UK government announces new £24 million IoT research centre

UK government announces new £24 million IoT research centre

Ed Vaizey, the UK Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy, today announced the launch of a new interdisciplinary research hub which will look to drive forward local research on the Internet of Things.

The new PETRAS consortium will see nine leading UK universities work together over the course of the next three years to explore critical issues around the Internet of Things, such as privacy, ethics, trust, reliability, acceptability and security. It will also look at policy and governance, and how people and IoT systems will interact.

The consortium is being led by the UCL with Imperial College London, the University of Oxford, University of Warwick, Lancaster University, University of Southampton, University of Surrey, University of Edinburgh and Cardiff University also on-board.

The universities will focus on specific areas of IoT research, although some will collaborate where the same core technologies are used. Initial research will see university researchers look at how IoT impacts infrastructure, healthcare, supply chain, security and safety, transport and mobility.

17 projects are already underway and they include large-scale experiments at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the cyber-security of low power body sensors and implants, understanding how individuals and companies can increase IoT security through better day-to-day practices; and ensuring that connected smart meters are not a threat to home security.

The Hub, which is also expected to draw on support from 47 private and public sector partners, is being funded by a £9.8 million grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPRSC), with partner contribution taking the total amount to £24 million.

The project is part of the UK government’s £40 million IoTUK programme, which is looking to “advance the UK’s global leadership in IoT and increase the adoption of high quality IoT technologies and services throughout businesses and the public sector.”

In a statement, Vaizey said.  “UK universities are renowned for their creativity, and pioneering research and development. We want the UK to be a world leader in the adoption of Internet of Things technologies, and I know that bringing these universities together with partners from the UK’s thriving tech industry will be instrumental in making this a reality.”

ESPRC chief executive Professor Philip Nelson added: “In the not too distant future almost all of our daily lives will be connected, in one way or another, to the digital world. Physical objects and devices will be able to interact with each other, ourselves, and the wider virtual world. But, before this can happen, there must be trust and confidence in how the Internet of Things works, its security and its resilience. By harnessing our world-leading research excellence this PETRAS research Hub will accelerate IoT technology innovation and bring benefit to society and business.”

Hub director and vice-dean of UCL Engineering, Professor Jeremy Watson said: “We will maximize the economic and societal opportunities of the Internet of Things by removing barriers to adoption.

“Working with business, public, and third sectors will enable the PETRAS IoT Hub members to investigate questions of safety, security, privacy and trust within real life settings.

“The UK has the potential to be the world’s most supportive environment for the development and deployment of a safe and secure Internet of Things. We will raise the bar using innovative collaborative and interdisciplinary research methods.”

Speaking to Internet of Business earlier today, Beecham Research principal analyst Saverio Romeo said that governments are increasingly aware of the potential of IoT – and the need to act.

“Governments are increasingly becoming relevant actors in the development of the Internet of Things. They are becoming aware of the wide impact of the IoT in economic, social, and cultural terms. The IoT is not a technology, but a transformational vision of our way of living. Therefore, the role of policy makers in enabling that transformation is becoming essential. There are different IoT policy frameworks being discussed and proposed in different countries in the world.”

Romeo added that the UK is the forefront of the debate, with the government having announced a number of IOT-based initiatives in the last year.

“PETRAS will become a research platform for the UK IoT community enabling that community to grab current opportunities, but also to look ahead at the future innovation.”

Romeo said that PETRAS will act as the ‘scientific brain’ of the UK IoT community, and will be integrated with other research opportunities coming out of EU initiatives (such as Horizon 2020) to make the UK “an extremely desirable place for research in the IoT.” He added that it was also critical that the consortium goes beyond London and to the rest of the UK.

“The truly nation-wide nature of the PETRAS Research Hub will have the effect of taking the debate on the IoT beyond the highly-populated south eastern part of the country avoiding the creation of a “new digital divide” between large cities and the periphery.”