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UK IoT research hub opens with support from academic world

A consortium of nine UK universities have come together to work alongside the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council on research into the internet of things

A consortium of nine leading UK universities is to work alongside the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) at an interdisciplinary hub to advance research into the internet of things (IoT) over the next three years.

First announced summer 2015, the Petras IoT Hub will be funded by a £9.8m grant from the EPSRC – part of the £40m put aside by the UK government for the IoTUK programme – as well as a further £14m from partner contributions.

The Petras IoT Hub will be made up of nine universities, UCL with Imperial College London, Oxford, Warwick, Lancaster, Southampton, Surrey, Edinburgh and Cardiff, and will draw in support and leverage from nearly 50 other industry and public sector partners to focus on the challenges associated with the IoT, including interactions, policy and governance, beliefs and behaviours between people and IoT systems.

It will explore issues around privacy, ethics, trust, reliability, acceptability and security on the IoT as the government seeks to cement the UK’s leadership in this area, and increase adoption of IoT technology and services across the enterprise and public sectors.

EPSRC chief executive Philip Nelson said that in the near future, almost everybody’s daily life would be connected in some way to the digital world, with physical objects and devices interacting with one another, humans and the wider virtual world.

“But before this can happen there must be trust and confidence in how the IoT works, its security and its resilience,” said Nelson.

“By harnessing our world-leading research excellence, the Petras research hub will accelerate IoT technology innovation and bring benefit to society and business.”

Digital economy minister Ed Vaizey added: “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 IoT 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.”

Five themes

Petras will explore five themes over its three-year lifespan, each led by one or two of the nine universities. Privacy and trust will be led by Warwick and Oxford; safety and security by Imperial and Lancaster; harnessing economic value by Imperial and Oxford; standards, governance and policy by UCL; and adoption and acceptability by Warwick and Lancaster.

Each theme will have both a technical and a social sciences lead, in the hope that fostering a multidisciplinary approach to the IoT will result in a step change in how IoT systems are conceived, designed and implemented.

Across each theme, projects sharing core technologies will be linked in so-called constellations. These will be infrastructure, led by UCL, Cardiff, Warwick and Oxford; health and care, led by Imperial and Oxford; control systems and supply chains, led by Warwick, Lancaster and UCL; ambient environments, led by Lancaster, Surrey, Imperial, UCL and Edinburgh; identification, led by Warwick and Oxford; transport and mobility, led by Surrey, Lancaster and Imperial; and design and behaviour, led by Warwick, UCL and Oxford.

Initially, the hub will run 17 projects, including large-scale experiments at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London; security of body sensors and implants; IoT security best practice; and smart meter security.

Ultimately, it is hoped that the hub’s experiments and conclusions will be used to inform evidence-based policymaking in UK government, and influence global IoT standards.

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