March 20, 2018 Articles

The “Internet of Things”: New Challenges in Civil Discovery

Attorneys must grapple with new forms of ESI, and understand how existing discovery rules apply to the IoT just as they do to more traditional forms of data.

By Kristen B. Weil and Ronald J. Hedges

A dizzying array of new products was unveiled at the 2018 CES (formerly, the International Consumer Electronics Show), one of the biggest conferences of its kind produced by the Consumer Technology Association. A kitchen and bath company showcased a toilet that integrates voice control technology to lift or close the seat, flush, or switch on a particular bidet spray setting. The same company also announced a cloud-based, voice-enabled bathroom mirror. A smart fabric company called Xenoma displayed a set of “smart pajamas” designed for dementia patients; sensors are imbedded into the fabric to capture the wearer’s motion and vital signs. A cosmetics company introduced a tiny wearable sensor that attaches to one’s fingernail and tracks UV exposure; the data is picked up by a smartphone.

What all these products have in common is the Internet of Things (IoT), which refers to connecting and networking physical devices, vehicles, and other items embedded with software, sensors, and electronics connected to the internet to create, collect, and transmit data. More than just enabling new gadgets, the rise of the IoT has implications for attorneys engaged in civil litigation: They must grapple with new forms of electronically stored information (ESI) as part of the discovery process, and they must understand how existing discovery rules apply to the IoT just as they do to more traditional forms of data.

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