Robots, the Internet of Things, and the Future of Trade

16 Pages Posted: 25 Oct 2015 Last revised: 27 Oct 2015

See all articles by Anupam Chander

Anupam Chander

University of California, Davis - School of Law; Georgetown University Law Center

Date Written: October 23, 2015


Will robots and the Internet of Things falter at national borders?

If the Internet of Things offers eyes and ears and robots add arms and legs, both these revolutionary technologies often depend on brains and memories located far away. This is the nature of the remote sensor/server architecture utilized by both the Internet of Things and cloud robotics. Thus, both the Internet of Things and robots rely on the free flow of information across national borders. But this global free flow of data is increasingly at risk to claims that such flows jeopardize privacy and security. Increasingly, national laws restrict the transfer of information outside the home country. A Dropcam, a Fitbit, a Nest thermometer and even a Google car all depend on the flow of data to the home country of their creators. The Internet of Things and cloud robotics may thus find themselves foiled by national borders, victim to a new privacy-based non-tariff barrier to trade.

Can international trade law, which after all seeks to liberalize trade in both goods and services, help stave off attempts to erect border barriers to this new type of trade? The smart objects of the 21st century consist of both goods and information services, and thus are subject to multiple means of government protectionism, but also trade liberalization. This paper is the first effort to locate and analyze the Internet of Things and modern robotics within the international trade framework.

Keywords: international trade, international law, cyberlaw, privacy, computers and law

Suggested Citation

Chander, Anupam, Robots, the Internet of Things, and the Future of Trade (October 23, 2015). UC Davis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 465. Available at SSRN: or

Anupam Chander (Contact Author)

University of California, Davis - School of Law ( email )

400 Mrak Hall Drive
Davis, CA 95616-5201
United States
530-754-5304 (Phone)
530-754-5311 (Fax)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

Washington, DC


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