition and coverage. Sweden and the Netherlands top this European broadband league, which complements the more traditional broadband penetration index used so far by telecoms regulators.

"The internet of the future will radically change our society," said Viviane Reding, Commissioner for Information Society and Media. "Web 3.0 means seamless ‘anytime, anywhere’ business, entertainment and social networking over fast reliable and secure networks. It means the end of the divide between mobile and fixed lines.”

She added: “Europe has the know-how and the network capacity to lead this transformation. We must make sure that Web 3.0 is made and used in Europe."

European internet users are increasingly accessing faster and better value internet services. By the end of 2007 half of European internet users had access to home broadband at more than 2 Mbps. In addition, broadband now covers 70% of rural population of the 27 EU Member States.

Wider availability of broadband and faster speeds means that a new generation of internet use is already on its way, and the potential for Europe’s economy is clear. A quarter of Europeans used web 2.0 sites in 2007, and business applications of social networking are on their way, including in e-health.

It already makes electronic travel cards possible, and will allow mobile devices to exchange information to pay for things or get information from billboards. It is predicted that such technology will be in more than one billion phones by 2015.

These will be major opportunities for EU businesses as long as there is enough investment in high-speed broadband access and support for innovation and research. The new Commission Communication says the EU should stimulate investment in next generation broadband access, for example strengthening the involvement of local authorities who may facilitate the access to ducts (or digging of new ones) for faster broadband fibre cables during civil works, keep the internet open to competition, prevent unfair restrictions in consumers’ choice, safeguard consumer confidence in using the internet and fund research in the internet of the future.

The Commission Communication on Future networks and the Internet is available at:

The public consultation on the Internet of Things is available at: