APPLiA Digital Interview: What does the EU Data Act mean for the industry

Data is a constantly evolving issue which will have a big role to play in Europe’s efforts to achieve the digital transition. How does the EU Data Act intend to achieve this objective? Alvaro Vilas, APPLiA Digital and Competitiveness Policy Officer explained what this new piece of legislation will mean for the home appliance industry.

 Watch APPLiA’s eighteenth digital interview, here.

What is the Data Act about?  

At its core, The EU Data Act aims to stimulate a fair and competitive data market, foster data-driven innovation and make data more accessible for everyone. “Concretely, this means that consumers, service providers or public authorities will get complete access to the data generated by any connected device”, began Vilas pointing to everyday examples of connected home appliances such as “a washing machine, a fridge or a dishwasher.”

How would data sharing work in practice? 

When it comes to data sharing, establishing digital principles is key to creating a well-functioning synergy between manufacturers and consumers. Today, the role of data is playing an increasingly important part in our lives, with the latest numbers highlighting how 33 zettabytes of data were generated in 2018, which is expected to rise to 175 zettabytes in 2025. At present, manufacturers are asked to share the amount of data generated by appliances, at the time of purchase. Yet, this data can vary a lot, based on how consumers use their appliances. For instance, “the volume of data produced by a couple running a washing machine is clearly not the same as a family,” highlighted Vilas, stressing the importance for information requirements on products to be feasible for manufacturers to implement.

How is data sharing regulated for manufacturers? 

The current situation, as defined in the Act, requires companies to make data available to the public sector and government institutions, in cases of “exceptional need”. The term ‘public emergency’ is cited in the Act as a grounds for granting full access to a device's data history. However, this vague description does not specify what classifies as such, leaving room for dangerous interpretations and potential abuses of data sharing. Also and most importantly, this controversial point sheds light on one key golden rule to a well-functioning Single Market, be it that “legislation should never be used to force data disclosure,” summarised Vilas.

What are the associated risks?

If companies are obligated, by law, to share data, there could be a serious, detrimental knock-on effect on Europe’s digital economy. This is why “data sharing should be based on voluntary agreements, with strict and clear rules regulating exceptional circumstances,” Vilas declared.  

How about data sharing with third parties?

Data sharing with third parties clearly has the potential to advance the overall landscape of industrial data in Europe, however, “it also carries the risk of possible breaches of trade secrets and intellectual property rights, which could lead to reverse engineering of products,” outlined Vilas. 

Legislation must not impede the progress made so far in realising the true value of data, whilst also continuing to foster innovation and research into an ever-growing player in achieving the digital transition.

The Data Act surely is a big step forward in Europe’s technological race. But it requires a careful assessment accounting for the specificities of each sector. Or it will risk stagnating innovation. 

Discover more by watching the latest digital interview, here.