Four UK universities win £4m grant to research IoT sensor systems development
Imperial College London, South Kensington

Four UK universities win £4m grant to research IoT sensor systems development

Educational institutions will work on smart cities, the Internet of Things, Big Data and self-driving vehicles.

Four UK universities have been granted £4 million of funds to start on a research project to develop smarter, more reliable IoT sensor-based systems.

Dubbed the ‘Science of Sensor Systems Software’ (S4) project, it will bring together researchers from the universities of Glasgow, Liverpool and St Andrews, and Imperial College London. The institutions will share expertise in computing, engineering and mathematics.

The project is supported by a grant of nearly £4.2m from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), will run until 2021.

Research will look into developing new principles and techniques for sensor system software that will allow scientists and policymakers to ask deeper questions and be confident in obtaining reliable answers from the ever-expanding networks of sensors. It is hoped that the research will lead to more robust and responsive water networks and air quality monitoring, reliable autonomous driving and precision manufacturing and more.

A number of companies and scientific organisations are also involved, including ABB, British Geological Survey, CENSIS, Freescale, Rolls-Royce, Thales and Transport Scotland.

Professor Muffy Calder, Professor of Formal Methods in Computing Science and head of the College of Science and Engineering at the University of Glasgow will lead the project along with Professor Simon Dobson at St. Andrews, Professor Michael Fisher at Liverpool and Professor Julie McCann at Imperial College.

Professor Calder said: “We’re pleased and proud to have won the backing of EPSRC through their Programme Grant scheme for this very exciting project.

“Although sensors are becoming ever more commonplace in all kinds of devices around us and in our everyday lives, sensors themselves and the environments in which they operate are very uncertain: we don’t have a unifying science to ensure that the systems and the information they provide is resilient, responsive, reliable and robust.

“By the end of the project the team will have answered a number of fundamental questions about how to design, deploy and reason about sensor based systems, developing new principles, techniques and tools, alongside simulations and physical sensor testbeds for experimentation. They will also demonstrate the applicability and effectiveness of the new techniques across a range of applications”.

Mark Furness, CEO and founder of Essensys, told Internet of Business that this is really important research, “not only because advanced sensors will be at the heart of the Internet of Things, but because of the huge benefits that IoT will bring.”

“It can transform the way we live and work for the better, and to achieve that, we need technologies that are seamless and unobtrusive. It’s great to see a focus on sensor system software to ensure we can control and manage risks such as security, whilst deriving maximum benefit from the insight available from the vast amount of data.

“A close eye needs to be kept on how the IoT ecosystem integrates with an overarching orchestration platform, as we are currently seeing numerous competing platforms, technologies and applications emerging. Not all of them work well together, and that can cause confusion, security issues and incompatibility problems,” he said. “Only once we can safely integrate, manage and harness the power of connected IoT devices, will we fully unlock the value of newer, more advanced sensors.”

Robin Daniels, managing director, Redpill Group said: “There’s no question that sensors and the reliability of the data that they generate, across a huge range of potential applications, needs a lot of work. Improving sensor technology is therefore necessary, but not sufficient and it would be a mistake to regard sensors as the silver bullet that delivers a uniform, scalable and robust IoT system and architecture.”

“We already have more data than we know what to with, plus the quality is extremely variable and not enough of it is real-time. The true potential of IoT will only be approached as more sensors are deployed at the edge of the network, in devices and with end-users, but in the context of industry-wide standards. IoT is still maturing, and this will continue for some time to come.

“Because of this, some fragmentation of IoT systems is inevitable, before they begin to coalesce around more broadly adopted standards, which include not only next-generation sensor technology, but every other layer in the IoT and digital architecture of our cities.”